7 Types of Leading Lines to Enhance Your Photography

7 Types of Leading Lines to Enhance Your Photography

winding river running through the mountains

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All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted. 

This blog post may contain affiliate links.  I may earn a small commission for any purchases made through these links. Click here for the disclosure statement.

All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted.

Leading Lines are typically found in objects such as roads, railroad tracks, and buildings, but we often overlook leading lines in our daily lives, such as the shadows cast by buildings, people, or contrasting colors. These lines draw attention to the subject or create depth by making it seem like there is something waiting at the of their journey. This article tasks and in-depth look at common examples of leading lines and how to use them to create amazing pictures.

European Starlings rest on a Horizonal Wire

Horizontal Lines

What are horizontal lines in photography? 

Horizontal lines are straight lines that move from left to right in an image. Horizontal lines are useful in making images appear more stable and balanced, which is why they are a common element found in landscape images.

How to use horizontal lines: 

Horizontal lines act as dividers, breaking an image into separate portions. In landscape photography, the horizon separates the land or sea from the sky, but a set of stairs divides floors or shadows separating light and dark. One thing that’s really important to get right with horizontal lines is to ensure they are straight, especially those representing nature like horizons. A crooked horizontal line is awkward lines because the horizon is always straight, so use the cropping tool in Lightroom to ensure horizontal lines are straight.

Types of Horizontal Lines:

  • Straight lines
  • Stairs
  • Siding
  • Power lines
  • The horizons
  • Geometric patterns or textures
  • River banks
  • Shadows 

Vertical Lines

What is a vertical line in photography? 

Vertical lines are often used with tall trees or buildings to convey a sense of scale, strength, and power because they create the illusion that something is taller than it really is by making us see things in perspective. 

The strong vertical lines in this photo of Sequoia National Park are a metaphor for strength and power. The eyes naturally travel from bottom to top, giving this passage a clear sense of scale, which illustrates how grandiose these trees are. 

Girl in white jacket looks up at the tall sequoia trees

How to use vertical lines:

Photographers often use the rule of thirds to create a sense of asymmetrical balance or they might divide an image with lines in order to emphasize symmetry. Portrait orientation is used when height is important, while landscape orientation can be useful for emphasizing infinite space. 

Examples of Vertical lines:

  • Buildings 
  • Trees 
  • Pillars and columns 
  • People 
Diagonal Lines of man hiking the Grand Canyon

Diagonal Lines

What is a Diagonal Line in Photography?

Diagonal lines are often used to create a visual journey for the viewer, leading them through an image from foreground to background or vice versa. It can also be used as a symbolism for instability, such as when on board a boat rocking back and forth in the waves. 

The mountain in this example attracts your eye with its sharp slope that leads you up from the left side of the image while a trail gives a sense of forward motion and direction as it leads down the mountain 

How to use diagonal lines:

Dutch angles are a great way to create dynamic movement; tilt the frame at an angle from corner-to-corner to create a line that leads you through the scene and toward the subject of interest. Moving left to right is most natural and makes the subject appear as if they are moving towards the viewer or away from the viewer if the motion is from right to left. Using multiple diagonal lines provides a sense of chaos, so look for triangles which adds balance and frames your subject.

Examples Of Diagonal Lines:

  • Hills or mountains
  • Support beams 
  • Stairs 
  • corners 

Curved Lines

What are Curved Lines in Photography?

Landscape photography is all about capturing the natural beauty of places and curved lines create a natural, relaxed mood in photography. Straight lines often provide a sense of rigidity, while curves can be more appropriate for creating an atmosphere that evokes feelings like tranquility or relaxation in viewers – especially in images with scenic landscapes. 

winding river running through the mountains

How to use curved lines:

The s-curve, a line in the shape of an S, takes the viewer on a winding journey that keeps them engaged with your image longer. The curves we see all around us are often found in rivers and roads, but take many shapes, including spiral staircases or coastal lines. 

Examples of curved lines:

  • rivers, roads, and paths, spiral staircases 

  • Coast lines 

  • Sand dunes 

  • Foot paths 

Sunset At the Gold Butte Lookout Tower - Detroit, Oregon at sunset

Converging Lines

What Are Converging Lines in Photography?

One of the most popular examples of leading lines is a railroad track disappearing into the horizon. This gives viewers an idea that they are looking at something in the distance, with converging tracks that meet at a subject. Viewers are drawn directly to your focal point rather than on an indirect journey that diagonal and curved lines create. 

The Gold Butte Lookout Tower is the focal point of this photo, with converging lines pointing towards it from all directions. The subtle lines from the trail, the clouds, and the horizon all lead the eye to the tower. 

How to use converging lines:

To create this effect, find convergent lines near where your subject is located; these do not have to actually intersect but should imply they will eventually meet if the objects were long enough. It’s important to avoid any other distractions in the frame as you want to direct the viewer’s eyes towards what matters most – the subject. You can also use a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the tilt in the lines. 

Examples of converging lines: 

  • Clouds 
  • A combination of horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines that meet at the subject. 
  • Skyscrapers converging in the sky 
  • Repetition 
  • Roads, paths, and railroad tracks that merge as they disappear into the horizon 
  • Flower petals 

.

Implied Lines

What are Implied Lines in Photography?

Implied Lines are created when we see the subject and supporting elements, but there is a gap in which our minds must fill-in. One principle of visual perception states that our mind will continue what was started if information isn’t given to complete it – this applies when following a person’s gaze or continuing along the path of incomplete lines. 

Rancher and sheep dog herding sheep

How to Use Implied Lines:

Implied lines can start with an actual line that subtly suggests continuing along its path after its ended, so place lines pointing the in the direction you want the viewer to focus on even if the line will end before reaching the subject. 

Types of Implied Lines 

  • Movement in a direction 
  • A person or animal looking in a direction 
  • Lines that end or aren’t continuous, but still encourage the viewer along the same path. 
  • A person pointing at something
Stone Path Shaded by the Leaves of Trees

Leading Path

What is a Leading Path in Photography?

Leading lines are used to lead the viewer’s eyes into a photograph. A path leads you towards an unknown destination outside the frame – it is unclear where this journey will take them or what they might find when the journey ends. The leading line in these images adds location and depth and can be any of the types or subjects described earlier, but the presumed subject is out of the frame. We don’t know where the path leads or where a person is looking, so the subject becomes the journey. 

Experiment with these different types of lines to see how they effect your photos. Creating leading lines is a conscious effort to think about framing a photograph that takes advantage of lines in a scene. When done well, leading lines creates a mood and changes the viewer’s experience by giving the image depth and making things feel more dynamic as they move through the lines. 

Author Bio

Author Bio Image

Delaney is a project manager by day and a travel and wildlife photographer by night who is using her skills for translating complex technical language into easy to understand concepts to make photography achievable at all skill levels. You have questions; she has answers.

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