Photography composition tip: Leading lines

When photographing landscapes, I like to spend a bit of time walking around looking before I even take any shots. What I'm searching for is a composition with strong leadings lines. I believe this technique is one of the most important facets of a great landscape image.

Leading lines are paths that lead the viewers eyes through the scene, usually from the foreground to the background. The lines can be, but are not limited to being straight, wavy, curvy or even zig-zagged. They can be artifical man made lines, as seen in the Nightcliff Jetty photo, but more commonly in landscapes, they can be the position/shape of rocks, tree branches, dirt paths etc.

To extend upon that even further, I try to place objects of interest along the leading line as well as in one of the intersecting points in the rule of thirds. See the Little Angel photo below to see what I mean.

Leading lines work best when they go through the image and end up in the background somewhere. You definitely don't want them leading beyond the sides of the image - that's like pushing someone out the door before they've had the full tour.

Story telling is the goal of a great photo and leading lines are one of the tools to help tell it. Next time you're out, spend some time looking for lines that will take your photo to the next level.

Roll over the images below to reveal the leading lines in the images.

Straight zig-zag man made lines:

Nightcliff Jetty

Curvy leading lines that go through the rule of thirds intersections:

Little Angel

The shape, angle and position of these rocks creates diagonal leading lines that go into the image

Softly Spoken

A single line going directly into the image:

Te Anau Pier

I performed some manual intervention by moving and positioning the driftwood so that I could use its shape to create a path for the eye to follow.

East Point drift wood

It works for panorama images too, but it's a little bit tricker due to the dimensions

Warm Smile