Direct Your Audience Through Your Photos With the Help of Leading Lines

Direct Your Audience Through Your Photos With the Help of Leading Lines

Improve your landscape photography this fall with one of my favorite techniques for composing within the photo: the use of leading lines.

Autumn is a tremendously popular time of the year for landscape photography here in the Northeast. It is truly a photogenic season, creating a canvas filled with warm, vibrant tones that slowly build up towards a rich and colorful peak. The crisp, clean air and fall aroma always instinctively leads me to the outdoors. And with that said, I view now as an opportune time to brush up on some basic examples featuring the use of leading lines. Seeing them within your compositions will benefit all of the outstanding fall photos yet to come.

Lead the Attention Towards Your Subject

It’s important to Identify both the subject and leading lines within your composition. A good practice I use upon first approaching a scene is working to identify what will be the standout point within the frame. Examples of a subject could be the setting sun, a cascading waterfall, or a special building of interest. Once you have that point of interest dialed in, allow yourself to step back and investigate the leading lines that exist all around the framework of your image. Once both have been identified, switch the camera to live view and play around with the composition until you have found a solid relationship between the leading lines and the POI.

Capturing depth is important when working in a two-dimensional art.

Create Depth in a Two-Dimensional World

In the above example, the line of the rock wall allows for not just side-to-side but also front-to-back depth. This depth in a two-dimensional image carries the eyes through the photo, leading the audience towards the dramatic sky above the tree line, before finally exiting the frame. Now conversely, if I were to line this shot up as it was seen from the road, standing directly in front of that same rock wall, shot wide at 18mm, the resulting image would have a much flatter feel, again lacking depth.

Unclutter an otherwise cluttered photo by incorporating leading lines.

Especially Useful With Wide Angle Lenses

Wide angle lenses are fantastic tools, as they allow you to easily express the vastness of the scene before you, although keep in mind this can be a blessing and a curse. If you don’t incorporate the use of a wide angle lens often, one of the first things you will notice after attaching it to your camera is just how much it differs from the mid-to-telephoto range. With a telephoto lens, it’s quite simple to create isolation, easily highlighting the subject in the frame. This can pretty easily be accomplished with the tighter framing these long-reaching lenses allow for, as well as making use of a shallow depth of field. When shooting wide, there is a mental adjustment necessary, with more discipline applied in how you compose the shot. If you are not careful when going wide, capturing the immensity of the scene, you will quickly clutter up the composition, leading to confusion and unease for the viewer of your photograph. The use of leading lines will assist in breaking up the wide shot composition and in turn create a roadmap for you to direct the viewer towards what it is you want them to see.

What About You?

Do you also enjoy the use of this technique in your own photography, and do you also find it particularly helpful when using wide angle lenses? Feel free to share your examples of leading lines in the comments below!

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Michael Higgins's picture

I got this one just two nights ago when I found myself without any conventional subject in sight. It was a good little impromptu exercise, because I had to get *something* with that sunset.

Derrick Ruf's picture

This is a FANTASTIC example, thanks for sharing Michael!