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‘Leading lines’ refer to a powerful compositional technique where the photographer uses shapes, lines and other features within the image to draw the eyes of the viewer towards the chosen subject matter of the photo.
Leading lines allow the photographer to control the way their audience visually interacts with the subjects of their work and creates a strong sense of depth, movement and drama within the photo.
Leading lines are one of the most important techniques of composition and along with the rule of thirds, incorporating the divine ratio and other rules of thumb, using it helps you to lead the gaze of your audience to the parts of the photo that you want them to focus on.
I pay a lot of attention to leading lines when I am photographing the streets of Philadelphia. In my view, it a very interesting technique that you can easily apply in a city setting when compared to a rural setting.
How to Spot Leading Lines in Scenery.
Identifying and using leading lines in your photography can be difficult at first. Try to look for strong lines in the scene that you want to photograph which lead from the foreground of your image to the background. These horizontals ‘lead’ the eye through the image immediately creating a sense of narrative, even in a still photo! You can also make use of shapes, features and structures in the environment, particularly in urban scenes, such as roads, power lines, train tracks or the edges of buildings to achieve the same effect.
Examples of Leading Lines in Photography.
Below are a few images that make great use of leading lines that you can study to get a sense of what to be looking out for in your own compositions.
Using architecture to create leading lines within an image is a powerful way to make use of the structures in the environment to draw attention to a particular point.
How can you practice using leading lines in your own Photography?
Using leading lines in photography is an extremely important technique to master and although practice certainly makes perfect, you may be asking how you can begin to practice this compositional method in your own photography?
Go on a Photo Walk with a Specific Intention in mind.
As you walk around your area specifically look for things in the environment that you can use to create leading lines in your photography. Look for tree lines, roads and intersections, lines of lamp posts, train tracks and other strong features in the scenery.
Once you have identified something that can be used as a leading line in your photo, for example a line of trees stretching into the distance, then take your time to look around it for a suitable subject. Now that you have a subject in mind, say a tall building behind the trees, you can practice using the tree line to draw the viewer’s eye towards the building!
When you are practicing new techniques it can be a good idea to work backwards while you are composing your image. Start off by looking for what you want to practice, in this case leading lines, and then fit a subject into the image! Once you have mastered the technique you won’t always need to work backwards and you will soon start to automatically incorporate this method of composition into your photography!
Do you pay attention to leading lines in your photography?