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How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography

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Lead-in lines are a very clever visual way that can be used to help the viewers’ eye through the scene and give your images a greater sense of depth. For landscape photography there are a range of scenic elements that can be used as lead-in lines including walls, fences, rivers, streams, paths, roads and much more.

Here are the best advice to use this technique to improve your landscapes

Fine-tune your composition

Ideally a lead-in line should run from the foreground towards a prominent focal point within the image, providing the viewer’s eye with a route to follow through the image.

This can help to convey a feeling of depth in a landscape photograph, giving it a more three-dimensional feel. A line that runs directly from one corner of the image can be particularly effective and you’ll find that diagonal lines tend to be strongest.

From the Bolte bridge to the Observation Wheel, Melbourne

From the Bolte bridge to the Observation Wheel, Melbourne

Use subtle lead-in lines

Lead-in lines don’t have to dominate the image – often subtle lines can be more effective. Implied lines, such as shadows, footprints on a sandy beach, a row of boulders and even cloud patterns can make very effective lead-ins.

Docklands_20150130_041_2_3_Bike_-bridge_-Charles-Grimes_-Docklands_-Jim-Stynes_-path_-River_-Yarra-min

Use curved lines

Lead-in lines don’t have to be straight.

Curving lines can be more effective as they slow the viewer’s progress through the image, allowing them to explore more of the detail in the scene.

Dry-stone walls, hedgerows, streams and other similar features in the landscape can sometimes provide the eye with several places to rest on its journey through the image.

How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography

How to use lead-in curved lines in landscape photography

Select the correct aperture

When composing an image with a lead-in line you’ll normally want to record the whole image in sharp focus from front to back.

How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography

Use the right aperture together with lead-in lines

Use an aperture between f/8 and f/15 to to have a full sharp image

Try a wide-angle lens

Lead-in lines can be accentuated with the use of a wide-angle lens, making use of perspective to help draw the viewers eye through the scene.

Strong lead-in lines photographed using a wide-angle lens at 16-17mm can create a particularly dramatic effect.

Shoot in vertical format

Lead-in lines can be used to even more dramatic effect when shooting in vertical format. Distance will be emphasized, as effect of perspective will be greater

How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography

How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography


I asked Stef, the founder of MEL365, what he thinks about this technique

I personally use lead-in lines quite a lot in travel and landscape photography. It’s an easy technique to master and, at the same time, very effective. Lead-in lines drive the eyes into the photo, possibly the main subject. I tend to favour diagonal lines as they are the most dynamic ones”


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Jacky The Techy
Photography is taking me everywhere in the world. I love the technical side of it, how to create my photos minimizing the post-production side of it. More time on the field and less time on the computer.
Ten years of experience and counting. Is it enough? Never! I learn new things everyday.

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