Home > Equipment, Landscape Photography, Photo Techniques, Thoughts On Photography > Summer Photo Tips: #4 – The Power of Leading Lines

Summer Photo Tips: #4 – The Power of Leading Lines

summer photo tips leading linesleading lines summer photo tips photography
Summer photography presents many opportunities to easily practice various ways to improve your images. Taking time to compose or arrange a scene in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter can do much to improve your photos. Good composition can also help direct the viewers eye when viewing the final photo to help them see and better understand what you set out to photograph.

There are many techniques you can draw on to guide the viewers eye. A “leading line” is one of those techniques and one that in many situations, is easy to include. A leading line is one or more elements within in a scene that is intentionally included to direct or guide a viewers eye. The photo below shows a simple example of a photo containing a leading line.

photography tips leading lines

When looking at the photo above, most likely your eyes went first to the yellow line in the road near the bottom edge and then moved upward into the image. Leading lines help to move the eye from one place to another or, from the edge of a photo directly to the main subject. They can also convey a sense of intrigue because at some point they disappear into the background. Roadways, bike paths, airport runways and even hiking trails can often be used as leading lines.

leading lines photo tips

You can also use leading lines to direct a viewers eye “within” a scene. In the photo above, for example, the biking trail which seems to appear from out of nowhere near the center of the image gracefully guides the eye on a curving path downward and then out through the left side of the scene.

Begin watching for and including leading lines in some of your photos. The more you practice and study the results the more you’ll begin to understand how they can help you tell a story and help the viewer enjoy the photo even more.

photography tips leading lines

  1. July 14th, 2014 at 06:28 | #1

    My son, Nick, is teaching himself photography and your articles always hold something he finds invaluable, Rick. Thank you.

    • Rick
      July 15th, 2014 at 09:48 | #2

      Thank you for letting me know Sue. I could not be more delighted than in knowing the blog might be helping Nick as he masters the camera and photography. Plus I just realized that you two are perhaps the first Mother-Son followers. How great is that :-)

  2. July 14th, 2014 at 10:29 | #3

    I really like your images in this one, Rick. Especially the second one – it has such a peaceful mood but a lot of interest.

    • Rick
      July 15th, 2014 at 09:54 | #4

      I’m so happy you enjoyed them both Pat. That second image is one of my personal favorites of foggy day photography. In fact, as I was walking to the place where I eventually made the photo, a man & woman who saw me walking with all my camera gear stopped me to ask what in the world I thought I could possibly photograph in the heavy fog. Many people head indoors when the weather is foggy or rainy or snowy, but in my experience, nature continues to show her beauty in each moment regardless of the weather.

      PS: Congratulations again. I hope you’re still enjoying your wedding anniversary.

  3. July 14th, 2014 at 15:50 | #5

    You demonstrated that so well. Good reminder to keep those lines leading! When it works, it all comes together so nicely. Hope you are having a great summer.

    • Rick
      July 15th, 2014 at 10:01 | #6

      Leading lines “can” be magical in photographs, can’t they Lyle. And, you are absolutely right that everything needs to come together. For me they almost always require making the physical investment by hiking and moving back & forth around the landscape until I can find just the right spot to show nature at her best. And as you know well from your own photography, I think that physical effort makes us more mindful when composing and of being thankful to nature when she shows us the best place to make the photo.

  4. July 14th, 2014 at 16:45 | #7

    Your straight path leading into the fog, certainly adds mystery, perhaps heading into some ominous danger. I think I prefer the meandering way that has me exploring more of the image without worrying about gremlins jumping out at me. :)

    • Rick
      July 15th, 2014 at 15:25 | #8

      Those foggy paths in nature are a lot like the paths all of us follow from time to time in life, aren’t they Gunta? Sometimes they take us straight toward a destination that’s a bit foggy because we can’t see into the future and other times they bring us from a foggy place into one of clarity and light.

  5. July 15th, 2014 at 13:19 | #9

    Can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful tips you provide to those of us who definitely fall into the novice photographer category. :)

    • Rick
      July 17th, 2014 at 08:52 | #10

      It’s always a pleasure to share photo tips like these LuAnn and fun afterward to hear and sometimes see how they were helpful to other folks in their photography. Thanks.

  6. July 15th, 2014 at 20:22 | #11

    I always enjoy the mood created by foggy day photography, Rick, and the way it creates mystery. Nice photos and good suggestions. –Curt

    • Rick
      July 17th, 2014 at 08:51 | #12

      I’m so pleased you enjoy foggy day photography Curtis but then too, I’m not surprised since it’s a great way to find yourself “wandering through time and place” which you always demonstrate so well on your blog. Sending you good wishes, always. ~ Rick

  7. July 15th, 2014 at 21:05 | #13

    Mysterious fog… Great capture…

    • Rick
      July 17th, 2014 at 08:48 | #14

      Nature does have a wonderful mystery to her, doesn’t it. And I’m delighted you enjoyed the image.

  8. July 16th, 2014 at 01:17 | #15

    Now this is a technique I had not thought about. I studied the photos in this post and wondered how I might apply them in my rural setting – at first I didn’t think there was much to see regarding lines or paths. But then I thought about the many animal trails I follow in the woodlands, and paths made by tractors or machinery, or simply dirt roads. Even the parting of trees (as in your first photo) in the nearby pecan orchard, the position of fallen trees, or the distant curve of the river. Thank you Rick, for always bringing new perspective into the art of photography!

