Using leading lines

Theres many ways you can lead the viewers eyes towards the subject in the picture. But lets quickly talk about why its important as a photographer to learn about how to direct the eye towards the subject and to be more conscious about your background. I see a lot of beginners know how to angle their subjects to look good and find some flattering light, yet they consistently forget their background. The background is important for a few reasons;

  1. It sets the mood for the subject and gives context as to where the subject is so the viewer can get an idea of where this person lives or their lifestyle. It clues in the viewer as to what the subject is like and what to expect from them. With this information in the background the viewer will stay longer and connect better to the image.
  2. The background will ground the subject and makes an image feel more candid. If we did the same poses and had the same light but they are on a white background, it would feel less candid and the viewer may disconnect personally.
  3. The background can be used to direct the viewers eyes around and right back to the subject. Leading the viewers eyes makes the image more engaging and when done properly, will make the subject of the picture very clear. You don't want the viewer to guess what the subject of the picture is or to be confused as to where to look.

With this being said, your job as the photographer is to make sure that the story of the subject is being told clearly and the viewer doesn't have to guess about what you were trying to photograph. Leading lines can be very powerful in making sure your subject is the direct focus, but there is different ways to use leading lines and they all have very different uses;

  1. Horizontal lines are used to create a sense of clam and peacefulness
  2. Vertical lines are used to create a sense of height and power.
  3. Adjacent lines are used to create energy and/or fear (dutch angle even)

There are many other ways these lines can be used or interpreted but these are the basic ways to understanding how to use them. These lines also don't have to be perfect lines, rather the idea that they are close enough in a line towards the main subject. When a line is horizontal, it can be considered boring as there isn't much energy and seems almost flat. Vertical lines will help make the subject look taller and more interesting. While adjacent lines will make the image look like it has more depth, creating a sense of energy and in return more interesting. (You can check out the sample images below to get an idea)

Using these leading lines as a way to get the subject to look around and then back to the subject helps the viewer know what to look at and know what the image is about. The viewer doesn't have to guess what is going on, as it is clearly displayed and as the photographer, you should almost spoon feed the basic story. After the main story of the subject is shown, the rest of the story can be made up by the viewer such as "I wonder where in the city she's going?" or "I wonder how long the train took to pick up that cool dude?" or even "I wonder who that guy in the jean jacket is waiting for?". These are all positive thoughts you want the viewer to think instead of "Am I supposed to look here?" or "whats going on?" If you even question these, then you should find ways to make the subject more apparent by using this small trick in your composition.