Leading Line Photography: Photo Tips and Ideas
Some of the Most Popular Leading Lines
In Nature (i.e. trees)
Made With Objects
Other Manmade Ideas
Tracks (i.e. train tracks)
Railings and Stairs
What is a leading line?
Basic Definition: In short, a leading line is a line within a photograph that draws the eye from one point in the image to another point. Sometimes the line will lead to a point that is outside of the image itself.
Photography Critique - Leading Lines...Great mix of subjects here.
Leading Line Resources
Leading Lines Sample
Leading Line Tips
- Experiment with positioning. There are so many different angles that you can photograph leading lines. If you'd like a symmetrical image, consider a central placement. Diagonal lines give the appearance of movement, which can create a more dynamic photo. Are you shooting in landscape or portrait? If you're not getting the result that you want, switch it up for a few shots. Don't forget about low angles vs. high angles. They can provide a different effect for the converging lines.
- Try a wide angle. If you're shooting with a DSLR, consider using a wide angle lens. Alternatively, some point and shoot cameras offer a wide angle preset. Using these devices or settings can stretch the width of the lines where they start in the foreground. The wide angle can also further the visual impact.
- Consciously position the convergence. It is important to be aware of where the lines meet because this is where your viewers will be drawn. Many people use the Rule of Thirds to guide this decision.
- Add interest to the convergence point. Many leading line compositions are rich and don't need any point of interest to add depth. However, sometimes this addition can kick a photo up a notch.
- Consider both straight and curved lines. Many beginning photo guides with leading line examples feature solely straight lines. This is a great place to start, but don't forget about curved lines, too. There are so many possibilities for them.
- Seek out both horizontal and vertical lines. Many leading line examples are of horizontal lines. As our eye is naturally drawn from left to right across an image, it's natural to capture this composition. However, don't discount vertical lines. Challenge yourself by consciously seeking out opportunities to capture them.
Sidewalks are one of the most popular subjects for leading line photography, largely because they are readily available. Both small towns and urban areas frequently have sidewalks. Unless you live in a very rural area, it's likely that you're in close proximity to sidewalks. Consider shooting sidewalks with different widths, materials (i.e. brick), and square sizes.
Switch it up once in a while and seek out curved sidewalks in neighborhoods or in more natural settings, such as parks and beaches.
I shot the photo on the right with the intention of capturing the impending storm. However, I love the juxtaposition of the road against the horizon and the clouds. Consider photographing roads as leading lines in a variety of settings. If you live in an urban area, make sure to bring your camera with you the next time you're taking a trip on country roads.
In Nature (i.e. trees)
Trees are one of the most popular and readily available subjects in nature for capturing leading lines. I do live in an urban area and frequently seek out shots like the one on the right. Look for both naturally occurring and man made lines of other natural features as well such as bushes and flowers.
Does anyone ever get tired of photographing water? Hanging out near any significant body of water always has a calming effect. You don't even need your camera in hand to look for an excuse to take a field trip to a river, lake, or ocean. You can't always plan on capturing views like the one on the right, as they tend to present themselves randomly, but you take them when you get them. Don't discount the possibility of photographing small bodies of water, too. For example, rainwater running down into a gutter on a house or in a street can create a striking composition.
I chose for a classic straight, centered capture of this bridge. Don't be afraid to explore low and high angles as well as left-centered and right-centered compositions. Are you photographing a bridge with beautiful vertical beams? Get in close for a shot that features them.
Railings and Stairs
You may get funny looks when you're standing in front of a gorgeous lake taking a shot of the railing instead of water, but it's well worth it. Railings and stairs present endless possibilities for leading lines. Look for both comprehensive shots of entire features and detail shots of specific details.
Leading Lines Created With Objects
This is another opportunity to photograph leading lines that will present itself randomly. However, you can create photography set ups as well, even if they may not be on as large of a scale as the example photo.
Many people gravitate toward leading lines in nature or the popular man made subjects, such as roads and train tracks. Once you've started photographing leading lines, your eye will be drawn to them in all sorts of random places. For example, once I started noticing the cement blocks and their different layouts along the Kenosha lakefront, I kept coming up with new possibilities for photographing them.
Tracks (i.e. train tracks)
I'm not sure why I saved this one for last, as it's such a classic leading line subject. Most likely you thought of this on your own and didn't even need the suggestion. Look for unique train track layouts, such as multiple tracks and crisscrossing tracks. Consider varying settings for the tracks as well as different times of day and different weather conditions. A subtle change to the same setting, such as stormy day instead of sunny day, can drastically change the mood of a photo. I switched it up for the example shot and photographed trolley tracks.
Great Places to Photograph Leading Lines
Think Before you Click: Leading Lines From CameraRec Toby
How to Use Leading Lines - Part 1
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