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Quick Tip: Instantly Improve Your Photos By Guiding The Eye

Learn how to use paths, lines and direction to lead the eye into your photo.

|  General Photography
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What Are Paths And Lines And Why Do It?

Basically, when you look at a photo, your eye is naturally drawn to a certain point and to make sure the viewer of your shot focuses on the right spot in your image, you can create a "path" for the eye to follow through the scene. This won't work for every shot but do consider it before hitting the shutter button.


Photo by David Clapp


What To Use As Paths? 

When shooting outdoors, there are lots of elements that can be used to achieve this effect fairly easily.

Examples of paths:
  • Lines in crop fields
  • Roads
  • Fences
  • Streams
  • Trails
  • Walking Paths 
These are just a few of the things you can use to guide the eye through a shot. The image above illustrates this well, with the lines leading the eye through the image to the castle in the background.

For tips on using converging verticals and lines, read this tutorial: When Are Converging Verticals And Lines A Good Thing?


Guide The Eye With Blur

If using lines won't work, try using blur to guide the eye to a particular point of focus. For example, this could mean using a shallow depth of field to make your person 'pop' from the frame. For more tips on using apertures creatively, have a look at this tutorial: Creative Aperture / Depth Of Field

We also have this tutorial with a few focusing tips to get you thinking about your photography more creatively: Think About Your Focus

Shanghai, China
Photo by David Clapp -

Give Moving Objects Space

If you are photographing moving objects, consider which way they are heading. For example, if the object is on the left side of your shot and heading out of the frame, rather than into the centre, this will ultimately lead the eye away from the main body of the image and can also frustrate the viewer with its mystery destination. Having the object, or objects, heading towards the middle of the frame will make the image more pleasing to the eye and will stop the object from guiding the viewer's eye out of frame. For more tips, take a look at this tutorial: Looking/Moving Space.

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mrswoolybill Plus
15 3.3k 2536 United Kingdom
31 Dec 2019 6:08PM
A lot of good suggestions here. It's about creating a route for the viewer's eye, into the image and then around its contents. Worth checking out Michael Freeman's excellent book The Photographer's Eye, which explores this in depth.

Just one quibble, I have rarely found blur to be an effective lead-in, it is more likely to create a barrier, which for me is certainly the case in the example given. Try holding a finger up in front of your eyes and then focus on the scene beyond, it's not comfortable. But that is what you are asking the viewer to do.
pablophotographer 11 2.0k 429
31 Dec 2021 3:15PM
Thank you EPZ!

Here's my leading line example. A telephoto lens would have brought the moon closer.

Funnily enough I was reading an article about the contrast detention formula used for autonomous driven vehicles.

I also made a comment today which stresses the use of contrast for attracting attention in a given frame. Yes, just as bold lettering does. 😃

Happy 2022 everybody!

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