Essence of Photography: Leading Lines

What are some ways to get more engagement on your images? Let's explore how leading lines invite the viewer into our photos.

November 26, 2021

There is an art these days to getting someone to pay attention to something for more than a few seconds. Many of us stare at hundreds of photos, social media posts, and other bits of information every hour of every day.

As a photographer, there are different ways to encourage more engagement with your images. One of these techniques is the use of leading lines.

The idea is simple, look for objects in the scene that form natural lines in your images that invite the viewer into your frame.

Elements in nature such as a row of trees or a river make for excellent leading lines in a photo. Man made structures including fences, roads, railroad tracks, and buildings are all great elements to use to draw the viewers eye into your image.

The lines do not have to be straight. In fact, using an "S" curve shape like a winding river snaking through the landscape is an effective use of leading lines.



Creating a Loop of Leading Lines

Look at the image below. We can see a few different leading lines in the photo which all work together. There are two sets of road lines (shown with red arrows) which lead the viewers eye from the right side of the image to the left, following the rider.

The white painted turning arrow on the road serves as another type of leading line which helps to bring the viewer from the left edge of the photo back into the frame to the biker again.

This is a successful way to not only lead your viewer into your photo to keep them engaged, but then to create a kind of loop that leads them back to another point in the image so that they continue to look around and around the image.

There is also a subtle invisible line created by the rider and his line of sight as marked by the green arrow. We imagine him moving along this line over the street which is also echoed by the edge of the road and the line of mountains behind him. Even the clouds seem to be moving along the same path.



Triangles and Vanishing Points

If you have read other Essence of Photography posts you may recall some other composition techniques including the use of triangles and vanishing points.

These are good compliments for leading lines. Triangles can create strong patterns for lines in your photos and most often photos which show a vanishing point perspective will include a road or some other subject that leads the eye to the horizon.

More Examples

Getting the idea? Here are a few more examples of leading lines in photography to inspire you.




Essence of Photography is a series of tips, tutorials, and visual inspiration on a variety of photography skills and techniques.

You can practice these skills and more by purchasing a deck of Photo Cards from Zoom In Reach Out, a non-profit with a mission of teaching to see the world from a different perspective.

All photos in this article were posted to the Aminus3 Photography Community and are copyrighted by their respective photographers.

Click on any photo to see a larger version or to leave a comment for the photographer.

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TOPICS: essence of photography

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