Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part II)

January 6, 2011

in Dana Suggs, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

Post image for Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part II)

This is the second in a series of tutorials that Dana Suggs has written for I Heart Faces about Leading Lines.  You will want to read Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part I) first if you haven’t already had a chance to do so.

Our main point as photographers, is to DRAW the viewers eye directly to our subject, otherwise, what’s the point of the photo?  One method of doing this, is called leading lines.

Definition: Leading lines are lines within an image that leads the eye to another point in the image

In the above photo, there are SEVERAL leading lines:

1.)  The stairs themselves lead the viewer’s eye right to the subject, this totally awesome Senior I did portraits of!

2.)  The lines of the door frame at the top of the image, lead the eye downward toward the subject.

3.)  The stair railing she is leaning on does 2 things as well:

  • stops the line of vision from the stairs TO the subject, creating a natural resting spot for the eyes.
  • because the lines of the stair rail are intermittently moving up and down diagonally between shadow and highlight, it also creates leading lines so your line of vision travels from the top of her head, to the rest of her body.

(I’m all smart and stuff!  Ya’ll just thought I was just another pretty face!  HAAAAA!)

When using leading lines, we want to be careful how exactly we are USING the leading lines.  Let me show you what I mean:

In this photo, the leading lines are obviously the railroad tracks.

Do you see what I did?  I’m not brilliant ALL the time.  {ahem}  I led your vision directly OUT of the photo instead of keeping your vision on the subject.

(Like my high-tech arrows?  I know you’re jealous. 😉  I don’t have a fancy WACOM tablet, I just have to use my regular mouse and my shaky hand.  I promise I haven’t been drinking.)

Anyway, my shaky arrows are there to point out what I did wrong in the photo.  The lines of the tracks lead your eye directly OUT of the photo!  BIG BIG NO-NO!

BUT, just by changing my positition, I was able to correct what I had done wrong in the above photo:

All it took was squatting down (in the most unlady-like way) and the perspective changed!  Now, the lines are all leading directly to the fabulous subject!

Genius huh?

Let me recap my rambling….

When you are working with leading lines, it is important to position them leading TOWARD your subject and not leading them AWAY from your subject.  You want to direct their attention to the focal point and not lead their eyes right OUT of the photo!  Our job is to have the subject of our photos what our eyes naturally fall to, and using leading lines correctly can help make your photos successful!


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 blogFacebook or at Dana’s Photography.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

matwo May 11, 2014

I love this!! Hurray hurray!!

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Caio Braga January 19, 2011

In other words: I THINK THAT YOU WAS BRILLIANT in this shot too. 😉

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Caio Braga January 19, 2011

Hello, there!
I understood the tip, and sure, it’s a very good start point and (no doubt) a rule that must be follow.

But, in this particular shot, I still prefer the lines “bouncing my eyes to the top” and comming after back to the girl’s face. The place’s depht was valued, and it gaves more tension to the scene: seems more dangerous be there…the girl seems more daring, what gives her more personality.

But, it’s just my point of view! It’s ESSENCIAL TO KNOW THE RULES and after, break them consciously.

Hugs to all of you!

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Helen January 7, 2011

Thank you for this! You wrote it in a clear and easy to understand way, and now I feel like I “get it”. Just add it to one more thing to look for when I take pictures!

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Josieinthecity January 7, 2011

RT @iHeartFaces: Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part II): This is the second in a series of tutorials… http://goo.gl/fb/iPCJ6

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Amber norris January 7, 2011

This was fabulous!!!! I’m going to start paying a lot more attention to my lines now. Thank you!

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Donna January 7, 2011

Thank you for these tips! I am trying to be more aware of those leading lines opportunities.

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Melissa January 7, 2011

I always love visiting you, your so informative! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge Dana!

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Amy @ Marvelous Mommy January 6, 2011

Great tips! I will definitely try to use them! Thanks so much !

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Rebecca Harper January 6, 2011

Love how you put this… great example shots also. Thank you for your insight!

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April from HomeHinges.com January 6, 2011

I’d learned about leading lines in oil painting but hadn’t given them much though in photography. Now I think, “duh, of course it applies to photography too.” Thanks for making this so visually obvious. I’m excited to start looking for ways to incorporate leading lines.

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Catherine January 6, 2011

Great post! Isn’t it amazing how much there is to think about as a photographer? Nailing exposure is one thing and then the creative aspect on top of that can make one’s head spin! :)

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BelovedAimee January 6, 2011

great!! just by moving a tiny bit …good to know what to look for :)

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Rachelle January 6, 2011

Interesting article on leading lines… in the first photo where you say you’ve erred with leading lines, you’ve used framing and repetition, which also serve to direct us to the subject – – especially since she breaks up the tracks 😉

I’ve got my journalism students working on their photo projects now and these are requirements :)

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Rachel January 6, 2011

Amazing as always Dana!

So… someday I’ll figure out how to incorporate leading lines into a photo when my 4-year old learns how to freeze for 1.2 seconds. Otherwise he’ll just be that blur in the middle of some awesome Dana-tutored leading lines :)

Great shots – I bet that Senior was thrilled with her photos!

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ingrid January 6, 2011

I see it! In that first train track photo the she was sitting in the widest part you saw of the train tracks. In the second she was sitting in the narrowest.

I’m not sure about your very first photo. I see the steps and I get the railing stopping your eyes but I don’t see how the door frame you leads you down as opposed to up?
~ingrid

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Anna January 6, 2011

Great tutorials. I’m a beginner at this but I do want to learn the tricks of the trade!! Thanks so much for sharing!

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Jessi January 6, 2011

I am loving these leading lines posts. Thank you!

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