A Compositional Tool
Learning composition starts with an understanding of how humans look at things and how they see things. When a viewer looks at an image, their eyes dart around to look for a message or focal point in the image.
Leading lines are a powerful compositional tool that photographers use to improve the framing, composition, and mood of their photos. While composition is used in other art forms, the term leading lines is rarely used outside of photography. Leading lines are one of the simplest ideas in composition, but also the most powerful because they draw your viewers into your photos.
Our brains are hardwired to unconsciously follow lines. As a photographer, you can use that to your advantage because you know that when someone is looking at your photograph, their eyes will follow the lines. If you place your subject at the end of the lines, you can lead your viewers eye to the subject.
Keeping the Viewers’ Attention
Lines lead the eyes to the point of interest and keep the viewer from wandering. Used effectively, they grab your viewers’ attention so they will follow a visual path that points to something important in your image. It’s like taking a journey in photograph to reach a certain point. Leading lines guide the viewers eye through the frame and can add depth to your photos. Using leading lines will make your images far more interesting.
Normally we read left to right, top to bottom, and that’s the way our eyes view a photograph. If you have an image with a lot of leading lines, you’ll stare at that image a lot longer, you’ll view it differently, and you’ll feel differently.
Elements used in Composition
There are several elements available to photographers when composing a photograph. The use of one or more of these elements can dramatically change the look and feel of a photograph. There are no requirements or rules in composition and photographers often use two or more elements to create a compelling image.
- Rule of Thirds
- Leading Lines
Types of Leading Lines
Leading lines are in different forms and can be found almost anywhere in nature or every day settings. Lines can be natural like a stream, or unnatural like building. There are five primary types of leading lines used in photography;
These lines suggest power, dominance, and growth. Examples include tall structural designs and trees. Vertical lines cannot begin at the corner of your image. As an alternative, keep the rule of thirds in mind to prevent your image from looking like it has been cut in half. Vertical lines should be kept as vertical as possible.
Horizontal lines suggest peace, calmness, stability, and a sense of restfulness. The ocean, beaches, fallen trees, and horizon lines. They can strengthen the composition of the image and should be kept as horizontal as possible.
Diagonal lines suggest action and can add depth to an image. They are somewhat unbalanced and can help draw the eye to the photo. The best way to use diagonal lines is to present them from the bottom corner of the image to the opposite top corner. This is because our eyes naturally scan from left to right.
Curved Lines / S Curves
Suggest elegance, sensuality, and a sense of balance. They don’t necessarily need to be S shaped. Any form of a winding line can be used. Rivers, streams, roads, paths, and the human body.
Converging lines add flow or depth to your image. The also add a sense of distance or scale. Stairways, power lines, and railroad tracks. Our eyes are naturally drawn to where intersecting lines connect. To create a stronger impact in visual interest, its best to position your subject near converging lines. Sometimes converging lines can be a point of interest in themselves without the need for additional subjects.
Leading Lines are Everywhere
Leading lines can be almost every where you look from a fence, to the ocean shore, a building, or trees. Sometimes lines are not obvious and may even be implied. A good start is to closely examine professional photos and pay close attention to lines and other composition elements.
As you start to compose your next image, survey the area around your subject and look for potential leading lines in the road, buildings, walls, waterways, and
Using leading lines in composition is a great way to get your viewers attention and tell a story with your image. Placing lines at just the right spot in your image can significantly influence the way people will view your photo and will guide them through the scene.