You may have never heard of leading lines photography. But don’t worry, in this short guide we’ll take you through the basics and show how you can use this technique to improve the composition of your photos.
When learning and growing within your photography, it’s essential to understand the elements that come together to create a great shot. One of the most significant elements of composition is leading lines.
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What are leading lines?
Leading lines refer to a composition technique wherein the photographer sets up the shot, so the viewer’s eyes are naturally drawn towards the focal points of the image. This is done through using natural lines (rivers, coastline) or man-made lines (roads, paths, fences) within a scene. These verticle or horizontal leading lines help draw the viewer’s attention to the subject matter of the photo and helping them navigate to the different points of interest.
You can use this compositional tool any way that you want to in a variety of locations by shifting your perspective, changing your lens, or switching your shooting angle. You can also combine this technique with other composition rules such as the rule of thirds.
How to use leading lines in your photography?
The purpose of this type of photography is to draw the viewer’s eyes from foreground to background naturally, to lead them towards your focal point. Let’s look at the different types of lines you can use in leading lines photography:
1- Horizontal lines: These are found in nature and are great for landscape photography. Wide-angle lenses are typically used, as the line will often stretch across the entire width of the image.
2- Vertical lines: These tend to communicate power. They draw the eyes up or down the frame and can be used to convey status. These are often found in street or fashion photography.
3- Diagonal lines: Diagonal lines are used to create a sense of movement and change. They emphasize a distance and tend to track from foreground to background. If you’re working with a considerable depth of field, these types of leading lines can be fun to experiment with as they add an excellent sense of depth.
4- Converging lines: If you have converging lines in your image composition, try situating your subject at the axis of these leading lines. They’re effective at drawing the eye to the point of convergence and can be an effective compositional element to use.
5- Curved lines – Leading lines don’t always have to be straight. Even curved lines can act to take the viewer on a journey to a specific point in your composition.
It’s also essential to differentiate leading lines and paths in your photography. Leading lines are different from paths because paths tend to lead your viewer to the horizon, whereas leading lines are more versatile in portraying your point of interest.
Photography tips for using leading lines
A helpful tip for leading lines is to pay attention to the time of day you’re shooting. A setting (or rising) sun can cast beautiful shadows that can be used as strong leading lines in your composition.
The location also matters because skyscrapers in cities offer an array of diverse and great lines that you can use to add a sense of depth to your photos. If you don’t want to use skyscrapers, keep an eye out for natural lines. Coastlines, a fallen tree, rocks or even human-made objects can make great lines to frame your shot around.
Determine your focal point before framing your shot. You might be in a location with great leading lines, but if you don’t position your focal point in a way that draws viewers in naturally, it may not work out how it is anticipated.
The best way to work with this is to line up your leading lines with your focal point and position yourself correctly to shoot the shot. Align your camera so that the lines lead your eye naturally to the focal point of your image. Take your time, but if you’re using natural lighting (like shadows) to line up your shot, be aware that these change over time (even if slightly). Take your time, and the effort will pay off!
Take multiple shots
This tip is helpful for many different types of photos because it gives you variety when post-processing. It acts as a safeguard if your first shot wasn’t positioned precisely how you imagined it, or your focal point wasn’t in the right place. Experiment with different angles and lighting to find what works best for your shot and vision.
Using leading lines in your photography can be a great way to create unique and striking photos. By practising this photography composition technique, you can master the ability to draw your viewer’s eyes naturally to your focal points while also creating beautifully composed photos. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t work the first time! Get into the habit of looking out for leading lines for every shot you take, and it will come naturally in no time.
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Kav Dadfar is a writer and travel photographer who has written over 400 articles on photography. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Travel Photography of the Year competition and a speaker at camera clubs and events. He has years of experience shooting assignments with his images having been used by some of the biggest brands in the world.
This article on leading lines photography is subject to copyright. Words and photos by Kav Dadfar (That Wild Idea). Copying or reposting of photos or article elsewhere is strictly forbidden.