Ever wondered why a photograph of a road going into the distance is so eye catching? Or even a simple photo of train tracks draws the eye to the centre of the picture?

One of the reasons why you’re drawn to pictures like this is because of leading lines. Leading lines draw the viewer in the direction of the line, whether that’s to the centre of the picture or across the frame.

Leading lines are also a really simple way to up your photography game and the great thing is, you don’t need a fancy camera to do them well. It’s all about framing.

Take for example, the above photograph of the path across the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Or this recent photo I took in Melbourne on a rainy night. You’re immediately drawn to the centre of the image because the buildings and the narrow alley are pointing in that direction.

Demonstration of leading lines on a photo of a Melbourne alleyway at night

How to look for leading lines in photography

Stop and look at your surroundings. Where is your eye drawn to? Are there any straight lines that the eye can follow?

There are two key types of leading lines – natural and man-made. While I’ll go into more detail with examples below, some of these include:

Natural Man Made
Trees Bridges
Hiking or walking trails Roads
Rivers Dams
Edges of water Piers and jetties
Rocks Rail and tram lines
Zen Gardens Buildings
Star trails and the Milky Way Flags and decorations
Cliffs Signs and directions
Mountains Long exposure of traffic – light trails

Think about how you’re going to frame the shot. The eye is drawn across the camera from top left to bottom right corner. Can the lines converge to a point of interest?

This process takes time – sometimes it’s immediately obvious what the leading lines are, in the case of the Melbourne alleyway. Sometimes you’ll have to work a little bit harder. Take lots of shots and experiment with your position. Would this photo be better from a higher or lower angle?

Field of flowers in Takayama, Japan
These bright rows of flowers provide an easy leading line to the white building in Japan

Common examples of leading lines

Before I go into this list, your safety is the first priority! Don’t take photos on train, rail or tram tracks that are in use. Don’t stand in the middle of a busy road to get a shot. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Roads and paths

Path leading towards a temple in Kyoto, Japan
Sometimes a leading line can be quite subtle, like this path leading towards a temple in Kyoto, Japan


Bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Japan
Bamboo is almost made to be used as a leading line at this classic photography destination in Arashiyama, Japan

Rail and tram lines

Train tracks in Japan
Train tracks are an easy way to lead the viewer into your photography – but take your photos from a safe place!


Two buildings in Chicago with a bridge across
Leading lines are commonly used in architectural photography, such as these buildings in Chicago

Have you used leading lines in your photography? What’s your top tip for using leading lines? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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