Using leading lines to draw your viewer’s eye to your subject is a great way to take your photo from just a snap shot to something that makes them stop and admire your work.
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What are leading lines?
Leading lines is a composition guide used in photography to draw the viewers attention into your subject. The line does not need to be straight as curved lines can have the same effect. Typically the line starts towards the bottom or corner of the frame and leads the viewer’s eye through the image to your subject.
This is a more advanced form of composition but once you start looking for leading lines you will see that you are surrounded by them if you take the time to slow down and look.
Why are they Important?
Composition is an important part of any photo. Whether you are using rule of thirds, framing, or any of the other popular ways to compose an image, you are trying to set the subject in the photo in an interesting way. They allow your view to be taken through the photo and end up on your subject.
Mistake to Avoid
One of the common mistakes made when using this composition method is having a line that doesn’t lead a viewer to a subject. You want to make sure that there is something for your viewer to see at the end of the line. It may feel tempting to use a walkway as a leading line. However, if there is not someone or something at the end of the path that you want you viewer to see these lines are not actually leading lines. They are just lines in an image.
Different Types of leading lines
Lines don’t have to be straight; they can be curvy or wavy. In fact, you can choose the type of lines to give the image a certain feel.
Be aware of the direction the line leads the eye in. If your subject is in the foreground of your image and the line leads away from them, the eye of the viewer will continue to follow it out of the frame. Viewers usually take in an image from the left, so leading lines often begin on that side. A line that starts on the right of the frame can leave your subject feeling unsettled.
This type of line give the feeling of movement and energy
This type of line give the feeling of calm or security
This type of line give the feeling of strength and growth, and move the eye upward
This type of line give the feeling of balance
Where to Find Leading Lines
When composing a shot, step back and examine the area around your subject. Challenge yourself to think about the elements in your frame and ask yourself how you could use them to compose an interesting shot.
This may mean you need to move around and adjust your angle to use this type of composition guide.
Examples of leading lines:
-furniture (when subject is placed on opposite side)
The following are description and examples from Megann Robinson.
I love how all the lines are leading to him and how he is framed in the opening of the slide. As an added bonus, the light was amazing that evening and the light rays are also acting as leading lines.
While you’re at the playground, teach your children how to find and use leading lines too: Photography For Kids
The hopscotch drawing really directs your eyes to the cute little feet as the main subject of this photo.
I laid down on the ground to get this shot to emphasize her feet and the activity she was involved in.
Trees and Logs
The log that my son is sitting on is acting as the leading line right to him. For this photo I picked him up and placed him where I wanted him to be and he was happy to sit there for a couple of minutes pretend fishing while I took some photos.
Light and Shadows
In this photo I used light and shadows to create these lines. My husband held a light outside of the crib bars and adjusted it until the light was just perfectly hitting his face.
Blinds provide fabulous leading lines. I have taken many of these photos because I love beautiful window light and I can usually ask my kids to tell me what they see while I take their photo.
Fences provide great lines as well. In this shot I got really close to the fence and crouched down low so I was on their level and I got some of the fence in the foreground.