How Leading Lines Improve a Photo

Aug 17, 2020

When you set out to create a photograph, if you’re using a leading line in the image, you’ll want to be able to identify it so that it will become part of the photo’s composition. This is how, as a photographer, you remain in charge of the visual components.

Identifying Leading Lines

Many examples of leading lines in photographs are actual roadways or paths. Think of a path cutting through a forest, for example. The path is set apart from the rest of the landscape in material and color, and it creates a line for the eye to follow. That’s why I call leading lines the photograph’s roadmap. It gives the viewer direction through your image.

Leading lines are not always so obvious. A leading line can be the curve of a shoreline, the bend of a branch, or a winding river. When you create the composition, look for the contrast between your leading line and the remainder of the image. Consider where you want the viewer’s eye to travel and how you’ll move the viewer across the photo.

Leading Lines Create Emotion

Because leading lines give you control over how the viewer interprets your image, you can use them to set the tone. A winding path that leads into the underbrush of a dark forest may suggest suspense and mystery. Using a rainbow as a leading line into the rounded mountains in the distance might call your viewer to a sense of wonder and adventure.

The emotion your photograph elicits depends partly on your viewer’s interpretation, and partly on how you use your leading lines. You can create hope by leading your viewer out of a dark place, or elicit interest by leading them in.


Learn More about Leading Lines

If you want to learn more about leading lines, I’m giving my first live workshop on Facebook Live on August 19 at 8:30 AM Mountain Daylight Time. I’ll be in the Yampa River Botanic Park, which offers an interesting selection of winding paths and stone staircases that will become the leading lines in our photos.

I’ll show you how to train your eye to find these lines and how to make your photos a success. Then, I invite you to share your own photographs with the hashtag #photographicroadmap so I can feature your photos on Facebook and Instagram.

If you want even more critique, I’ll be taking on a few students for individual critique after the lesson. Contact my office– or 970-879-3718– for scheduling and pricing. Individual critique will be remote (over video call), so it’s open to everyone, no matter where you are in the world.

I look forward to trying this out–I hope you’ll join me and learn something new.