leading lines

Leading Lines Photography

Are you trying to learn more photography techniques? perhaps you want to learn how to persuade your audience to look at certain parts of your image. Leading lines will help you achieve fresh results and new perspectives.

Leading lines refers to the way a line is used to help the viewers eyes travel through the photo. It often helps the viewer focus on the main part of the image, i.e. where the line ends. Leading lines also help to frame the image and separate different parts. Trying out different angles and centre points can add so much creativity to scenes.

leading lines
Photo Source: Harm Tjardes

Its all about the subconscious

The first thing you need to know is that the human brain is hard-wired so that our eyes follow lines in whatever we look at. You’re doing it subconsciously. You don’t even know it’s happening, but your eyes are always following lines. As a photographer, you can use that to your advantage because you know that when someone’s looking at your photograph, their eyes are following the lines. That means that if you place your subject at the end of a line, you can lead your viewer’s eye to the subject. That’s why they’re called “leading lines.”

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Where do I find lines?

Once you get an eye for it you will be seeing lines everywhere. This is where your creative mind will come into its own. Photographers will set themselves above the rest by finding and using lines in great ways.

To help get you started here are a few quick goes to leading lines

  • Fences
  • Roads and lines on roads
  • Lamp posts
  • Trees
  • Horizons
  • Window panes
  • Doorways
  • Bridges
  • Shadows
  • Train tracks

Remember not all lines are straight and not all lines are horizontal!

Use your cameras built in grid system to help get things straight. With the help of the grid, you will position the subjects in the shot better.

Types of lines

Horizontal Lines

Certainly the most popular line as it is often the easiest to find. Our brain processes horizontal lines much easier especially if they are at eye level.

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Long exposure

Vertical Lines

Think trees, posts, sides of buildings. Often vertical lines display size and power. Think of this when shooting.

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal leading lines create a feeling of movement and change. The aim is to guide the viewer through the scene in such a way that leads us from foreground to background. You should be trying to highlight the main subject at the beginning or end of the line.

People instinctively watch the lines from left to right. Just like when like we read and write. That is why downward diagonal lines that go from left to right seem calm and natural. Those going upwards convey tension and influence.

Through Lines

Lines that walk you through an image. Almost like you are being forced to look into the distance. Often road markings do this.

Curved Lines

These lines can mimic any of the above and even incorporate a couple. These lines look more natural than straight ones. It is recommended to use them in landscape photography if you want to make the scene “flow” in the frame.

Long exposures look great in curved lines

Implied leading lines

Implied leading lines are the ones that do not exist in reality, we just imagine them. For example, a person’s gaze. If a man/woman looks somewhere in the photo, we follow their line of sight to see where they are looking.

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leading lines

Make sure the lines lead somewhere

Don’t include leading lines for the sake of it. If the subject of your image is conflicting with the lines in the image then it is not the style of shot you should be choosing. A leading line, often, should push the viewers eyes to the subject!

Of course, all photography is subjective. You should shoot what you LOVE.


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