Rules of Composition | Leading Lines

November 18, 2010

in Dana Suggs

Post image for Rules of Composition | Leading Lines

Written by: Dana Suggs

Earlier this month, I was so fortunate to be able to go to the Dream Big Workshop in Dallas (and meet AMY AND ANGIE!  OMGosh!  😀  I actually got to TOUCH them!).  On Saturday, one of the lessons I gave during their time with me was on LEADING LINES.  (Not to be confused with leading ladies…..totally not the same thing.)

So what exactly are leading lines?

Definition: Leading lines are lines within an image that leads the eye to another point in the image, or occasionally, out of the image.

So there ya go!

Here is Dana’s definition:  anything that leads the viewer’s eyes and focus TOWARD the subject.  (I’m all smart and stuff.)

Here is an example:

At first, you may not even notice the lines.  Let me point them out to you in a wonderful, professional way:

I know, you’re jealous right?  (While I’m thinking of it, dear Santa…..WACOM TABLET!)

Anyway, here are the leading lines!  The red ones are the strongest in my opinion.  Your eye starts at that beautiful rock on her finger, then it naturally travels down her hand and down her arm to the beautiful couple!   But we have the lines from the brick walls leading your eye directly to the couple, then the lines from the building behind them….even the lines from their profiles leads the eye to the subject!   Almost like little sneaky neon signs saying “LOOK HERE”.

So, what can be a leading line?  Anything really, a tree line, stairs, body position, brick, fence, chairs, even people!  The list is endless as to what could potentially make a leading line.  We are limited only by our creativity.   Leading lines with a specific subject (like a person), you want to draw the focus TO THE SUBJECT.  But, if you don’t have a subject in the photo, you want to lead the viewer’s eye all over the photo!  Because I am mainly a portrait photographer, I want my leading lines to point TO the subject.  Here are some examples:

Simple stairway.  Because there is a wall on either side of the stairs, your eye is naturally drawn TO the subject.

(I know, you are completely diggin’ my bumpy, squiggly lines.  Love the bumpy lines!)

Because her arm is high up on the pole (and we READ from left to right) it’s natural for our eyes to follow the arm down to the subject, so for this photo, her arm is the strongest leading line.

(OK, I’ll quit with the shaky lines…..I think you get it now.)

So, let’s see if you can identify the leading lines in these photos…

(Tricky….but keep looking…..her arms lead your eye RIGHT to her face!)

So there you go!  Easy-peasy!

And now that you know what leading lines are, the NEXT tutorial will be on how to properly use them!  Here is a sneak peek:

Dana is a contributor here at I Heart Faces and a professional photographer who calls Oklahoma home.  You can view her work on her beautiful blog, Facebook or at Dana’s Photography.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Hilary C July 10, 2014

Fabulous tutorial!!!


Ajit Kumar February 27, 2012



beautyoflife November 20, 2010

Thanks! I can’t wait for the next one… I think that will be even more helpful!


Angie November 20, 2010

Great #photography tutorial! —>Rules of Composition | Leadings Lines by @DanaSuds on @iheartfaces.


Vera November 19, 2010

I love love love this! thank you so much for the tips, my boyfriend will likewise learn a lot from this post :)


becca boo photography November 19, 2010

Great post! Thank you, thank you! I’m so excited to see what the next lesson is!


Janet Hug November 18, 2010

Rules of Composition | Leading Lines


Kathryn Grace Photography November 18, 2010

This is really great! I really have never consciously thought about it before. (Oh – and I have a Wacom Bamboo tablet – it’s a lot of fun :-)).


Pam D November 18, 2010

And you haven’t shared this with me before… WHY? Wow. I have searched various places for something that clearly points out how to do this, and all that time you were sitting on your “time bomb of knowledge”. *sigh* This was brilliant; can’t wait for the next one. And would you PLEASE take a few of my pics and critique them .. help me out here. I did a few re-crops after reading this and already see improvement. Thanks, Dana… xoxox…


t3r3sa November 18, 2010

How awesome! Thanx for sharing!


pattyann November 18, 2010

Oh, I love, love, love this!! It made it so easy to understand. Now I am going to go find some and start clicking!!! Thank you so much.


Rhonda K November 18, 2010

LOVED this Dana!!!
Can’t wait for part 2.


My Two Seasons November 18, 2010

Dana, your tutorial is fantastic! I feel like I need to go look for leading lines now. :)Thank you!


Dana November 18, 2010

I’m still freaking out a little that I did it! 😀 I was so scared! LOL

(Not everyone gets my sense of humor. HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!)


Angie November 18, 2010

So glad you took the step to write your first tutorial for us Dana…and it was FABULOUS!! :)


Angie & Amy November 18, 2010

Dana has already submitted Part II of this series of tutorials…it will be posted in the first available opening we have! :)

-Angie & Amy
co-founders of IHF


Ingrid November 18, 2010

That’s awesome! Thanks!


Jen at Cabin Fever November 18, 2010

I am a huge fan of this photo technique. Combine leading lines with the rule of thirds and you almost ALWAYS have a great photo.

Cabin Fever in Vermont


Susan November 18, 2010

Yay! Perfect way to start my day! Dana, your humor always makes me smile. I love the way you teach!!


Adrienne November 18, 2010

I love your photography and your writing style, Dana. Great tutorial!!


Tracy P. November 18, 2010

GREAT tutorial! I have to admit I don’t think about this a lot when I compose my images, but I NOTICE how powerful leading lines are when they are used well. One of the people on our IHF photo walk last spring did an outstanding job of composing, and I thought some of her photos truly stood out from the rest. The leading lines were exactly why.


Melissy ♥ November 18, 2010

Great post!!
Can’t wait for the next one in the series!! 😀
This is like waiting for the next episode of Chuck to come out. AHH~
Thank you for this, I really enjoyed it!! :>


donna November 18, 2010

Thanks so much for this post. I will now be looking through the lens a total different way. I can’t wait to get out and try it out.


candacescoon November 18, 2010

What a wonderful, helpful topic! I really need to work on this. I find that I do use leading lines occasionally but it’s just a happy accident. Thanks for the info!


Melanie Reller November 18, 2010

So I know you JUST posted this… but when IS the next tutorial? 😀


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