In a photograph, our eyes tend to follow any detected lines running through the scene. These lines can be straight, curved, man-made or created by nature. They can include things such as train tracks, fences or railings, stairs, roads, wharves, bridges, stretched-out patterns, tunnels, hallways, a long body of water, paths and even light trials captured as long exposures by the camera.
Leading lines are lines that are deliberately used to lead the viewer’s eye to the subject and they can come from any direction in the frame. When framing your subject, try to look for elements in the scene that you can use as leading lines, thus emphasising your subject or focal point, such as in the photos below.
Sometimes this might mean moving around in the space to view your subject from different angles, or changing your viewpoint, or getting up high or down low in order to find some elements that you can use as leading lines. If you have a scene with multiple lines leading to your subject the effect is strengthened, creating a very powerful composition.
Try and think outside the box when it comes to leading lines. The examples above are all great but commonly used. Some of the most interesting examples of leading lines I’ve seen have included tennis court nets, people queuing to get into a store and flowers growing in a row. In the case of the photo I took below, the spray of water behind the boat as it moves across the river acts as a leading line.
It’s not always possible to find leading lines in a scene and this does not mean that your composition is bad. There are other ways of highlighting your subject, and leading lines is just one compositional tool you can use to do this.