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Leading lines in photography

Leading Lines In Photography – 5 Real Life Examples

​Leading lines in photography are one of the great composition techniques for adding interest to a photo and leading your viewer's eye through the frame. In this post, I will show you:

  • ​What are leading lines in photography
  •  Why you use leading lines in photography
  •  5 real life examples of leading lines in photography
  • How you can use leading lines in photography to massively boost your Instagram ​engagement

​1. What Are Leading Lines In Photography?

The use of leading lines in photography is a very common technique that photographers use to draw the eyes through the frame to the subject.

As the term suggests, they are lines of some type that usually start in the bottom third of the frame - very often from the left and/or right bottom corners, and lead up towards something.

Some examples of compositional elements that can be used as a leading lines include: 

  • ​Railway tracks
  •  Sand patterns
  •  Road markings
  •  Rock formations
  •  Shadows

2. ​Why Use Leading Lines In Photography?

​Firstly, they are a good foreground element for your frame. If you have your subject in the top half or top third of the frame it's always good to have some kind of foreground interest. Leading lines photos are perfect for adding this kind of interest.

​And a second benefit of leading lines in photography is that they lead the view​er's eye through the frame.

How? ​The human eye loves to follow something. ​Using leading lines in photography lets the viewer's eyes ​follow the lines through the frame and up to the subject.

Below I'll show you 5 examples so you can see exactly how you can go out shooting next time and using this great composition technique to improve your photography.

​All the photos in these shots were taken with my Canon EOS 7D Mark II

And edited in Lightroom using Sleek Lens Presets

Different lenses were used for each shot so I'll ​give more lens info in the relevant captions

​3. 5 Real Life Examples Of Leading Lines In Photography

Rice Planting Season

Leading lines in photography

This photo ​above was taken in the rice planting season in the south of Japan.

It's one of the times I most look forward to each year because it provides so many perfect opportunities for leading lines photography. You can see here that the lines start at the bottom of the frame and go up to about the middle.

The subject is the sun and the beautiful orange sky.  So the eye is drawn from the bottom through to the central green part and onto the subject of the sun.

For this shot I used my Canon 24-105mm lens.

Rice Harvesting Season

Leading lines in photography

​The second photo here was taken at the end of the rice season. This is when the ricefields are harvested around late July.

I love the contrast of the orange fields and the beautiful blue sky.

These lines are perfect for leading the eyes to these crazy big sun clouds which form in the heat and humidity of every South Japan summer.

This shot was taken using my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens, so I could get as much of the clouds in as possible.You can get the Canon mount, or the Nikon mount, depending on what you use. 

After The Typhoons

leading lines in photography

​This third photo was taken during typhoon season at a small island in the far south of Japan.

The winds from the typhoon had formed of these beautiful patterns in the sand so I used them as leading lines to that gorgeous rock.

This is a long exposure photo and that is why the ocean is smooth. But again, you can see that the lines start from the bottom of the frame and lead up to almost the centre.

​This shot was taken using my beloved Tamron 16-300mm all-around lens. It's my one and only go-to lens when I'm doing any kind of lengthy travelling. I absolutely love its versatility and quality. 

You can get the lens for Canon here, or for Nikon here.

Tidal Pools

Leading lines in photography

​This shot was taken on the Gold Coast in Australia. The tides had been high but on this day it was an extremely low tide early in the morning.

However, a small pool had formed which created this perfect line pointing towards the sunrise.

The subject is the beautiful orange glow of the sun and this small sand pool's ​edge ​made for a  perfect leading line photo.

​This shot was taken with my Sigma 10-20mm, coz I wanted to make sure I got both rocks in. The wide angle 10-20mm allowed me to do that. 

Volcanic Rock Formations

leading lines in photography

​This final photo is from the Lighthouse just near home here in the south of Japan. These rocks are volcanic formations created thousands of years ago.

They form the perfect leading lines to this Lighthouse.

I particularly love how they all have a small gap where you can get the colour of the sky reflecting in the water during sunset time.

This shot was taken with my Canon EF 24-105mm. It's a high-quality lens that offers a good zoom range and never lets me down.

​​Today's Takeaways

​Leading lines in photography are a ​fantastic way to make a good photo great. Some of my leading line photos have been my most popular pics on Instagram, getting me over 2,000+ 'likes'.

Leading lines in photography

​So next time you're out and looking to take a photo, look around for some lines to use that will draw the eyes through the frame to your subject.

Good luck using leading lines in photography. I'd love to see some of your examples.

And if you'd like some more composition ideas, I've written a post all about the different techniques you can use. Read it here.

P.S If you'd love to use leading lines in photography to build up your Instagram likes and get lots more followers, you might like my complete Instagram guide! It's helped me get up to 3,000+ likes on photos and over 1​20,000 total followers. Click the button below to ​grab a copy. 

P.P.S. All of the photos in this post were edited using Sleeklens Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. If you love editing and want the best look for your photos, I highly recommend them. Click the pic below to check out their homepage. 

leading lines in photography

About the Author Iain Stanley

Hi there Iain here. I made this site simply because I want to find ways of adding multiple income streams to my life so I can retire early and live the good life. Why rely on one income when there are so many ways out there you can earn, especially online? So as I learn about them all, I want to pass my knowledge on to you so you can do the same. Here's hoping we can all retire early and go travel the world or sit by the ocean sipping cocktails!

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  • Tabsmark says:

    I can see why your Instagram followers liked your leading lines photography examples! Your photography is amazing, I tried to decide which my favourite was – but found that each photo had something that was just wow. I learned recently about the rule thirds photography – but lines in photos are a new discovery for me. So I will take a page from your book and will start using these amazing leading lines photography tips.

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Awesome. I love seeing people respond so positively. The rule of thirds is perhaps the best known composition rule in photography, but leading lines can be just as helpful. It’s an even better match when you mix the rule of thirds with leading lines. Good luck and let me know if I can help in any way. Cheers, Iain

  • Brendon says:

    My sister is into photography and is always talking about it. Myself however, I have no clue.
    I am glad I stumbled onto your site here. You have some really interesting information. I had never realized the importance of leading lines but it makes perfect sense.
    You have given me a good topic to talk with her about and I won’t sound like a complete idiot!
    Thanks for sharing,

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Haha I’m glad I can help contribute towards family harmony! Whether you’ve got a DSLR camera in your hand, or a plain old I-phone, there’s no reason that you can’t make your photos stand out by using leading lines. Wherever you are next time you want to take a snap, look for some leading lines somewhere and your photos will be sure to improve. Cheers, Iain

  • Murphy G says:

    Thanks for the great article. I’m a beginner filmmaker and I really enjoyed and understood your explanation. Even a dumb guy like me understood. lol
    What are some best ways to use leading lines in videography? I mean in filmmaking.
    I know it’ll really be cool if I can pull it off in a very subtle yet effective way. Thanks

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you found it useful. I think the same rules apply in videography, but obviously you’d be shooting from behind or in front. Car’s driving on long roads towards sunsets or glorious mountains is always a good way to use leading lines whatever the medium.

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