Double Takes With Rebecca: On the Horizon

Is there a horizon in your photo?
Remember...There is a time and place to break every photographic rule!
But break them on purpose, not in ignorance of them.

Here's a tip...Horizons should be level.
Unless you are suffering from a case of vertigo,
it is how we see the world.
A crooked horizon is interpreted as...careless?
So what to do when you have a great sunset shot but the horizon is crooked?
Fix it!
There are free editing programs that provide easy to use straightening tools.
I have used Picasa (a free download from Google)
and Picnik (a mostly free online editing site, for "Premium" editing use it is ~$24/year)

There are many creative uses for applying a slanted horizon.
Plan for those uses and the rest of the time,
keep it straight.

Above I tried to accentuate the downhill feel by slanting the [horizon] line behind the skateboarder.

Another tip: Horizons should not cut through the center of the photo.

The 'norm' when taking a photo is to center the horizon right through the middle of your shot.
This is very predictable and very symmetrical....and well, dare I say...boring?

Generally speaking, your photo will be more appealing if you keep your horizon 
on the lower third or upper third of your photo.  

I like to place the horizon low to accentuate big sky.

This goes hand in hand with The Rule of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds says that rather than center your subject right in the middle of your photo,
place your subject on one of the intersecting lines that would be created if you divided the photo into thirds horizontally and vertically.

Something to try:
Take some photos of the horizon with a well placed subject (tree, building, etc.)  
Frame it out so your subject is placed according to The Rule of Thirds and take multiple photos.  
First, the horizon high. Top 1/3rd.
Second, the horizon middle.
Third, the horizon low. Bottom 1/3rd.

When you look at your shots on your computer compare the different 'feel' of each photo.
Do you sense a different interpretation of distance?
How does the foreground and/or sky affect the photo in each?

Here is a related tip I picked up from Digital Photography School.
"If you have a bland, boring sky – don’t let it dominate your shot and place the horizon in the upper third of your shot (however you’ll want to make sure your foreground is interesting). However if the sky is filled with drama and interesting cloud formations and colors – let it shine by placing the horizon lower." 

And excluding the horizon is an option too!  
It helps create a sense of endlessness.

These are some very simple things to keep in mind 
 which will dramatically increase your satisfaction in your work

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. great post Rebecca! I see I have some practice shooting to do next time out. take a peek at my post for today. it is an old photo from last summer. I was going through all my pics the other day and looked at it and saw something sort of magical I didn't see at first. it just happens to be a horizon shot.

  2. Thanks Rebecca. Ignorance of these simple rules really shows in my shots. I tend to be haphazard but straight with my horizons. I can see where placement can make a world of difference.

  3. I am very "thankful" that Rebecca has taken the time to share these tips. As someone with no formal training but with a passion for photography, these tips are extremely helpful!


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