Tips and Tricks: Don’t Just Lead With Lines

Posted on November 6, 2014

Leading The Viewer Through Your Image


The rule of thirds is a great way to keep proportion in your images. Making the viewers eye move through an image is a different thing altogether. By using leading lines you can guide your viewers attention towards the focal point of the image or keep them engaged by moving their eye around the image. Sometimes this is a very apparent and deliberate line while other times it may be the way the light travels through the image taking the eye with it.

This image has strong lines from every edge pulling your eye toward the alter. More subtly, the curves on the ceiling and even the light on the center aisle also direct your eye to the center.

From Lines To Spirals

Here the train pulls the eye from left to right with strong lines and strong contrasting colors. Once your eye hits the end of the train, the columns along with their shadows return the eye to the front of the image, and eventually the train. This takes the leading line and makes it into a circular pattern, keeping the viewer engaged in your image.

A leading line doesn’t always have to be direct. Using s-curves is an effective way to draw the eye back and forth through an image. Here the highway on top pulls the viewer from left to right and then back again to meet the lower highway. After being returned to the front of the image by the lower highway, the strong shadows draw the eye back to the top highway. Diagonal lines within an image create a much stronger presence than just horizontal or vertical lines. You can use diagonals throughout your image to create a much more engaging composition.


Using Light To Lead

Your eye is automatically drawn to the brightest part of an image. By using light and shadow you can walk the viewers eye on the path you want through your imagery. By using the highlights created by the water’s motion, an s-curve walks the eye from the bottom right back and forth through the image eventually to the waterfall at top left.

Following The Flow


The abundance of prayer flags on the top of this image immediately grab the attention and pull it to the apex of the stupa (a Buddhist monument). Once there, the eye is pulled downward by the pair of prayer flags being strung by the boy at center. Next, the more prominent worker in the front left catches the viewer’s attention and then returns the eye to the top by way of his prayer flags.

The Mathematically Perfect Composition


In nature, almost everything that is considered to be beautiful follows a similar proportion called The Golden Ratio or The Number Phi.



From flowers to super models, this ratio plays out in beautiful things all around us. Without getting into the complexities of the math, simply put, the more bits and pieces of you that fall close to these proportions, the more likely people think you’re attractive. Let’s take a look at da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The upper to lower body generally have a proportion of 1:1.618. Same thing with the width of your mouth to the over all width of your eyes. Your knuckles relative to the length of your fingers. Your upper arm vs your lower arm. This pattern not only repeats on every inch of you, but throughout nature too. Nautilus shells and the pattern in which a sunflower’s seeds are arranged are just a couple. When you apply the power of the number phi to your compositions the same thing happens, you create a pleasing composition that engages the viewer. You can find examples of great works of art through history with the golden spiral guiding the eye through there brushstrokes. From the da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to the traditional Japanese wave to Monet’s Parisians in the Park the golden spiral is the guiding hand.


Hopefully you are feeling inspired to take a second look at your photography and all that goes into it. A leading line is a great start, but if it leads you right off of the page onto the image sitting next to it, the viewer moves on. If you can keep the viewer engaged by taking their eye on a subconscious journey through your image and back again, you have done your job.


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