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Leading Line Photography: Photo Tips and Ideas

Updated on August 21, 2014
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Source
Some of the Most Popular Leading Lines
Sidewalks
Roads
In Nature (i.e. trees)
Made With Objects
Other Manmade Ideas
Tracks (i.e. train tracks)
Water
Railings and Stairs
Bridges
Curved Lines

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.

Starting the line in the bottom left hand corner of the photo naturally draws the human eye to the leading line.
Starting the line in the bottom left hand corner of the photo naturally draws the human eye to the leading line. | Source

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.

[Sources:Using Converging Lines in Your Image, How to Use Leading Lines in Photography Composition]

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kenosha, WI lakefront.Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI.Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI.Klode Park, Whitefish Bay, WI.
Kenosha, WI lakefront.
Kenosha, WI lakefront. | Source
Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI.
Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI. | Source
Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI.
Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI. | Source
Klode Park, Whitefish Bay, WI.
Klode Park, Whitefish Bay, WI. | Source

Sidewalks

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.

Highway 1, between Solon and Mount Vernon, IA.
Highway 1, between Solon and Mount Vernon, IA. | Source

Roads

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.

Both the road and trees are serving as leading lines here.
Both the road and trees are serving as leading lines here. | Source

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.

I grabbed this opportunity to capture a small piece of Lake Michigan on the Kenosha lakefront.
I grabbed this opportunity to capture a small piece of Lake Michigan on the Kenosha lakefront. | Source

Water

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.

Hondurus.
Hondurus. | Source

Bridges

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.

Kenosha lakefront.
Kenosha lakefront. | Source

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.

Circus World, Baraboo, WI
Circus World, Baraboo, WI | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kenosha lakefront.Kenosha lakefront.Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center grounds, Milwaukee, WI.
Kenosha lakefront.
Kenosha lakefront. | Source
Kenosha lakefront.
Kenosha lakefront. | Source
Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center grounds, Milwaukee, WI.
Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center grounds, Milwaukee, WI. | Source

Random Manmade

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.

Source
Trolley tracks in Kenosha, WI.
Trolley tracks in Kenosha, WI. | Source

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

show route and directions
A markerDominican University -
7900 Division St, River Forest, IL 60305, USA
get directions

B markerMillennium Park -
201 E Randolph St, Loop Footwear, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
get directions

C markerMilwaukee Art Museum -
700 Art Museum Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA
get directions

Think Before you Click: Leading Lines From CameraRec Toby

How to Use Leading Lines - Part 1

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    • randomcreative profile image
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      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Yes, for sure! I agree. :) Thanks, Cyndi!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 3 years ago from Western NC

      Working with lines is a fun challenge. I love doing the "rule of thirds" and seeing how I can manipulate the lines in an image while bending the rules. :) Great tips and ideas here.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Vicki! I'm glad that this article is helpful for you. :)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I've never heard of lead lining! How cool. Your pictures are awesome. I'm very much a beginner in the photography field. Pinning this one to my photography board. Thanks!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I'm so glad to hear that, SamitaJassi!

    • SamitaJassi profile image

      Samita Sharma 4 years ago from Chandigarh

      I very much enjoyed your hub and learned something new!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I'm glad that you enjoyed this article, DIYorDie! I enjoyed your insight on the topic.

    • DIYorDie profile image

      Holly 4 years ago

      I just did a hub on diy photography, but I love this pictures here. They are very professional and I love the lines. People don't realize how the human eye automatically follows the line, it't used in journalism as a guideline to really get the audiences attention (even in videography).

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I'm so glad to hear that, donnaisabella!

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 4 years ago from Fort Myers

      Thanks for this informative article. I am learning new things about photography so I found it very helpful.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, sallybea!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Some lovely ideas and some beautiful images included in this Hub. Very nice randomcreative

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      So glad you enjoyed!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Great tips, thank you for sharing.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Sally! Enjoy.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      Interesting, the subject of our next club competition.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, thebookmom! That's great.

    • thebookmom profile image

      thebookmom 5 years ago from Nebraska

      Wow! What a useful hub. So much helpful information laid out in an easy to read and understand way. Great job!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      That's great, Happyboomernurse! Thanks so much.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Learned a lot from this hub.

      Thanks for sharing these great tips.

      Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting. Also shared.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Jackie!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I am wowed by clouds and you have a great one! Great informative hub!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      That's great, agusfanani!

      Cassy, thanks! I'm glad that this is helpful for you.

      Thanks, Leah! that's awesome.

      Thanks, Shasta! I've become a bit of (that's an understatement) photography obsessive the past couple years. Once you start looking for these patterns and opportunities, it's amazing how often they present themselves. Best of luck. :)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      These are gorgeous photos, and great insight in looking for lines in photography. I have done a bit of that randomly, but will have to be more conscious of the lines when I photograph things. Voted up.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I really like this hub, randomcreative! I never thought about leading lines in my pictures before, but I'm definitely keeping that in mind from now on. I love the cloud in your top picture - it really draws your eye in!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Excellent hub random!!! Great advice on the leading line :) Voted up and shared!!!

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

      I love photography and your hub has given me valuable tips on it. Thank you very much.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Haha thanks, Julie!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      Sniff sniff. I smell another HOTD. Fantastic!!!!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      RTalloni, I love that insight about this topic! I hope that you are able to get out and shoot some new pictures soon.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Looking at this video after reading your info made me realize that the use of leading lines can add motion to a still shot--very interesting to think through. The change in our weather has me itching to "get out there and practice." Thanks for highlighting this concept for us.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, J.S.! I've had the same thing happen to me with leading line photos.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I have created line photography photos without even knowing it. Thanks for expanding on this photographic experience. Excellent perspective. Voted and shared.

      JSMatthew~