Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part III)

February 3, 2011

in Dana Suggs, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

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

This is the third tutorial in a series that Dana has written for us.  If you missed the earlier segments, you can read:

So, now that we have learned what leading lines are and how to use them correctly, let’s push the envelope a little farther.  Let’s use our aperture to create a shallow depth of field to create our leading lines!

(Translation:  we will use a low f-stop on our cameras to create camera blur (aka: bokeh aka: shallow depth of field.  For the newbies, you’re welcome.  I dig ya.)  In fact, here’s a picture to help you out.  Make sure you are in MANUAL:

Remember, LOWER F-STOP means WIDER OPENING to allow light in.   Yes, it’s messed up.  I don’t know why they did that, we just go with it though and shake our heads in bewilderment.  {Don’t miss it!  Way back in our archives Rachel Durik wrote a great lesson on Aperture that would be beneficial for anyone to read.}

OK, back to this “amazing and wonderful” tutorial.  (I jest, truly.)

By using a lower aperture, we are essentially able to guide the viewers eyes directly to whatever it is we are trying to bring attention to.  (I say this knowing this is NOT everyone’s cup of tea and it does take a lot of practice.)

Let me give you an example from the original tutorial:

Here, the focus is on their hands and as close to that beautiful wedding ring as I could.  By using that low aperture, I am creating this blur that unknowingly leads the viewers eyes directly to what I want them to notice.  After they notice that initial main subject, it’s fine for their eyes to wander over the image, but that first initial glance, I want to guide it where I want it to be!

Here is another example:

This is image is just fine.  It’s perfectly acceptable.  BUT, by using my DOF (depth of field) leading lines, I can take a normal, ho-hum photo and make it MORE dramatic!

(Did I lose you at ho-hum?  I know, right?  Who uses ho-hum anymore?)

It’s also important to point out, I am also changing my perspective in some of these.  I could still do the same top image and use a lower f-stop to create a shallower DOF (depth of field) and it would essentially do the same thing.  But for some reason right now, I’m all about the odd perspectives right now, as in the above image, from the ground up.

When I do an image with DOF leading lines, I usually use an f-stop of about 2.8.  My lens allows me to go down to f-2, however, when I go that wide open, I’ve found that the blur is much more extreme and you can’t make out much past the area in focus.  This is something you will want to go out and PRACTICE with!   I keep my camera in manual (I promise, it’s not a bad word) and I keep my focus on autofocus.  (If you are a MANUAL focus person, ROCK ON!  I’m old now and my eyes are not perfect.  I make my camera do the work for me.)

Here are a few more examples of leading lines using your f-stop to create shallow DOF leading lines:

It’s just a fun, creative way to add drama and interest to your photos!   Give it a try!   It just takes practice and I promise it’s addicting!  😀

Be kind, and always willing to LEARN!


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucy Chen March 9, 2011

Love this tutorial. Thanks so much. F-stop!


taj white March 1, 2011

This series of tutorials were amazingly helpful. I know this is one of the major things my photos lack. Thanks so much!


Aysha February 23, 2011

These tutorials are so great! Unfortunately, I’m not a proud owner of a camera. I use my phone (xperia x10) and so it doesnt have all that fancy shmancy stuff, but I’m saving up, and by then, these tips will be great and handy!! 🙂


Larry's Photography Blog February 18, 2011

Shallow depth of field is one of the best ways to improve image impact. I’d shoot everything at 2.8 if I could get away with it! 🙂

My Photography Blog


Thatgirlblogs February 9, 2011

I think I was doing thisbwithout knowing it, i always shoot wide open, love background blur.


Anja Arcade February 7, 2011

RT @IHeartFaces: Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part III): This is the third tutorial in a series that…


Rebecca February 7, 2011

thank you so much for this (and part I & II!). I just shouted at my husband “I just learned something!” and made wise “aha!” sounds.


Brigita February 5, 2011

I love your posts – I think you write it so everybody can understand it what is sometimes hard to do with photography terms. I think you are educational at the same time and I really appreciate it – I also love I heart faces – so many great informations – I want to learn as much as I can and I just want to send a big THANK YOU to you and everybody that is willing to share their knowledge.
There is a lot of things I want to ask whenever I am reading material from photographers that are amazing in my eyes – could you maybe explain a little bit about shooting in manual with focus on avtofocus.


Sandpiper February 4, 2011

Love the tiny baby feet!!
I have been enjoying your tutorials. Thanks for the tips!
However, my camera(and I think it’s the same as yours because it looks like just the above photo) won’t let me go lower than an f3.5. Do you have any idea why that would be?


alice February 4, 2011

dana – thanks for the article! really helpful information! and i just wanted to tell you i love that first photo – with all 4 little feet sticking out! it had me going for a little while there, trying to figure it out – *big, big smile*


Riane February 4, 2011

Love the tutorial – thanks so much. Am *very* new to photography with ZERO education. I just want to be able to take memorable photos of my family, so the fact that you’ve ‘dumbed down’ the lesson is extremely helpful. You’ve made it fun to learn AND fun to read!
F-Stop/depth of field is the #1 reason I wanted to learn how to use my camera – I’m a super fan of the imagines it creates.
Thanks again.


