Power of the Leading Line in Composition

Often the basis for composition, lines can create a sense of movement because our eyes instinctively follow them.

leading lines tutorial

The first thing we see is the tiny white house at the end of the lines

As an essential part of composition, we should always consider any leading lines that make up part of the image.

Why? Because they can be powerful. They can balance an image, link selected elements together and draw the eye toward a main point of interest or anywhere else in the image.

When less effective, they can also draw the viewer’s eye right out of the image:

leading lines tutorial

Photographers should avoid this, unless it is their intention!

To show their power, here are three example images:

leading lines tutorial

Takes the viewer’s eye to the right

leading lines tutorial

Takes the viewer’s eye to the left

leading lines tutorial

Takes the viewer’s eye down the middle

As photographers, we can direct the viewer’s eye all over the image in different ways. Take this statue of a man on a horse:

leading lines tutorial

We can take the viewer through the middle of the image and then round to the left.

Or else we can take him from the extreme left of the image, almost across the whole image and then curl around to the statue.

leading lines tutorial

This can be a good technique for making sure that the “whole” image is seen.

leading lines tutorial

Railway lines can be great as leading lines. Here, as with the last statue image, the start point is on the left and the line draws the viewer around to the right, into the image.

leading lines tutorial

However, in this image because of the positioning of the line, the viewer may only get halfway into the image before being drawn out.

leading lines tutorial

This is a classic example. The viewer’s eye is taken from the foreground over to the right where it picks up the line of buildings and comes back to the extreme left.

Lines can also be used in a very different way…

leading lines tutorial

These lines draw the viewer’s eyes gently to and fro across the image—very peaceful.

Another peaceful image with a meander down to the sea…

leading lines tutorial

Enjoy leading lines—they can add greatly to your photography.

About the Author:
Roger Lee is a Johannesburg-based photographic trainer and a cruise ship Photographic Workshop Host at www.camerabasics.net. He runs a “Enjoy Your Camera” course and has eBooks for people who don’t want to drown in detail and just take good images.

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One response to “Power of the Leading Line in Composition”

  1. Brian Palmer says:

    The first photo is a poor example of leading lines.
    I didn’t even know there was a White House ro be seen until I read the text. The white plastic covering the plants completely dominates the photo and effectively becomes the subject of the photo.

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