Leading Lines for Better Photography Composition

boardwalk in front of Château Frontenac

Leading lines has become the number one consideration in my photography composition. Ever since I decide to become more learned in my knowledge of photography I discovered that something resonated with me about having objects line up in an image.

Particularly when I am photographing outdoors and certainly in any attempt at landscape photography, I always seem to be trying to figure out how to get lines to take the eyes through the photo to a distant object.

What defines leading lines? These are natural or even man-made lines that can lead a viewer’s eyes from one edge of a photograph to another. The idea is for the eyes to follow, say, a path from the bottom of the photo up through the top of the photo. This gives the image depth. It allows the viewer to see the scene as a journey through the story you are trying tell with your camera.

There are three main elements to leading lines photography composition:

  1. The line has a beginning that brings the viewer into the photograph
  2. The line goes on a journey through the photograph to another location.
  3. The line will lead to a subject of interest.

Note that there can be one line or multiple lines.

Put these three elements together and you have an image with depth. You are also conveying a journey through your image.

Identifying Leading Lines

Now that we’ve defined what leading lines are and what they are used for, what kinds of objects can be used to create leading line photography composition?

  • Roads
  • Paths
  • Streams
  • Rivers
  • Telephone poles
  • Railings
  • Boardwalks

The possibilities are endless.

Is It Always Straight?

When we think of lines we tend to think of a straight line. While this can be the case depending on the photo you are shooting, a leading line in photography can also be a meandering trail through the mountains. It can be a diagonal line bisecting the image geometrically. As they say, there are endless possibilities.

Leading lines point the way to something of interest. Of course, that can be infinity. Lines may lead to a lighthouse in the distance. Then again lines could simply point the way to a location beyond the view of the camera, like a trail that continues unbroken through the dense forest.

Like most photographic techniques leading lines also lends itself to the rule of thirds as well. Certainly there are few absolute rules in photography but typically placing the subject of interest on one of the rule of thirds gridline intersections would create a more balanced image for the viewer. For example, if utilizing leading lines from the foreground to the background it would be suitable to place the subject onto the upper third of the gridline. It is a very simple but effective method to improve the shot.


Leading lines composition is something that can have a powerful effect on your photos. It will transform your flat image into a journey of depth through your photo. Look for leading lines to add interest to your photography. It is a technique I always look to add to my photographs.

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