Leading Lines in Photography


Beautiful image taken in a second without preparation is an exception to the rule. While using tricks, properly tuned lighting and professional equipment almost always guarantee a successful result.

One of the techniques in photography is the use of leading lines. With this method, the artist can manipulate the attention of the viewer. And also, the photographer can build perfect shots.

In our article, we’ll consider building a frame using leading lines in photography. We will also tell you about some useful life hacks for this. Now you will know how to build the perfect frame for your portfolio.

What Are Leading Lines in Photography? 

What Are Leading Lines in Photography

According to the leading lines photography definition, they are kind of guides. With their help, the picture maker can point the viewer to the object to be looked at. It can be a branch from a tree, a human hand, a road leading to a mountain, or even a row of stones.

It is important to understand that it should not be necessarily continuous. It can be any object in the frame. Many beginner photographers try to find the direction of the shot right away. And they look for a continuous contour. But when building such a photo composition with leading lines, it is vital to find any guiding object. It could be non-obvious, like a row of bricks or stars in the sky.

It is also vital to understand that you can use them in different photo genres. This may include portraiture, painting, landscape, or urbanism.

Types of Leading Lines in Photography

Types of Leading Lines in Photography

According to definition, there are 4 types of leading lines in photography. With them, you can build different types of composition. Thus, you can convey different moods and atmospheres with varying types of directions. Common types include:

  • Horizontal. This type of direction is popular for nature images. This may include landscape pictures. The contour often runs along the entire image in this type of composition. Thus, shooting such objects is best done with a wide-angle lens.
  • Vertical. With the help of vertical directions, the artist can convey a sense of power. So, this often includes works on urbanism with huge buildings. These shots are best taken from top to bottom. In this way, you can convey the greatness and power of the object.
  • Diagonal. This type of direction works great for conveying a sense of speed, change, and movement. You should build a couple of compositions with leading lines to convey this feeling.
  • Converging. They are great with a subject you want to draw attention to. For a perfect picture, it is best to place the subject in the center of the crossing of the contours. Thus, the natural human reaction will not allow the viewer to ignore your subject in the photo.

By understanding the types of leading lines, you can competently build photo compositions. This will help your shots look crisp, even, and free of extraneous objects. This, in turn, will help you control the viewer's eye and make them fall in love with your shots.

How to Use Leading Lines

Today, there are several basic principles for using leading lines in photography. Let's look at them in more detail.

Consider the time of day

When creating pictures, you can literally use everything. Whether it's night, you can use the stars or light from buildings to guide the viewer. If you decide to shoot during the day, you can use visible contours on the road, a path in the forest, or a row of stones. 

And if you want to build a composition in the evening, take advantage of the sun rays breaking through the trees. The main principle is to pay attention to details.

Choose a location

When you use contours in your photo session, consider the location. Try to include:

  • Bridges
  • Roads
  • Sidewalks
  • Railways

This will add sharp, straight outlines to your final result.

Ponds, hiking trails and tree rows can be more natural curved contours.

Just look at your settings to get started and study the textures and patterns you see.

Look for natural markers

On the one hand, you can make contours on your own. To do this, you can lay out the broken branches in a row. Or you can put several stones in one row. But it is best to find such contours in the natural environment. It can be flying birds, winding paths, or a row of flowers.

To do this, simply scan the area and give it a little time and attention.

Find the center point of your composition

Finding the leading lines for your photo is one of the most important aspects of composition. But this won't make sense if you don't have the subject in focus. Find the central point to which you want to draw the audience's attention.

Only after finding that subject can you build your composition.

In general, shooting can be done anywhere. And with almost no exceptions, you are bound to find a few contours. But without a central subject, you cannot take a high-quality and interesting picture.

Set the camera

Now you need to install your camera. To do this, consider the location of objects. You must act carefully and slowly. Check the image on the camera to make sure you framed it correctly.

If you are working with shadows, you must consider how they move over time.

As for camera settings, you should stick with a shallower depth of field if you're using a wider aperture.
But be careful, as too little depth of field can ruin your work.

Lighting issue

Consider natural light when setting lighting settings. Try to set your camera so that the light doesn't obscure your contours.

Take pictures

You are now ready to take the first shot. Press the shutter button and see your first result.

As a result, finding and using leading lines in photography is not a very difficult task. But this may need a certain amount of time and practice.

Editing Leading Lines

Editing Leading Lines

Sometimes it's not enough to photograph the subject using the leading lines method in composition. In some cases, you need to make some changes with the help of an editor.

Here are some editing tips:

  • Crop the image to make the leading lines composition more prominent. Remove any distracting elements that may take away from the outlines.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast to make the contours stand out more. This can be done using editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
  • Experiment with different angles and perspectives. It helps see how the contours in the image change. This can help you to find the most effective way to use outlines in your work. For this, you can rotate your picture in Photoshop.

Use editing software like Lightroom or Photoshop to crop and adjust brightness and contrast. It makes the contours stand out more.

Mistakes with Leading Lines in Photography

There are several mistakes that artists make when they shoot with contours. Here are a few common ones:

  1. Not using contours effectively. The task is to guide the viewer's eye toward the subject or point of interest.
  2. Not aligning the subject with the contours. Artists don't position the object to align with the outlines. It can make the image less effective.
  3. Not making the contours prominent enough. It makes them less effective in guiding the viewer's eye.
  4. Not paying attention to the background. It can contain distracting elements that take away from the contours of the image.
  5. Not adjusting the brightness and contrast. It doesn't make the contours stand out more, which can make them less effective in guiding the viewer's eye.
  6. Not understanding the composition with leading lines. You should know how the image's composition and the image's contours relate to the subject.
  7. Not experimenting with different angles and perspectives. You should see how the contours in the image change to avoid limiting the effectiveness of the image.

Bottom Line

As a result, now you know the definition of leading lines in photography. You know all about their main principles and rules. Also, you found out that using leading lines in photography is a great way to make your work more attractive and structured. With this technique, you can grab your viewer's attention and direct their gaze where you need it. But despite the simplicity of the technique, you need to have basic composition skills. And don't forget to practice for the best results.

But taking beautiful pictures with guide contours is not enough for business promotion. The solution in such a situation would be to create a quality portfolio. You can create an unforgettable portfolio based on the site builder from Portfoliobox. And only then will you notice a rush of audience.


What's the rule of thirds in photography?

The rule of thirds in photography is a compositional guideline. It suggests dividing the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically. And it places the subject at one of the intersections of those lines.

Are leading lines always straight?

The lines within the frame lead the viewer's eye toward the main subject or point of interest. They can be straight or curved. 

What is the golden ratio of photography?

The golden ratio in photography is a compositional guideline. It places the subject or elements within the frame according to the ratio of approximately 1:1.618. This ratio is aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. 

Is leading the same as spacing?

Leading and spacing in photography are related but not the same. Leading lines are used within the frame to guide the viewer's eye toward the main subject. While spacing refers to the arrangement of elements within the frame. It includes the distance between the subject and other elements in the frame.

How much time do I need to learn the leading lines method?

In fact, mastering this technique is different for everyone. It may take up to a week for someone to start noticing leading lines. Others may study for about a month until they begin to notice such compositional details.

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