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4.4: Leading Lines

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    This lesson will help you learn and practice Leading Lines. In Get the Basics, you'll get explanations and photos to build understanding. In Explore, you'll find additional online resources to learn more. It's important to review and learn from these resources also! You'll have opportunities to practice in Build Your Skills. Finally, answer the questions in Record Your Findings at the end of this topic. Be sure to include information you learned from the Explore resources.

    Get the Basics

    Leading lines are straight, curved, parallel, or diagonal lines that pull your eye into or through a photo. While you won’t always be able to find a leading line for every photo, if you do, you’ll need to find the best angle to make it work. A leading line often starts from a corner of a photo and leads your eyes into or through the photo, but it can also work starting from an edge. A leading line could be anything: road, path, fence, stream, hedge, staircase, or even a shadow.

    Here are five examples of photos with leading lines to get you thinking.

    1. Let your eyes start in the lower right corner, and follow the circular staircase upward through the building.

    looking up into a curved stairway

    2. Start in the lower right corner, and follow the country lane into the middle of the photo.

    3. Start at any corner, and spiral into the photo.

    close-up of an aloe plant

    4. Start at the bottom/bottom right, and walk your bike across the bridge and into the photo.

    walking a bicycle across the bridge

    5. Finally, start the bottom middle, and footprints across the sand dunes. Where do you think the people are now?

    footprints along the top of the sand dunes


    For great examples of leading lines photos and lots of ideas for shooting your own, see How to Use Leading Lines for Better Compositions from Digital Photography School:

    Now learn about different types of leading lines at EXAMPLES OF LEADING LINES AND HOW TO USE THEM from Photolistic Life:

    For more information and examples of black-and-white photos, see Leading Lines in Photography from Photoble:

    Build Your Skills

    Shoot four or more photos - no pairs this time. See if you can find interesting leading lines. If you're not sure where to look, review How to Use Leading Lines for Better Compositions from Digital Photography School (see above). This article has lots of ideas for where to look for leading lines.

    Review your leading lines photos. Select FOUR photos. Share your photos with your teacher, and be prepared to discuss how they show what you’ve learned. Download your photos to a computer to keep them for the portfolio you’ll create in the end-of-course final project.

    Record Your Findings

    • What is the function of leading lines?
    • Make your own list of things that could be leading lines without including any of the things listed above the five photo examples in Get the Basics.
    • Describe how the leading lines in each of your selected photos leads the eye into or through the photo.


    Image Reference Attributions

    [Figure 1]

    Credit: Marius Watz; September 11, 2007

    [Figure 2]

    Credit: swainboat; April 20, 2008

    [Figure 3]

    Credit: Michael Fawcett; January 26, 2010

    [Figure 4]

    Credit: rosipaw; June 18, 2010

    [Figure 5]

    Credit: skittledog; September 14, 2013

    4.4: Leading Lines is shared under a CK-12 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by CK-12 Foundation via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

    CK-12 Foundation
    CK-12 Foundation is licensed under CK-12 Curriculum Materials License