A Very Important Photography Composition Rules - "Leading Lines & Shapes" to shoot Artistic Photographs

Leading lines help lead the viewer through the image and focus attention on important elements. The very photograph doesn't satisfy the condition I imposed through first sentence, but's isn't it an interesting photograph clicked with my phone camera? Lines not only direct your vision towards specific elements of the photograph but help you compose awesome shots. Alignment taken care well, lines can make a normal view very unusual. Anything from paths, walls or patterns can be used as leading lines. Above photograph is example of lines and patterns. In this blogpost we will look at different photographs and observe how lines, shapes, patterns make photographs special.

Leading lines help lead the viewer through the image and focus attention on important elements. The very photograph doesn't satisfy the condition I imposed through first sentence, but's isn't it an interesting photograph clicked with my phone camera? Lines not only direct your vision towards specific elements of the photograph but help you compose awesome shots. Alignment taken care well, lines can make a normal view very unusual. Anything from paths, walls or patterns can be used as leading lines. Above photograph is example of lines and patterns. In this blogpost we will look at different photographs and observe how lines, shapes, patterns make photographs special. 


Our eyes are unconsciously drawn along lines photographs so by thinking about how, where and why you place lines in photos will change the way your audience view it.

Our eyes are unconsciously drawn along lines photographs so by thinking about how, where and why you place lines in photos will change the way your audience view it. 

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You can position various focal points along your line or just have one main area focus at the end of your line that the eye will settle on.

You can position various focal points along your line or just have one main area focus at the end of your line that the eye will settle on. 

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Shapes can also be used in a similar way. Imagine a triangle and position three points of focus at the end of each point where the lines of the shape meet. By doing so you create balance in your shot as well as subtly guiding the eye.

Shapes can also be used in a similar way. Imagine a triangle and position three points of focus at the end of each point where the lines of the shape meet. By doing so you create balance in your shot as well as subtly guiding the eye.

Related Blogpost - Photography Composition Rules - Fill The Frame

Once you have identified lines in your frame, then consider how you can use them to enhance your composition.     Depending on your ideation, you might want to :    - Create depth and perspective by positioning a strong line leading from the foreground to the background...    - Create a visual journey from one part of your image to another...    - Place your subject where the lines converge to give the subject more importance in the frame and draw the viewer’s attention directly to it...    - Make a cyclical composition, with the lines leading the eye in a circular motion and never out of the frame.

Once you have identified lines in your frame, then consider how you can use them to enhance your composition. 

Depending on your ideation, you might want to :

- Create depth and perspective by positioning a strong line leading from the foreground to the background...

- Create a visual journey from one part of your image to another...

- Place your subject where the lines converge to give the subject more importance in the frame and draw the viewer’s attention directly to it...

- Make a cyclical composition, with the lines leading the eye in a circular motion and never out of the frame.

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A road, for example, starting at one end of the shot and winding its way to the far end will pull the eye through the scene.

A road, for example, starting at one end of the shot and winding its way to the far end will pull the eye through the scene. 

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Arranging the elements in the frame may involve the use of different lenses to change perspective, but usually you can accomplish it simply by moving yourself so that the point of view you choose is purposeful. Above photograph is clicked with a 10mm fish eye lens and later on corrected the distortions in Adobe Lightroom.

Arranging the elements in the frame may involve the use of different lenses to change perspective, but usually you can accomplish it simply by moving yourself so that the point of view you choose is purposeful. Above photograph is clicked with a 10mm fish eye lens and later on corrected the distortions in Adobe Lightroom. 

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The wide-angle lens places you in the frame and exaggerates the length of the lines.

The wide-angle lens places you in the frame and exaggerates the length of the lines.

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When you are setting up a shot or envisioning it, take a moment to examine the scene for its prominent lines. Then take your time to think about how you want to use them to compose your photograph.

When you are setting up a shot or envisioning it, take a moment to examine the scene for its prominent lines. Then take your time to think about how you want to use them to compose your photograph. 

Related Blogpost - Photography Composition Rules - Rule of Thirds

There are a great number of lines in this scene. The lighting strip above and the pavement below lead the viewer all the way to the end of the tunnel. A great example of a path.

There are a great number of lines in this scene. The lighting strip above and the pavement below lead the viewer all the way to the end of the tunnel. A great example of a path.

Related Blogpost - Photography Composition Rules - Change your 'Point of View' in Photography

There is difference between using paths in your photos and creating leading lines photography. There is not a huge difference between photographs using paths vs. leading lines. Both guide the attention of your viewer to a specific point. The main difference here is very simple - a leading line takes you to a point of interest in the frame, while a path always guides the eye towards a horizon.

There is difference between using paths in your photos and creating leading lines photography. There is not a huge difference between photographs using paths vs. leading lines. Both guide the attention of your viewer to a specific point. The main difference here is very simple - a leading line takes you to a point of interest in the frame, while a path always guides the eye towards a horizon.

Related Blogpost - Photography Composition Rules - Use Frames

Few more tips on how to use Leading lines :    - Use the leading lines to create a visual sense of direction from one part of your image to another     - Use converging lines from two opposite directions and place the subject at the point where they meet. It will really draw the eye of viewers towards the subject and make the focal point unmistakeable.    - Create interesting circular compositions that lead the viewers in a sort of spiral, never letting their attention leave the frame.    - Try taking the same shot from different heights, experimenting with how the leading lines affect the shot at different positions.     - Play with lighting. Using light to create interesting shadows can have amazing effects on shots.

Few more tips on how to use Leading lines :

- Use the leading lines to create a visual sense of direction from one part of your image to another 

- Use converging lines from two opposite directions and place the subject at the point where they meet. It will really draw the eye of viewers towards the subject and make the focal point unmistakeable.

