Lines are an integral part of the composition of many images. They way in which they flow should allow the viewer to enter the picture and continue his or her visual journey in a smooth and uninterrupted fashion. Where the line begins and ends, its direction of flow, its angle and shape, and its overall presence all need to be taken into account when deciding upon its inclusion and placement.
A leading line is used to steer the viewer’s eye to the main subject. Think of a country road that snakes its way bringing the eye to a point of rest on a vivid crimson barn. Lines can also be used to imply movement or depth. Think of the cliched shot of converging railroad tracks that provide perspective and dimension. Additionally, lines can be a composition all by themselves. A meandering river that flows through an open field of flowers comes to mind in addition to a horseshoe bend in a river creating a gooseneck in the shape of the letter C. The more you can learn to visualize and apply these scenarios to your images the more dynamic your photos will be.
Psychologically, lines have meanings beyond the obvious. Vertical lines imply power, dominance, command, and strength. A soldier in an upright stance of attention is a good example. Horizontal lines convey a sense of tranquility and rest. When you sleep, it’s in a horizontal position. Lines that curve imply beauty. An hourglass figure on a shapely lady brings this to light. Lastly, diagonal lines suggest action, movement and flow. If something is askew, one’s impulse is to straighten it out so it doesn’t look moved.
Leading lines can be curved, straight, diagonal, meandering, or even zig-zag. The next time you’re out photographing and a great subject catches your eye, rather than filling the frame with just it, see if you can incorporate a leading line into a composition that walks the viewer to the subject.