    • Rick
      July 20th, 2014 at 09:48 | #16

      Hi Lori. Sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve been on a photo assignment. I am delighted that the post started your brain thinking about leading lines in your rural setting. Definitely, things like dirt roads, tractor tracks, etc. can bring the element of leading lines into your work. So too though can fences, lines of trees, a series of animals walking in a row, and so much more. So please start watching for them, taking some photos and see how they look as photos. The beauty of things like this is that once you begin to find leading lines and see how they work in a photo, you’ll begin to see them more often and much more easily.

  9. July 16th, 2014 at 11:06 | #17

    Good tips. I never thought of those before.

    • Rick
      July 20th, 2014 at 09:49 | #18

      Welcome Jacqui. I’m delighted you found the tips interesting and hope you’ll return again from time to time. Best wishes, Rick

  10. July 16th, 2014 at 12:42 | #19

    Hi Rick. loved that fog. I find the mystery of photographing in fog to set such a mood. Great for black and white too. As usual, your photos are wonderful.

    • Rick
      July 17th, 2014 at 08:35 | #20

      Thanks for the lovely comment Karen and, it’s so great to hear from you. Although some people dislike fog, and for some its scary (like when you have to drive in it) fog has a wonderful dream-like quality that can pull the viewer into the photo. And, I’m sure you have many great opportunities to photograph fog on the islands. In fact, I remember being on The Big Island many years ago and in two days had the chance to photograph snow AND fog. I hope you and Cadie are doing well and that you’ve been busy capturing the beauty of that magic place you get to call home.

  11. July 18th, 2014 at 10:39 | #21

    lovely photos… <3

    • Rick
      July 18th, 2014 at 14:45 | #22

      Many many thanks Leyla

  12. July 19th, 2014 at 07:03 | #23

    Thank you for all of your recent updates and tips Rick.. Loving them all, Enjoy your weekend.. Great to see your blogging about them again.. :-) Sue

    • Rick
      July 20th, 2014 at 09:53 | #24

      I am delighted to find myself between long-term photo assignments and back in the studio where I have good internet access to update the blog again Sue. And pleased as can be to that you continue to follow along. I wish you a great week ahead. ~ Rick

  13. July 19th, 2014 at 11:22 | #25

    I am happy that we’ve connected; your photography is beautiful.

    • Rick
      July 19th, 2014 at 16:40 | #26

      Many many thanks for your visit Angeline. I hope you will stop back often because there is lots more coming up!

  14. July 19th, 2014 at 15:41 | #27

    Rick, thank you for more terrific insight for improving our photography!

    I reviewed some of my images and in many cases found no discernible “leading lines”. It seems I need to do a better job of determining what my subject is – what it is I’m trying to convey. I’m easily impressed by Nature and would be happy to fill the frame with just scrub palmetto or lily pads or a stand of cypress trees. But to draw a viewer’s eye toward what I think is special about an image – to evoke an emotion – is going to require more planning. Doggone you – you’re going to make me work at this!

    Maybe I’ll just stick to shooting birds in trees! (Nah, not likely.) :)

    • Rick
      July 20th, 2014 at 10:04 | #28

      Hi Wally. I am happy as can be that you started looking through your photos for some leading lines. Leading lines are great, once in a while, for leading the viewer into or through a photo. But like many other techniques, they are best used occasionally and in the right situations. They probably won’t be too useful with bird photography which you do so well, but they might prove useful in some of those amazing landscapes in Florida. A path or trail in one of the State Parks, a row or line of Scrub Palmetto’s or Lily Pads that form a line or graceful shape might be some possibilities. Heck, if you felt bold and adventurous, just think of the great leading line a 12 foot long alligator would make if positioned in the foreground of a photo. (WARNING: For that last idea, make sure to use a very powerful zoom lens!)

  15. July 20th, 2014 at 10:33 | #29

    Great tips! I’ve been bitten by the “photo bug” and now trying to learn and gradually become better so any advice from a master is like honey :)

    • Rick
      July 21st, 2014 at 04:51 | #30

      Welcome Tiny. So glad you discovered the blog and I’m thrilled to hear you have been bitten by the photo bug. A lot of people seem to be coming down with that same bug :-) This blog contains a series of articles on photo tips, like this one, and articles written during my photo assignments as a nature photographer. I hope you’ll stop back from time to time. ~Rick

  16. July 21st, 2014 at 11:06 | #31

    There are just stunning! I always love your work and thanks for the tip!:D

    • Rick
      July 21st, 2014 at 17:16 | #32

      I am so pleased to hear from you Cao and hope things are well with you. I’m grateful for your kind words about the tips and photos and hope you’ll stop back from time to time. Warm wishes to you. ~ Rick

  17. Annette Rochelle Aben
    July 22nd, 2014 at 16:08 | #33

    Thank you for sharing not only your beautiful work but the care and support of others so that we all have the opportunity to share the beauty of what we see! I appreciate you

    • Rick
      July 23rd, 2014 at 05:42 | #34

      It’s a great joy for me to share the beauty of our Earth through photos and help others discover ways for using their cameras to do the same. I am deeply grateful for your visit and your very kind words, and hope you’ll stop back from time to time.

  18. Eileen Thompson
    July 23rd, 2014 at 16:03 | #35

    I look forward to browsing your all your posts/ photographs and I’m sure I will learn a lot from you …. many blessings.

    • Rick
      August 1st, 2014 at 05:58 | #36

      Hi Eileen. There’s lots here to read on the blog. I hope you find a few ideas you can use.

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