16 : Horizons


Expanding Your Horizons

It's finally getting warmer in many parts of the world, which means we can all do a little more outdoor picture taking. (For those of you who live in warm climates, we are jealous!) A main component of shooting outside is working with horizons. This week, explore how the placement of your horizon can affect your overall image.



There are four main positions for a horizon in an image:

1. Near the bottom of the frame. This gives a sense of airiness and isolation to your subject.

2. Near the top of the frame. This results in the foreground elements being dominant and having prominence.

3. In the middle. Usually not recommended. A horizon in the middle of frame is not dynamic. One exception to this rule is if you are photographing a mirror image, like a reflection in a puddle.

4. Not at all. Framing your shot to exclude the horizon altogether may be the best option. If it cuts through an important part of the picture, near a head for example, or if the scene is more visually compelling without a horizon, go ahead and frame your shot to exclude it.


Level horizons are how we experience the world with our eyes on a day to day basis. When a horizon is not straight in an image, it can just feel "off". Occasionally, tilted horizons are used to great dramatic effect, such as in an action sequence of a movie, but for everyday pictures, it usually just looks wrong. 


Luckily, there are often plenty of visual clues in your scene to help you line up your horizon properly. Look out for lines on the sidewalk, parts of houses such as rooflines, tabletops, and of course the big one where the sky meets the earth.


Some DSLRs have the option to display a "virtual horizon" within the viewfinder, allowing you to accurately assess whether you have a straight horizon as you're taking a picture. Check your manual to see if your camera has this feature!

virtual horizon.jpg

This week, explore how the horizon changes the feel of your images and have fun with it!

Creative Prompts

As you are shooting, do you find that images taken from far away tend to look a bit more like "snapshots" than the picture you're envisioning? Try these helpful tips to take your horizon images from "drab" to "fab":

to fab.jpg
  • Lower, lower, lower! Snapshots are typically taken from the photographer's eye-level, but a well-thought-out portrait often captures the same view from a different angle altogether. Try getting down low to the ground to bring a new feel to the same shot.
  • Clear it out. Look for any objects that could be distracting in the background of your frame. If you see something, try moving a bit to either side in order to change what appears behind your subject. Less is more!
  • Keep it straight. Above all, take an extra second to straighten your horizon before you click the shutter.

Share your images!

As always, we look forward to seeing your images in the Facebook group! If you have never posted a picture, it's fine to start any time. The Facebook group is a positive, no-judgement zone. We also hope that reach out for advice or help if you need it!