Laura February 4, 2011

Dana, Love this tutorial! You took all the complexity that taking a photo can have and pulled out the perfect amount of info that can make an image pop. Thank you!

On another note, does anyone know why some posts have a “So and So recently posted…” at the end of their post. It’s a neat feature but not sure how you get that going?!?


Leasa February 4, 2011

I have a point and shoot camera and in manual it only lets me go as low as 3.4 on my aperture will I still be able to get this same sort of effect?


gymmama February 4, 2011

Thank you, thank you for these fantastic tutorials!! I am still learning and understanding my camera and the ins and outs of great photography. Your lessons on leading lines have been so helpful and now I just want to practice and play today. Love your work!!


Jo Ann February 4, 2011

Very informative! I loved looking at your work too. I am off to play with my f/stop today.


Sharizal Abd Halim February 4, 2011

RT @jonathanfun: Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part III) :: #photography


jonathanfun February 4, 2011

Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part III) :: #photography


Mique Provost February 3, 2011

RT @AngieArthur: RT @iheartfaces: Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part III)


Angie February 3, 2011

RT @iheartfaces: Rules of Composition | Leading Lines (Part III)


Christina@Red Corduroy Media Group {Photography} February 4, 2011

Thanks for the refresher!!


Dana-from chaos to Grace February 4, 2011

Oh you guys are all so very sweet to me! 😀 I’m so very honored to be a part of this amazing website!

Alyssa, mine does that if I am letting too MUCH light into the camera. You need to adjust your shutter speed in coordination with your fstop to make the +—-0—– – line up in the middle. If it’s too far to the + sign, you’ll have white pictures.

Am I making any sense at all? LOL I’m having MAJOR cabin fever from 4 days in the house! LOL


alyssa February 3, 2011

Question: I started playing with this a few weeks ago, and what i noticed is that my pictures would “white out”…. I assume it has to do with more light coming in…? but the photo would be completely white… any suggestions?


Sarah February 3, 2011

Great tips. Thanks for sharing.


Tammy February 3, 2011

Excellent 3 part tutorial! Keep them coming!
I’m going to remember these and practice often!


JennaFarelyn February 3, 2011

RT @livinglocurto: Great #photography lesson! RT @iheartfaces: Rules of Composition- Leading Lines (Part III)


Amy Locurto February 3, 2011

Great #photography lesson! RT @iheartfaces: Rules of Composition- Leading Lines (Part III)


Pam D February 3, 2011

Way to rock yet another GREAT tutorial, Dana! I am sooooo happy that you are willing to share your knowledge. I’ve been a big fan of yours for two years now, and I just keep getting bigger! (wait. no. That’s not what I meant. I meant that my FANDOM keeps getting.. oh, you know what I meant!). :<) Love you, and appreciate these tutorials more than you know…


skye snyder February 3, 2011

Dana – You are great at explaining the process to everyone–from composition of the scene to manipulating the camera settings to achieve the desired look. I’d love to try my hand at writing one of these….hmmmm…on what though? Keep up the fabulous tutorials. 🙂


Kathryn Grace Photography February 3, 2011

I LOVE shallow DOF… I rarely ever set my aperture higher than 2.8, though I do it occasionally. 🙂 I got my 50mm 1.8 this year and I’m loving it!
Great, informative tutorials!


Christina February 3, 2011

Thank you for this series! It has really opened my eyes and I find that I’m finally starting to get creative in my composition (after nearly a year of focusing on the technicalities). You’ve explained things very well and the pictures are exellent at demonstrating your lesson. Every image has been helpful to me!


Liz Oram February 3, 2011

I love it…and it is addiciting-thanks for the tutorial!


Anna Bartell February 3, 2011

Love this! Thanks for all the tips. I just got a new lens that goes down to f-2.8 and am LOVING the pictures I can get with it. With this new knowledge I’ll be professional in no time, right? 😉


Dacia February 3, 2011

as to the lower F-stop makes wider opening……it confused me for awhile until my instructor told me to imagine a line. If you put 11 circles on that line they have to be smaller…..if you only put 2-3 they will have to be bigger…..hence why you get more light. Thanks for the fun information on leading lines and having fun with them. Those are great shots!


AJCoombs February 3, 2011

I have loved these leading lines tutorials! Thanks you!


Life with Kaishon February 3, 2011

Another great lesson Dana! Thank you! : ) I love your pictures of the itty bitty baby : )


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