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Photography Tips 1 – Leading Lines

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This is the first in a series of articles discussing some of the photography techniques I’ve learned and employ when I’m out on a shoot.

I’ve been taking photography more seriously for the last 6 months or so and I’ve learned a hell of a lot (mostly from my good friend Ade). I thought that while it’s all still fresh in my mind and hasn’t turned into “common sense” for me yet that I’d try to document some of the more important lessons I’ve learned. I’m still learning all the time and don’t consider myself an expert in photography in any way, shape or form so feel free to correct or shoot me down on anything I say (pun intended).

I’ll try to use photos I’ve taken to illustrate some of the points I’m trying to get across and what I did to get the shots. I’ll start with different aspects of composition and move onto more interesting things like the use of grad filters, flash guns, technique and anything else that pops into my head. I’ll also cover the kit I use, exposure, metering and a host of other things that come into play.

First up I’ll talk about leading lines and why they can give depth to a shot and make an average scene look a lot more interesting. Take a look at the following photo which is a pretty simple scene:

Walking Path

It works for me for several reasons, but mainly the leading lines. By leading lines I mean something that draws your eye through the shot – in this case it’s the path. As I look at the picture I’m instinctively looking at the part of the path nearest the camera and my eye is following it around into the distance – the fact that there are people walking along it draws me there even more. Since the path vanishes around the corner you don’t get to see where it’s goes so you’re just left to wonder. I was trying to get the picture to tell a story and make you want to walk down the path yourself in your mind and see what’s around the bend.

I’ve also deliberately composed the shot so that the fence intersects the bottom-left corner of the photo and the right-hand edge of the path is on the bottom-right corner. If you look at the photos below you’ll notice I have habit of lining up the leading line with a bottom corner – it just seems to balance the shot better than leaving space around it:

Leading Lines Montage

I’m always looking for something to lead my eye through a shot. It could be a path, a line of cones, even a moored boat pointing out to sea – just as long as it makes your mind move you through the picture! I like to think of a photograph as a window into a 3-dimensional world and a leading line is a good way to give it depth.

Next: The Rule Of Thirds.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

10 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Those are some pretty impressive shots, I have to check out your flikr account in more detail

    Reply

  2. Yep, that’s exactly what I’m talking about! Particularly the first one, and I like how the top of the houses on the left intersects the top-left corner of the photo. See, you don’t need me at all!

    Actually, if you’d cropped the first one so that the edge of the pavement intersects the bottom-left corner of the photo (removing the bottom inch or so), it would emphasise it even more!

    Reply

  3. Cripes, that was quick! Are you having a slow day at work too? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Yes, I can never be bothered with all that cropping and tweaking stuff. Laziness is my downfall really.

    Reply

  4. Ahem, of course not, I’m always working to the maximum of my potential! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I guess that since I shoot in RAW format I have to process each photo I like to a greater or lesser degree (although it takes seconds for each one) which means I might as well crop them to my tastes while I’m at it!

    Reply

  5. Okay John, I’ve cropped my first photo (and added a frame) – what do you think now? I think it’s better:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/johntopley/221266487/in/set-72057594117804252/

    How far would you have cropped the right hand edge? There’s a bit of car wing mirror in the foreground which obviously had to go, but I wasn’t sure about that old 3-series. I thought it looked untidy but then if you get rid of it (as I did) then you lose the white building detail.

    Reply

  6. Yeah, much better – you’re focussed much more on the road. I’d pretty much do exactly what you did, and use the clone tool to delete the car. Like so:

    Reply

  7. nice one, so much easier to follow with example shots.

    I’d just add to what you’ve said – you can get “implied lead lines” too.

    Examples are eyes looking at something. if you’ve got strong eyes, then they’ll be a focal point where you’ll start looking at the shot. Then you’ll naturally look along the line they eyes are looking.

    think about those baby and father shots…

    the other one is disconnected objects accidentally making lines.

    I use benches a lot, but in the past I’ll have walked a bit trying to line sheep up in a field – get 2 or 3 in a line, one pretty close, then there’s a subtle but important line there.

    Reply

  8. Cheers, glad you’re in agreement! I don’t think I use implied lead lines enough – I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them, they’re not as obvious as a path or a river!

    Reply

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