Leading lines are geometrical features, easy to spot in any type of scene, from landscapes to architecture. As the human mind works very well with patterns, we notice them quickly and work with them in a foreseeable way. For example, we associate lines with roads we need to follow, bridges, trees, distances, and barriers that stop us.
In photography, lines are used to catch the viewer’s attention and lead them through the entire visual story. To learn how to work with lines and make sure the viewers notice all the important elements in your composition.
Straight lines: horizontal, vertical, and diagonal
Straight lines are extremely powerful leading lines in photography. They not only catch the viewer’s eye and lead them in a single direction, but they also change the perspective. For example, vertical lines will prolong the image, making it taller. They are useful when you want to give heights to a person or an object and work very good with portrait format.
On the other hand, horizontal lines make people and objects wider and work better with the landscape format and wide lenses. Make sure you balance your composition using counterbalance elements and enough negative space. Horizon is a very subtle horizontal line that can ruin your composition if not well framed. Pay attention to alignment and use a tripod if you feel the need.
If you want to lead the viewer through the entire image, use a diagonal. You can spot them in your scene or change the camera’s orientation and fabric them. Make sure that all-important elements of your composition are along the diagonal. Diagonals are a great addition to your story as they tend to give space for imagination.
Winding lines are dramatic and cozy. They fascinate the viewer and take them in a complete visual journey through your picture. Try to place all the important elements of the composition along the winding line. Pay attention to where the line starts and ends. If it ends too soon, the viewer will miss part of the scene. If it starts too far away in the background, the viewer will miss the foreground elements.
Winding lines add romanticism and nostalgia to your photograph’s mood. They are impactful elements but they have a special way of blending in, especially in landscapes. Winding lines are hard to forget as are the moments when you photographed them.
Intersecting lines change the property of straight lines and distract the viewer from following them. Moreover, they create a very strong focal point in the middle of the intersection and this point really takes all the attention. So be very careful when framing intersecting lines because it’s very easy to unbalance the composition.
Intersecting lines divide the frame into very specific areas. Treat each of them as a small composition and don’t forget to blend them together in a harmonically picture. Also, keep in mind that intersecting lines introduce a note of tension and harshness and may change the general mood of the photograph.
Lines are present in almost any scene. And if they aren’t, they can be easily fabricated by changing the camera’s position. It may be useful to try to photograph a scene from various perspectives so you can understand how powerful a line is and how it can completely change your composition.
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