photo of highway extending into the distance Photo by Laurent Perren on Unsplash

Leading Lines in Photography: Where to Find | How to Use

In photography, you must have probably seen human-made or natural lines that lead your eyes through a photograph and to the main subject matter. These lines are called leading lines. Photographers often use them to draw attention to the main subject in the photo or to create a sense of depth in the photograph.

In this article, we will discuss all about leading lines in photography, from what they are and how you can find them in your photos to how you can use them in photography.

What Are Leading Lines in Photography?

Leading lines in photography are a compositional technique that uses lines to draw the viewer's eye into the photograph and towards the subject, the heart of the image, or a specific point of interest. These lines can be natural or human-made, straight or curved, and can be used to create a sense of depth, movement, or tension in an image.

Leading lines are found almost everywhere. You can see them in landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, and macro photographs. They can be used to great effect in almost any type of photograph but are especially useful in images where you want to lead the viewer's eye towards a specific subject or point of interest.

Main Types of Leading Lines

It is essential to understand the different types of leading lines so as to use leading lines effectively and create strong compositions. Here are the four main types of leading lines:

Vertical Leading Lines

photo of the metal pillars of the upper building

Photo by Kevin Mak on Unsplash

Depending on your perspective, these leading lines run vertically from top to bottom or bottom to top in the frame. They draw the viewer's eye up or down within the frame.

As it is well known, vertical leading lines convey a sense of hierarchy, power, and confidence, that is why you see a lot of them in street photography, architecture, portraits, and fashion photography.

Horizontal Leading Lines

inner building corridor extending far

Photo by Gabriel Sollmann on Unsplash

These leading lines run horizontally from left to right or right to left in the frame and are parallel to the frame in either case. They draw the viewer's eye from one side of the frame to the other.

Since horizontal lines often stretch throughout the entire frame width, they are mostly used when shooting with wide-angle lenses to convey a sense of vastness, openness, and space.

Horizontal lines are mostly used in landscape, seascape, and cityscape photography to give a sense of peace, calmness, and tranquility.

Converging Leading Lines

leading lines of a Glass-constructed house

Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash

These leading lines start from different sides of the frame but eventually converge at a single point in the distance. This convergence point can be at the horizon line or any other point in the frame.

It would be best to place the subject of the image, if there are converging leading lines in your frame, at the axis of convergence to create a stronger composition.

Converging leading lines are mostly used in travel, landscape, and cityscape photography to create a sense of depth, distance, and scale and add perspective to the frame. They can be a strong compositional element to include in your images if used correctly and can really make your images pop.

Diagonal Leading Lines

aerial view of crossed road in the city

Photo by Kevin Nalty on Unsplash

These leading lines run at an angle, either from the top left corner to the bottom right corner or from the top right corner to the bottom left corner of the frame. They are used to draw the viewer's eye from one corner of the frame to the other and can be used to create a sense of dynamism, movement, and energy in the frame.

Diagonal leading lines are mostly used in sports, action, and street photography to freeze a moment in time and convey the feeling of motion.

Ensure you use diagonal lines to accentuate a sense of depth in your photos, especially if you use a wider depth of field.

Curved Leading Lines

curved edge of escalator

Photo by Raquel Moss on Unsplash

These leading lines are not straight but have a natural curve. They can either be gentle curves or more dramatic S-shaped curves. Curved leading lines are used to draw the viewer's eye into the frame and can be used to create a sense of flow and movement in the frame.

Curved leading lines are mostly used in nature photography as they are abundant in nature. You can also use them in other genres, such as landscape photography, to create interesting compositions.

How to Find Leading Lines for Your Photos?

Leading lines are everywhere in the world around us. We just need to be on the lookout for them. They can be found in cities, in nature, and at home. Here is how you can find leading lines for your photos:

1. Leading Lines at Home

Look for leading lines around your home. From doorways and hallways to staircases and windows, there are plenty of possibilities. Moreover, you can use furniture and other objects like guitar strings to create leading lines.

2. Leading Lines in the City

photo by looking up at the upwards escalator

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

In the city, you can find leading lines everywhere. From roads and sidewalks to buildings and bridges, the options are endless. You can even find leading lines in more unusual places like reflections in puddles and graffiti on walls.

3. Leading Lines in Nature

Finding leading lines in nature is easy. Look for anything from rivers, waterfalls, cliffs, trees, and sun rays. You can also look for man-made structures like train tracks, bridges, and roads.

How to Use Leading Lines in Photography?

When you fail to use leading lines correctly in your photography, your images look weak, uninteresting, and lack depth. However, when you use leading lines effectively, you can create strong compositions that are visually appealing and full of depth.

So, how do you use leading lines in your photography? Here are the steps that you need to follow:

Step 1: Identity the Best Time to Use Leading Lines

The first thing that you need to do is to identify when you can use leading lines effectively in your photography. Is it during the golden hour? Is it when the sun is high up in the sky? Or is it when there’s a lot of contrast in the scene?

a girl walking far on the road

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Taking the time of day into account will help you make the most out of leading lines. Ensure you experiment and find what time works best for you and your photography type.

Step 2: Find the Right Location

After determining the best time to use leading lines, the next step is finding the right location. This is important because the location will dictate the kind of leading lines you can use.

For instance, if you’re shooting during the golden hour, you’ll need to find a location where the sun shines brightly to make the most out of the warm light.

On the other hand, if you’re shooting during the midday sun, you’ll need to find a location that has some shade to avoid harsh shadows.

Step 3: Identify Your Subject

You need to identify your subject before you can start using leading lines. This is because your subject will be the focal point of your composition and the leading lines will lead the viewer’s eyes towards it.

Step 4: Look for Natural and Artificial Leading Lines

people walking on the  upwards staircase

Photo by szm 4 on Unsplash

Now that you’ve found the right location, it’s time to look for natural leading lines. These lines are already present in the scene, and you can use them to create a strong composition.

Look for lines that lead into the distance, lines that converge, lines that have a strong contrast, and so on.

In addition to natural leading lines, you can also look for artificial leading lines. Some examples of artificial leading lines include paths, roads, fences, power lines and so on.

Step 5: Use a Wide-Angle Lens

When shooting with leading lines, it’s best to use a wide-angle lens. This will allow you to include more of the scene in your frame and also help you exaggerate the leading lines.

If you don’t have a wide-angle lens, you can always step back and shoot with a longer focal length. Remember that you’ll need to be careful not to include too much of the scene in your frame as this will make the leading lines less effective.

Step 5: Compose Your Shot

Once you’ve found the right location and determined the best time to shoot, it’s time to compose your shot. When composing your shot, you’ll need to pay attention to the placement of the leading lines.

photo of the greenhouse roof made by glassed

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

You should position the leading lines so that they lead into the distance and should also be placed in a way that creates a strong composition.

In addition to the placement of the leading lines, you should also pay attention to the rest of the elements in the scene. Ensure the horizon line is straight, in the middle of the frame, and the subject is placed in a way that it doesn’t interfere with the leading lines.

Step 6: Take Multiple Shots

After you’ve composed your shot, it’s time to take it. Ensure that you take multiple shots from different angles and with different compositions. This will give you many options to choose from when you’re editing your photos and will also increase your chances of getting a great shot with strong leading lines.

Conclusion

Leading lines are one of the most important compositional elements in photography. You can use them to lead the viewer's eye into the frame, create a sense of depth, or add interest to an otherwise mundane scene. When used effectively, leading lines can help to make a photograph more visually appealing and interesting.

Having known how to find and use leading lines in photography, you can now go out and experiment with this compositional tool to see what effect it can have on your images.

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