To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walkEdward Weston
Weston is right of course, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to be aware of these ‘rules’. Instead, they should be so much part of our understanding of photography that we no more need to think about them than we do of pressing the shutter!
Patti, in her excellent response to Tina’s Lens Artists challenge theme about the rule of thirds (which I also discussed recently), made a thoughtful point. She said that she asks herself two questions before clicking the shutter:
What parts of the photo do I want to emphasize?
And where am I placing these parts within the frame?
Reading this I realised that I do the same thing, albeit subconsciously at times. By being clear what it is that we actually want to stand out in our image, and really thinking about its placement, we can create more impactful photos; ones which provoke the response in the viewer that we hoped to get.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along any lines within it. By thinking about how and where you place any lines in your composition, you can influence the way people view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, leading us on a journey through the scene.
There are many different types of line of course. They can be straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag … And each can be used to enhance a photo’s composition and impact.
Architecture especially tends to throw up good leading lines opportunities, paired with symmetry. You’ll see in some of my examples below how by breaking one ‘rule’, the rule of thirds, we can maximise the use of another to direct the viewer’s eye. On other occasions you might be able to combine both rules!
The Taj Mahal of course
Quite possibly the best example of leading lines any photographer could wish for!
Itmad-ud-Daulah, also in Agra
Looking back at the gate of the so-called ‘Baby Taj’; the paths create multiple leading lines.
Angkor Thom, Cambodia
The devas (guardian gods) on the causeway direct the eye to the south gate with its carved face.
Wat Phou ruins in southern Laos
The avenue of stones leads the eye towards the terraces and staircases up to the main sanctuary among the trees.
Sensō-ji, a temple in Tokyo’s Asakusa district
Shops line Nakamise-dōri, the path to Kaminarimon, the temple’s outer gate, leading us forwards to explore.
Also at Sensō-ji
The small boxes contain omikuji, Japanese Buddhist fortune strips. They lead the eye towards the couple examining the fortune they have chosen at random from the boxes. This shot also follows the rule of thirds, with the placing of the couple.
Banana street in Cidade Velha on Santiago, the original capital of the Cape Verde islands
Does the line of houses help you to spot the chicken in the distance?
A street in Arpino, Italy
Here’s a literal leading line, a washing line!
On Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
The wake of a boat can often provide a great leading line, so remember to look behind you when out on the water! Here it directs the eye to the distant volcano, half-hidden in clouds.
A dune at Sossusvlei, Namibia
The footsteps lead us to the figure at the top, my husband. I could pretend that I stayed at the bottom in order to get this shot but the truth is that I didn’t fancy the climb on soft sand!
On an island in the Mekong, southern Laos
The locals use scraps of wood to create more grip for carts and tractors on the soft sand. I used them to direct the viewer’s eye to the small boat moored offshore.
On San Juan Island, Washington State
This is an example of a curvy leading line, with the path through the long grass and the hedge beyond pointing us towards the lighthouse.
Pied Kingfisher near Mandina Lodge, Gambia
In bird photography a branch can provide a strong leading line, especially a bare one like this. This is also a good rule of thirds example, and the two compositional techniques together create a strong image. It would be less visually interesting if the branch crossed the whole photo with the bird at its centre.
So now it’s your turn. Please share some examples of leading lines from your archives, or maybe get out on a photoshoot and look for some you can include to add impact to your shots.
Thank you to everyone who had a go last time around, sharing your images highlighting the use of frames in composing a photograph. I loved seeing them all! Please do check out some of these contributions if you haven’t already done so. Let’s share the love, and the inspiration!
Anne used frames to show off her home city of Bristol.
Brian gave us a varied selection with a particular emphasis on birds.
Margaret shared some lovely arches used as frames.
Sofia used natural and manmade frames, illustrating how effective they can be in creating depth and setting a scene.
Eklastic’s Pictures Imperfect response included some lovely tree frames and a pair of birds that obliged by almost framing themselves!
Aletta used trees, a fence and a window to frame her subjects.
Margaret was ahead of me with her lovely arches and trees in Yorkshire and Barcelona.
Sandy took us to Cuba to enjoy a lively party and musical performance.
Jez combined forces with the Sunday Stills ‘urban’ theme to show us Glasgow through a variety of frames.
Manja shared a great variety of frames, from trees, to doorways and windows, and to mirrors.
Albatz focused on an interesting variety of frames in Denmark.
Bren shared a pastoral shot of grazing sheep in a double frame.
I can’t wait to see what you’ll all do with your leading lines! The next Friendly Friday challenge will be hosted by Sandy in two weeks’ time so watch out for her post.