Leading Lines in Photography

Brandon LazovicMay 29, 2018

Looking for a resource on leading lines in photography for your photo compositions? Read below for different ways to set up your composition and avoiding two common mistakes when leading lines.

Leading Lines in Photography

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Bridge Example

As the name suggests, leading lines refers to a composition technique that directs the attention of the viewer through lines that lead them to the main subject in an image.

Roadways come to mind when thinking of leading lines; there isn’t much difference between the two, only that roadways and paths direct our attention toward a vanishing point compared to a line where the focus is to lead our attention toward our main subject.

Here are a few man-made objects that can serve as leading line in photography:

  • Roads
  • Fences
  • Boardwalks
  • Bridges
  • Lamp posts or rows of buildings in a street
  • Doorways and window panes

If you’re in a nature setting, you can use rivers, shorelines, trees, cliffs and rocks to great effect alongside incorporating various angles that compliment leading lines. 

Two common mistakes to avoid when leading lines

There are two ways that you can go wrong when you use leading lines in your composition to direct focus to your main subject. The first is not having a subject to lead focus to (seems explanatory, right?). It’s important to have purpose when setting up your composition. Not having any subject to direct attention to detracts from the technique for leading lines in your photos.

The second mistake is to not placing emphasis on specific lines. There are many different lines that lead that we can make use of in any photo shoot. It’s all about finding the right one and avoiding others that might serve only to distract your viewer.

Different ways to set up your composition

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Pond

There are many ways to set up your composition when leading lines. You can position a strong line that leads from the foreground to the background, creating depth and perspective.

Another method is to place your subject at the center of your line convergence to add more emphasis and important to that subject.

Instead of converging, you can set your subject at the end of your lines to give a sort of visual journey from start to finish. You can even perform a circular composition to keep the viewer’s focus within the frame.

Different types of lines that lead in your photos

Additionally, you can make use of different kinds of lines to produce various results in your composition.

Horizontal Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Horizontal Line Example

These are great for shooting nature and relaxing photos, especially if you can achieve the sunburst effect as the sun sets on the horizon behind an object or the natural landscape.

Vertical Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Vertical Line Example

These kinds of lines produce a more authoritative effect for your subject in the photo.

Diagonal Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Diagonal Line Example

Winding pathways are an example of this as they draw the attention of a reader through a photo. Again, you can place your subject at the end of the line to produce more of a natural flow.

Curved Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Curved Line Example

Waves of a beachhead are a good example of curved lines and can be used to great effect in nature photos. I made great use of this in my photos of New Mexico and Colorado during my dealership visits in July. 

Converging Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Converging Line Example

Again, these lines produce a sense of importance because the focus a viewer’s attention to a single point in the photograph.

Intersecting Lines

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Intersecting Line Example

You should be careful when using intersecting lines in your composition. They can be used to great effect but can also serve to confuse or distract the viewer.

Using Leading Lines in Photography Challenge

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Bridge 2

For this week’s challenge I decided to hit up the nature trails and see what I could find. There wasn’t anything crazy that caught my eye, but I shot a few photos during my walk that I’m happy with.

I didn’t account for the tree density causing an almost overcast effect despite it being bright and sunny during golden hour, or that the nature trail was directly within the woods. One of my biggest challenges didn’t have anything to do with camera settings or composition, but rather the 100,000 mosquitos that took every opportunity to swarm me the minute I stopped walking to shoot.

This forced me to set up my shoot quickly and continue walking or risk getting eaten alive. It didn’t matter much as I now have 40 mosquito bites on my arms alone, but I was aiming to hit a bridge juncture in the nature trail for a better demonstration of leading lines in my photo.

After spending nearly an hour walking I finally stumbled across the bridge that I wanted. This is where I really got eaten alive as I laid down flat on the gravel to get the angle I wanted for the bridge. It turned out great, but my arms still haven’t forgiven me for spending three minutes setting up and attempting to hold still as a dozen mosquitos landed on me.

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Header

Leading Lines Photo Edits

Although I shot multiple photos, I’m sticking with just the edits for the bridge (I consider it to be the best shot that I took). Here are my edits:

  • Contrast: +31
  • Shadows: -14
  • Blacks:  -29
  • Clarity: +48
  • Vibrance: +30
  • Saturation: +21
  • Point Curve: Medium Contrast

As you can see I didn’t do much for this shot. I wanted to saturate the photo just a smidge to provide more depth and color. I also played with the clarity as I normally do in all my photos.

One thing that I want to mention regarding the other photos that I shot is performing color selection and reducing the saturation to make other aspects of the subject stand out. My intent was to draw more attention to the subject or viewing points in the photos, but I’ll leave that up for your interpretation!

Photo Challenge 2018: Leading Lines in Photography Selective Color Editing Photo

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