Don’t Stick the Horizon Line in the Middle!

DownHill View

Downhill View.
Putting the horizon off-centre helps maintain a more dynamic feel to the picture.
Click image for full size.

If you feel the temptation to put the horizon smack bang in the middle of the shot – Don’t! We all wrestle with the need to make our photos neat and symmetrical. And, because of that, we end up with a horribly ‘ordinary’ feel to the shot.

Take a careful look at your landscape when doing your composition. Size up the position in the frame of all the compositional elements. Then decide which is more important – the foreground through to the horizon or the horizon to the top of the frame. Once you have made that decision bias your shot to give you more of the best part of the picture.

More emphasis on one side or another of the horizon has benefits…

  • Viewers are not distracted by the least interesting of the ‘land’ or ‘sky’.
  • There’s more room – make the interesting segment big in the frame.
  • Develop all features of the biggest segment in full detail.
  • Give room for the most interesting part – show all its variations.

Really make a *big thing* of the part of the shot you have emphasised. If you can not do that, then you have chosen the wrong part of the picture to focus on. Alternatively, you really don’t have a worthwhile shot. A photograph with impact is one that has the main subject right out in front and big! The subject just has to grab the attention! So do it justice and make it important.

So where do you put the horizon? Well a good guide is on the upper or lower third. Remember the rule of thirds? Well, use it.

Why does this off-balance placement work? Well, it makes the viewer step into the picture to try and see why the balance is wrong. It emphasises the big part, the eye-catching part, the part you want your viewer to get into.

Have fun with your camera!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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