Some of the most basic and straightforward elements in photography are lines. But don’t be deceived by that. There are many different types of lines, including barriers that divide a picture into sections and sometimes leading lines that direct composition. They affect an image’s structure and sense of emotion as well. I’ll go over the ideal applications for leading lines and other lines in photography in this article, along with tips on how to use them in your own compositions.
How to Use Leading Lines in Your Composition
A viewer’s eye is guided by lines, which is their most obvious effect. They frequently move their points of reference from the foreground to the background of the picture. This is the reason you’ve probably heard of “leading lines” before; these are lines that traverse a photograph and strengthen its connections.
Roads, fences, rivers, canyons, and other natural features are some of the most popular leading lines. They physically extend through space, creating the path you’d take to get there in the real world in addition to serving as a link in the composition from foreground to background. They are so potent in composition because of this. They provide a very literal path for the viewer to travel through an image.
When you are creating a photo, there are several different ways to use leading lines. First, you can make them the main focus of your image, occupying a sizable portion of the frame and drawing a lot of attention. One illustration is the photo up top. In the actual world, you typically need to go extremely close to the leading line to accomplish this. To emphasize its size in relation to the background, it is frequently helpful to use a wide angle lens.
Leading lines, however, can also be more subdued compositional components. Take a look at the image below, which has a walkway at the bottom that serves as a leading line but doesn’t take center stage. Because it offers a route for viewers to follow from one area of the image to another, this still qualifies as a leading line.
Leading lines don’t always have to be actual paths you can take, whether they are created by humans or not. Sometimes they are merely shapes in the sky or patterns on the ground that draw the attention of viewers. It can be difficult to tell leading lines apart from regular lines. Your composition can be influenced by a tree branch that runs from left to right as well as by two people holding hands and their arms.
The following section explores additional significant uses of lines in photography, regardless of whether they qualify as “leading” lines.
Lines Provide Structure to a Photo
It’s all about structure in composition. In order to effectively convey your message, you arrange the components of an image. One of your best tools for accomplishing that is a set of lines.
If a road links the foreground and background of a photo, you simply built a compositional framework. If a cloud encircles your subject and keeps the viewer’s eye directed to the center of an image, it’s the same outcome – a structure to your composition.
Lines are one of the most organic methods to structure your composition since they have the ability to connect two or more distinct components of a photograph. Even though it occasionally takes the traditional shape of a leading line running from the foreground to the background, it doesn’t always.
In other instances, your subject is the line itself. Sure, lines are simple aspects of composition, but they nevertheless have a lot of appeal and passion. A smooth, curving line conveys a vastly different message than a rough, jagged one. So, even a straightforward picture of an angular mountain silhouetted against the sky has the power to evoke tremendous feelings. The same is true of a meandering line in the sand’s pleasing shape.
Remember that lines in a photograph not only define paths but also boundaries, as you’ll see in the part after this one.
How to Use Lines as Barriers
The eye has an easy time flowing along lines. It has a considerably tougher time flowing across them.
Horizons, if not dealt with properly, can split the top and bottom of a photo in an ugly way. To help children feel more connected, I frequently seek out soft horizons or instances where a distinct element breaches the boundary between the sky and the ground (say, a lightning bolt, rainbow, or cloud – and note that all of these, themselves, could be considered leading lines).
For this reason, “barrier lines” are important to pay attention to if you want the complete image to feel connected. An picture can be divided rather than joined by a line that is moving the opposite way.
However, when employed correctly, the barrier property of lines may be a powerful method to add a sense of intentionality and self-containedness to your image. For instance, seek for items in your scene that act as natural frames, such as trees or clouds, that form barriers close to the edge of the image. The placement of a barrier can be a potent approach to confine or close your composition because photographers frequently don’t want to lead the viewer’s eye out of the frame.
Here are some instances of lines that have been utilized in photographs, ranging from basic leading lines to more elaborate compositional elements. Look closely at the compositions below and note how the lines direct or obstruct the viewer’s eye:
How to Compose Lines Effectively
How do you make a line that you’ve found intriguing to shoot or a nice leading line from front to rear look as well as it can in your composition?
Asking yourself if it genuinely improves the image is the first step. Don’t force a connection between the foreground and background of a composition, even though it’s wonderful to have one. Not every picture requires a downed tree or some meandering footprints toward the horizon. Sometimes, lines in a photograph are less obvious or perhaps irrelevant (like the lines that naturally expand when using a wide-angle lens).
This applies to picture frames as well as leading lines and leading edges. Natural frames aren’t always the best or even worth looking for. When they can, some photographers will try to cover their composition with a limb from a tree or attempt to frame it with lines. This occasionally works, but other times the tree just seems fake given the rest of the image’s setting and has no real meaning.
Therefore, the measures I suggest you take to properly use lines in photography, both leading and otherwise, are as follows:
- Determine how much attention a line that you think is fascinating attracts.
- Make sure the connecting line in your image adds value and is not only a distraction.
- Examine the line’s emotional content to determine if it complements the photo’s overall emotional theme.
- Choose whether you want the line to be your main subject or a minor compositional feature.
- Use a wide lens and approach the line closely to heighten its impact.
- You might want to write your leading line so that it begins in the left foreground and moves to the right as it moves into the distance if your audience tends to read from left to right (though I’m not quite sold on this concept personally).
- Make sure the horizons don’t obstruct your viewer’s vision by paying attention to them.
- If you can, avoid including anything distracting at the photo’s edges by possibly separating them with different compositional lines.
The aforementioned pointers ought to have helped you understand how to employ leading lines and other compositional lines in photographs. Please use the form below to contact us if you have any questions or comments.
Learn more: Street Photography Tips for Beginners