Landscape photography is probably the most popular genre, and for good reason. There is no lack of subject matter. It’s generally easy to access. And it’s fun to explore the world in which we live and document it with our cameras.
Of course, every photographer wants to improve his or her work, and landscape photographers are no exception. Though there is a seemingly endless array of tips and tricks that you can use to improve your landscape photos, there is one that stands out as being highly impactful, yet really simple to implement: leading lines.
Let’s explore a few reasons why leading lines are such a great addition to your landscape photos.
Why Are Lines Such a Big Deal?
The short answer is that lines draw viewers deeper into the image. Think of lines as a little visual highway that directs people’s eyes through the shot. Lines help the eye explore the photo from foreground to middle ground to background, giving viewers a better understanding of how each area of the photograph relates to the others. What’s more, leading lines can also help give greater balance and flow to your images. In some cases, lines can even confine the viewer’s eye, helping to direct their attention toward the primary subject, much like the fences direct your eye toward the sunset in the image above.
Lines Don’t Have to Be Perfectly Straight Either
When we think of lines in landscape photography, what comes to mind first is likely a straight stretch of road, a trail, a fence line, and other features that stretch into the distance in a relatively straight fashion. And though straight lines are certainly a powerful variant of leading lines, they aren’t the only option.
If the perspective is right and there is a good enough view into the distance, lines can be of the converging variety, which appear to get closer together as they fade into the distance. Railroad tracks are an ideal example of this. And even though the lines are perfectly parallel and straight, the visual impression is that they converge, which gives more interest to the shot.
Another option is to highlight lines that cut across the scene on a diagonal. Unlike typical leading lines, diagonal lines help move the viewer’s eye across a scene, as seen above. This might be useful in instances in which a wide-angle view is taken or a panoramic photo is taken in which the horizontal plane is emphasized. In the case of a panorama in particular, there isn’t much visual depth, so helping the viewer explore the image from left to right gives the impression that there is more going on in the scene than there actually is.
Curved lines are yet another option. Though curved lines don’t offer as direct of a pathway to the subject of the photo, they do provide an excellent means of exploring the photo in more depth. The meandering nature of a curved road, for example, is a great way to help connect different layers in a landscape photo, especially when a high perspective was used to take the shot.
Consider All Types of Lines
Though roads, paths, fence lines, and other manmade lines are certainly the most obvious type of leading line, they aren’t the only ones available. Consider the following as other options for incorporating lines into your photos.
Vertical lines, like tree trunks, which give greater height to an image:
Subtle elements like ripples in sand dunes, which provide an added level of detail:
Lines created by rivers or waves, which extend into the distance or across the scene to provide added depth or width:
Docks, jetties, and wharves that provide foreground interest:
With that, you have a better understanding of why lines are so useful, and you have plenty of fodder for inspiration too. Now it’s time to grab your camera, find yourself a nice landscape, and see how you can use leading lines to create better photos!