How To Use Leading Lines

Convey depth and movement as you lead the viewer through a scene

Lead viewers of your photographs through a scenic journey by incorporating lines into your images. Strategically placed, you control where the viewer enters your image, how the viewer’s eye travels through the image and even direct the viewer to the most important elements within your photos. The lines can be bold and pronounced or soft and subtle. It doesn’t matter. What is important is they enhance the image in a positive way as the viewer courses his or her eyes throughout your photo.

Lines help convey depth when they start at the perimeter of the photo and converge at a key part of the composition. They can also convey movement depending on their direction of flow and how they create rhythm. The direction of the flow is critical to keep the viewer within the boundary of the edges. The direction in which they run communicates further implications. For instance, horizontal lines exude very different meanings than vertical or diagonal ones.

A Line In The Sand

In the image of the Totem Pole taken in Monument Valley, there are a number of ways I incorporated lines. I used leading lines and strong verticals. Vertical lines are synonymous with power, strength and fortitude. When people stand tall it represents confidence and power. Think about the expression, “Look up to your elders.” It implies they be respected for their intelligence, knowledge and stature. Compositionally, strong vertical sand patterns lead directly to the iconic and proud totem. The straight vertical of the formation dominates the sky and commands attention.

The Story Line

In the image of the formation known as The Wave, the vast majority of lines are curved. These portray grace and beauty. The eye gently flows through the image as one curved line brings the viewer to the next curve and so on. Curved lines depict harmony and elegance. Even though the material in the composition is comprised of hard rock, the lines soften it and give the viewer the feeling the rock isn’t hard to the touch.

Read Between The Lines

The close-up photo of the tree pattern was deliberately made with my tripod head at a 30-degree angle. In reality, the lines of the bristlecone tree are vertical, but because I wanted to depict movement, speed and action, I intentionally skewed the composition. Lines that run diagonally show motion. I made the lines convey movement rather than appear static as they’d have appeared if I hadn’t skewed the camera.

Draw the Line

Converging lines command the viewer’s attention to fixate upon a single focal point. They create depth in a two-dimensional photograph by bringing the viewer to the location within the composition where the lines come to stop. In the image made in Zion National Park, I included the yellow line on the road, which allows the viewer to enter the frame and be led to the primary red rock formations of the park.

To learn more about this subject, join Russ on one of his photo safaris to Tanzania. Visit   to get more information.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is All About The Light and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.