What are lead­ing lines in an im­age?

Digital Photo (UK) - - PHOTO Q+A -

QI want to im­prove my com­po­si­tion skills to make my pic­tures more ex­cit­ing. I un­der­stand the ba­sics to do with the Rule of Thirds, but I’m a lit­tle un­sure of what lead-in lines do. Can you help? Trevor Jef­fries

Kings­ley says Lead­ing lines are a com­po­si­tional tool that many pho­tog­ra­phers use to cre­ate more dy­namic and en­gag­ing im­ages. They work by guid­ing the viewer’s eye on a jour­ney through a scene. Your lead­ing line can be any­thing that’s lin­ear in na­ture, like a stream, a dry­s­tone wall, a length of rope or some­thing sim­i­lar that you can tie into a shot. In or­der for lead­ing lines to work, they need to flow to­wards a photo’s fo­cal point (in this ex­am­ple the sun­set on the hori­zon) and not just run aim­lessly through the frame or they’ll be in­ef­fec­tive or even dam­ag­ing to your com­po­si­tion by drag­ging the eye away from where you want it to go.

They also work best when they be­gin just out­side your im­age, so that they can carry the viewer’s eye right from the shot’s edge to the heart of the pic­ture, and are usu­ally more ef­fec­tive if they be­gin at the bot­tom of the shot.

These lines are easy to find at lo­ca­tions, and if noth­ing is im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous a quick walk around a sub­ject will of­ten re­veal lots of el­e­ments that could be used as po­ten­tial lead­ing lines. This com­po­si­tional de­vice only needs to be a sub­tle el­e­ment of the fi­nal pic­ture, but used cor­rectly they can be a pow­er­ful tool that gives a scene a much greater im­pact.

Not all lead­ing lines have to be straight, a strong curved line like this will lead the eye on a more flow­ing jour­ney.

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