I've recently been working on some photography courses that I'm going to offer, and I was mentioning rules of composition to my brother in law. He wasn't sure what I meant, and admitted that when he takes a photo, he just raises his camera/ phone, and snaps a picture. Does that ring true for you too?
Composition techniques don't have to be intimidating. At their simplest, they're guidelines when planning a photo, to ensure a strong result.
Leading lines are a great example of a composition technique because they're easy to visualize. When you see a line, or a path, what do you do? You follow it! Our minds instinctually follow a line, to see where it goes. Given this natural tendency, you can use this to bring people's eyes to the subject of your photo. That's it!
If you look around, you'll see lines everywhere. A common example is a set of train tracks, but leading lines can also be fences, roads, a line of trees, a running stream of water, and even as subtle as a shadow, as sun streams through a set of vertical or horizontal blinds!
So how exactly can you use leading lines? Notice in the photo of the teddy bear that there are the horizontal lines of the floor boards themselves, and then there is also a vertical line where floorboards meet. The teddy is placed at the intersection of these horizontal and vertical lines. Intersections are where things converge, and it's a place your eyes will naturally be drawn to. I am optimizing my chances that the viewers in this image will immediately identify my subject.
The teddy bear is good photo to illustrate the technique. But how could you use it your life? The photo on the right is a great example. I used the tree branch as a means to bring a very strong focus to the little girl. Especially notice that the branch leads directly to her face. This was deliberate, because I want your eyes to be drawn to her beautiful, smiling face.
So you're asking me, why is this important? Well, If you're reading this photography blog, it may mean you may be looking for something more in your images. Essentially it's one of many techniques to make your photos more compelling. It helps you be mindful of the act of photographing something - you are creating or crafting an image rather than just snapping. When you put thought and care into how you create an image, it will resonate with you and with others who see it.
Have you ever looked at an image and it immediately struck a chord somewhere deep inside but you can't really explain why? Conversely, have you ever scrolled through a friend's vacation photos and everything seems, well, uninteresting? Good compositional techniques are at the heart of why this is. Give leading lines a go and see how they may improve your photos!