- Create interesting circular compositions that lead the viewers in a sort of spiral, never letting their attention leave the frame.

- Try taking the same shot from different heights, experimenting with how the leading lines affect the shot at different positions.


- Play with lighting. Using light to create interesting shadows can have amazing effects on shots.

Leading lines are the key compositional element that carries our eye through the photograph and guide the view knowingly or unknowingly. They can be used to tell a great story, to place emphasis and to draw a connection between two objects.

Leading lines are the key compositional element that carries our eye through the photograph and guide the view knowingly or unknowingly. They can be used to tell a great story, to place emphasis and to draw a connection between two objects.

The difference between a leading line and a path is simple. A leading line takes you to a point of interest in the frame. A path tends to lead you to a vanishing point.

The difference between a leading line and a path is simple. A leading line takes you to a point of interest in the frame. A path tends to lead you to a vanishing point.

Pay special attention to man-made things such as: roads, fences, boardwalks, bridges, bricks, anything in a row such as lamp posts, buildings, doorways, window panes etc

Pay special attention to man-made things such as: roads, fences, boardwalks, bridges, bricks, anything in a row such as lamp posts, buildings, doorways, window panes etc

Leading lines do not necessarily have to be straight as illustrated by the picture above. In fact curved lines can be very attractive compositional features. In this case, the path leads the viewer to the right of the frame before swinging in to the left towards the tree. I also made use of the rule of thirds when composing the shot.

Leading lines do not necessarily have to be straight as illustrated by the picture above. In fact curved lines can be very attractive compositional features. In this case, the path leads the viewer to the right of the frame before swinging in to the left towards the tree. I also made use of the rule of thirds when composing the shot. 

It is quite important to understand not just what leading lines are in photography, but also how to properly use them. Before you start taking shots using every line in sight, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with what you want to  do and what to avoid.

It is quite important to understand not just what leading lines are in photography, but also how to properly use them. Before you start taking shots using every line in sight, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with what you want to  do and what to avoid.

When it comes to leading lines pictures vs paths, there is a little difference between the two. The same camera settings are used, such as the shutter speed, but the aperture might change to ensure there is right depth according to the frame you are capturing.

When it comes to leading lines pictures vs paths, there is a little difference between the two. The same camera settings are used, such as the shutter speed, but the aperture might change to ensure there is right depth according to the frame you are capturing.

In nature, pay particular attention to: rivers, shorelines, waves, sand dunes, trees, tall grass, cliffs, rocks, sun rays etc

In nature, pay particular attention to: rivers, shorelines, waves, sand dunes, trees, tall grass, cliffs, rocks, sun rays etc

Here is a photo I took inside a church in Costa Rica. Pillars on both sides direct viewers to the end where main prayer area of the church is.

Here is a photo I took inside a church in Costa Rica. Pillars on both sides direct viewers to the end where main prayer area of the church is. 

Some experts define leading lines in further refined categories and some of them are listed below to familiarise you to this -     Implied Leading Lines :    These lines don’t really exist and are instead created by other factors. The human eye itself is one such line when taking a shot from behind a human subject to depict where that subject is looking. Read this example somewhere. Initially I couldn't understand but then realised how powerful it is.     Intersecting Leading Lines :    Intersecting lines can be both a benefit and a hindrance. If you are not careful they can completely ruin the flow of a shot. When skill-fully applied in a composition, you can frame things deliberately in interesting ways to ramp up tension in a shot or add an element of confusion.    Curved Leading Lines :    Curved lines feel more natural than straight ones do. Look at the photograph below. These are most often used in nature shots where leading lines can be used to highlight specific landmarks.    Converging Leading Lines :     These lines are quite useful to naturally highlight a subject. When two lines meet, our eyes tend to focus there. If your scene has two converging leading lines, then that is a great place to situate your subject.

Some experts define leading lines in further refined categories and some of them are listed below to familiarise you to this - 

Implied Leading Lines :

These lines don’t really exist and are instead created by other factors. The human eye itself is one such line when taking a shot from behind a human subject to depict where that subject is looking. Read this example somewhere. Initially I couldn't understand but then realised how powerful it is. 

Intersecting Leading Lines :

Intersecting lines can be both a benefit and a hindrance. If you are not careful they can completely ruin the flow of a shot. When skill-fully applied in a composition, you can frame things deliberately in interesting ways to ramp up tension in a shot or add an element of confusion.

Curved Leading Lines :

Curved lines feel more natural than straight ones do. Look at the photograph below. These are most often used in nature shots where leading lines can be used to highlight specific landmarks.

Converging Leading Lines :


These lines are quite useful to naturally highlight a subject. When two lines meet, our eyes tend to focus there. If your scene has two converging leading lines, then that is a great place to situate your subject.

That’s how leading lines work. Look for these lines around you and use them to your advantage. And remember that we are not only talking about straight lines but all kinds of continuous lines & groups of lines.     So start looking for leading lines. It is one easy way to guide the viewer’s eye towards a specific point of interest.

That’s how leading lines work. Look for these lines around you and use them to your advantage. And remember that we are not only talking about straight lines but all kinds of continuous lines & groups of lines. 

So start looking for leading lines. It is one easy way to guide the viewer’s eye towards a specific point of interest.

Other useful reads about Leading Lines to improve composition of your photographs :    Digital Photography School    ExpertPhotography.com    Format.com    Photoblog.com

Other useful reads about Leading Lines to improve composition of your photographs :

Digital Photography School

ExpertPhotography.com

Format.com

Photoblog.com

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