• Tina Witherspoon

Technical Photography: Leading Lines


Over the years I've gained a keen appreciation for the photographic rule of composition known as "Leading Lines." At first I thought I just liked photographing bridges and industrial scenes, and then I started to hone in on what it was about those photos — other than the gritty appeal of street photography — that was inspiring me. If you look at an image with lines, whether curved or straight, perfectly horizontal or vertical, or something in between, you start to realize that the lines are leading your eye around the photo. The image above was captured by switching my camera to high speed shooting mode, and then choosing which of the 10 shots came the closest to what I was seeing (don't worry, my husband was driving). With a little help from photoshop, I was able to get the bridge supports almost perfectly centered on themselves.

Of course it's also fun to skew your perspective. Power line towers are another of my favorite industrial subjects, and when I can capture a different perspective with a pure solid background of sky, I'm usually pretty happy with the result.

And then there are the industrial dinosaurs you find in cities. I love how this "container crane" looks like he wandered away from the pack and is grazing alone. Cranes are another of my favorite subjects, typically found in packs of 3 or 4, near port cities and usually much harder to isolate.

Horizontal and vertical lines are perhaps the least interesting, but there are so very many of them in this image I really like it. From the cranes themselves, all standing at attention, to the multiple vertical lines on the containers, to the chain link fence and electrical boxes, even the traffic cone is standing at attention.

In my opinion, the most successful way to incorporate lines is to draw the eye toward something in the background that may have been overlooked if not for the lines. The yellow street painting grabs your attention and moves it toward Mt. Rainier in the background. I could probably crop this one a bit more as the vast blue sky doesn't really add anything to the photo, but I like the overall vibe of the scene. Once you start to look for lines, you really can't un-see them, and then you can start to incorporate them into other forms of photography. There are some great photographers using this technique in wedding photography which I'm hoping to have the opportunity to try this year.

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