Week 8 - Use lines to lead your viewer to the subject

If you provide a path, most people will follow it. Leading lines is not a truism for life, but a photography principle worth following.

By now we know that every photo should have a hero, or subject. You identify the one point in your frame that is most important -- the point where you would like your viewer to look first -- or last. 

Once you have identified your subject, your job is to lead your viewer's eye to it. A leading line is an effective way to make that happen. Use anything in your frame that creates a path or a repeating pattern to your subject.

Not just any line will do

A simple solution might be to look for a line but not any line will do. If you want your viewer to follow, you should use a line that creates a path. Here are three kinds of lines that work effectively. 

Diagonal lines

The diagonal line helps create a sense of movement. Photograph a line that is moving away from or toward your subject. I find diagonal lines have the greatest impact. They also have the added benefit of creating a sense of depth. The Industrial Bank sign cutting diagonally across the frame carries more impact than when it is just vertical.

S or curved lines

The curved line can be a graceful way of leading the eye across the frame. This path leads us to a couple on a leisurely stroll through Rock Creek Park and continues through an easy curve.

Converging lines

With the converging effect, two or more lines lead you to your subject. This can be a powerful way of directing your viewer. You can see how all the planks and spaces on the pier lead you to lucky number 13.

The Challenge

Lead us across your frame with the line of your choice -- diagonal, curved, or converging. You can have a line that just leads into infinity, but I think you might find that your lines work best when they lead to something, preferably your subject.


Share your images with us

Once you have a leading line photo, post it in the comments here or tag it #composition21 when you post it on Twitter or Flickr.


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