Let’s talk about leading lines. No, I’m not talking about roads, railroad tracks, wheat fields and rows of lavender. Sand dunes and piers are definitely out, too. I’m talking about creatively using the lines of an image to draw your viewer’s eye where you want it to be.

Whether it’s star trails and meteor showers, or the perfect arrangement of body parts and fabric, here are 10 creative examples of unusual leading lines in action.

Take notes and enjoy!

1. Star Trails

Moments In Time | Oia Santorini by Elia Locardi on 500px.com

Let’s start off easy: star trails. Light trails just MADE to be followed in to your subject. In this image the ever-talented Elia Locardi uses them to lead your eye right into the beautiful city of Santorini.

A not-so-subtle shooting star like this one, or a beautiful meteor shower composite that seems to shout “look at the milky way!” also works great.

2. Architecture

Flow by Michael Chan on 500px.com

A spiral staircase might be considered cheating, or almost as bad as using the roadway or a tunnel for leading lines, but the execution here is so perfect it was impossible for us to pass this up. It’s not a full spiral, just one piece of one, and it leads right to the couple you’re supposed to be looking at.


3. Body parts and fabric

Ballet by HAI TRINH XUAN on 500px.com

Don’t forget that leading lines don’t have to come from your environment. In this example, the dancer’s body parts (look up any ballet photo for more like this) and the fabric of her dress are both used to draw your attention into the middle of the frame where she’s jumping.

4. Waves

Zephyr by Ted Gore on 500px.com

Moving water definitely counts as “standard” leading line material, but this one is different.

Usually waves are used as leading lines by taking a long exposure of water receding from a beach; in this case hurricane winds created waves perpendicular to the beach that landscape master Ted Gore could use to lead your eye to the mountain in the background. Brilliant!

5. Light rays, shadows, and trees

Lit up by Luminous Impressions on 500px.com

The use of shadow and light in this shot to lead your eye to the center of the frame and columns of trees is just plain beautiful. No need to say more about this one…

6. A shipwreck

Deliverance by Benjamin Von Wong on 500px.com

Why did Ben Von Wong place his model this far down the shipwreck in Bali instead of at the very tip Titanic style (and yes, this was shot underwater with a freediver model)?

Could it be because the lines of the wreck in the foreground AND background both lead your eye to the model looking up towards the light? There was probably more to it than that, but the effect is undeniable.

7. Traffic

Minneapolis Long Exposure by Altamish  on 500px.com

Cheating? Same as using a roadway? Hear me out here people! It’s not the roads that I’m interested in but the light trails that the cars are making. Especially in this shot, and with the contrast between the red and white of the oncoming and outgoing traffic, the leading line effect is so pronounced it’s impossible to ignore.

Not straight lines on a straight roadway with a median in the very middle of the shot… no, this is more complex and more beautiful all at the same time. Serpentine traffic light lines leading your eyes to the cityscape in the distance.

8. Origami

Origami by Maja Top?agi? on 500px.com

Too cool to pass up: using a massive, sharp, crisp, white origami collar to create tens of tiny and distinct lines right up into the face of her model, Maja Topacgic nails it here—kind of like she does in every one of her portraits.

9. Light, shadow, and the perfect line

Dancing in the Light by Scott  Rinckenberger on 500px.com

This photo by landscape and adventure photographer Scott Rinkenberger has so much going for it I don’t know where to begin. The massive streaks of light and shadow do the broad-strokes work, small patterns in the snow go smaller and draw your eye in, and then the perfectly carved line the skier is leaving behind draws you right to her or him.

10. The Aurora Borealis

Dance of the Souls by Carlos Resende on 500px.com

Ending on an easy one… almost too easy. Search Aurora Borealis on 500px and you’ll never run out of examples of the northern lights playing nice and leading the subject’s eye right to a mountain, or house, or mountaineer sanding at the perfect junction between heaven and Earth. Simple, and simply beautiful.

Do you have your own example of leading lines that break the “railroad tracks” mold? Upload it to 500px and share a link in the comments! Or better yet, go out there today after work and capture something inspired by the examples above, then share THAT.