For the Love of Leading Lines

Ok, I admit it. I’ve always had a total love affair with leading lines. Something about how those lines just pull you in, drawing your gaze into the larger composition, just does it for me every time. Maybe that’s why I tend to enjoy photographing buildings so much! Using the sharp edges of a man made structure to create leading lines is a tempting target when exploring urban environments. So what exactly IS leading lines and why do they work so well?

Leading by Example

Simply put, leading lines are visual elements within a photograph that “lead” a viewer’s eyes off into the distance or towards a specific sub-component of the overall photographic composition. Visually, we find these lines to be somewhat compelling, and it is not uncommon to see tons of Instagram photos featuring them. Take the photo below as an example, the leading lines effect is unmistakable and immediately draws your eye into the image.

Gazing down a long road, combined with the sharp angles in the surrounding buildings makes this photo a classic example of leading lines.

Gazing down a long road, combined with the sharp angles in the surrounding buildings makes this photo a classic example of leading lines.

Using both the buildings and the road to create leading lines gives this image almost a tunnel-like effect. This is somewhat of an extreme example of how leading lines can give your photos new perspective, but what about something more subtle?

This next example uses leading lines in a slightly more subtle way to give the photo depth while also drawing the eye towards the subject, which in this case is a man standing next to the window.

Using the architectural features of this building interior provides a perfect way to direct the viewer to the subject in this composition.

Using the architectural features of this building interior provides a perfect way to direct the viewer to the subject in this composition.

The composition of this photo just screams leading lines thanks to both the architecture and the pattern in the carpet on the floor. Another trick that is in full effect here is keeping the action near the center of the frame. It’s a simple trick, but well worth noting here as it makes it possible to enhance the leading lines effect by using a slight vignette in image post-processing.

Almost anything can be used to create the leading lines effect. I’ve been known to use buildings frequently but the next example shows that just about any feature that has a linear element can be used to create depth and capture your viewer’s eye.

Even a row of seats at the airport can be used to pull the viewer into the composition.

Even a row of seats at the airport can be used to pull the viewer into the composition.

While exploring Boston Logan Airport’s recently renovated terminal B these empty seats just called out to me. Using the seats to pull the viewer’s eye out to the interesting geometric shapes in the building design makes this image interesting.

Well that’s it for now! Thanks for taking a few minutes to indulge my obsession with leading lines. Next time you are out and about look for opportunities to capture some leading lines in your photos. You won’t be disappointed, and the rewards will be great photos that your audience will love!