Using leading lines in photography
If you’ve never even considered how to use leading lines in photography, or have no idea what the term means, this simple guide is for you. Used primarily in landscape photography, ‘leading lines’ means that you use lines – paths, fences, etc – to direct the viewer's attention where you want it to go in your image.
Let’s dive in and give you the tools you need to make this great composition tool work for you…
Types of leading lines
Whenever you’re planning a composition for a landscape you should be considering how to tell the story and deciding where you want your viewer to concentrate their attention. There are nearly always lines in a scene that can be used to lead their eyes, but they might not be obvious. Straight lines offer the most direct and easy way to experiment – roads, pavements, fences, cut logs and buildings are great manmade leading lines, but natural ones work effectively too. For example, you can consider the horizon or the shoreline of a seascape as leading lines because there’s no rule that they have to be dead straight!
How do you use leading lines?
When you’re first introduced to another compositional tool or rule it can seem overwhelming, but using leading lines in photography is actually very simple. Let’s take an image of a beautiful garden as an example: you want to lead the viewer along a journey from one end of the garden to another without their eyes wandering all over the scene looking for a focal point. If the garden has a winding path you can use this to encourage the viewer's eyes to ‘walk’ the path from the bottom to the top of the scene and settle at your chosen focal point.
Maybe you have a castle up on a hill in the distance of a grand landscape, and you want to give a sense of scale and splendour, but you also want to include plenty of the surrounding land. Well, a winding road can work in the same way as the path to lead the viewer on an optical trip through the image.
As with all aspects of photography, it might be a while before you come up with anything worthy of printing onto canvas and hanging on your wall, but including leading lines in photography is a great way to improve your images, so don’t be afraid give it a go!