What’s so great about leading lines?

Edvard Munch, The Scream. Lithograph, 1895. CC BY 4 The Munch Museum.

Leading lines capture the gaze of the viewer and then lead them by the hand into your picture. They might be ruts in a road, ripples in the sand or tracks under a train. Almost any line, hard or soft can set a trail for the eye to follow. The lines might be more like a ‘zone’ – a transition between land and water, dark and light or one colour to another. Leading lines are the easiest of compositional tools – they give a picture depth you dive into, or take you irresistibly to the subject of the picture just as surely as Holmes follows the clues to the culprit. If artists like Munch use leading lines, mere photographers should too!

Bent is Best

The best leading lines to my eye are those with a curve, sensuously meandering this way, then that, roaming through the picture, unhurried but always certain in its eventual destination destination.



A good background can completely transform a portrait, the leading lines can emphasise or frame the subject, it can catch or sometimes contrast with personality that shines from the eyes.

If you’d like a portrait photograph, get in touch. More portrait photographs.

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