VOXTIP#5 …COMPOSITION, GET IT STRAIGHT

A classic banana skin in photography is the ‘wonky horizon’ or the ‘leaning vertical’.

Now, I’ll admit there are times when an image is enhanced by a creative sloping of the horizon or offset vertical.  Looking at a scene from an unusual angle or with a different perspective – if that’s what you’re trying to do – is great. These two examples illustrate that perfectly – they work. I particularly like the Justin Korn image.

 

 

However, in the majority of photos with a ‘wonky horizon’ – it just looks naff, and you can get done for being d.o.c., – drunk in charge of a camera……

This is particularly evident where the horizon is ‘sea meeting sky’ – in these it appears as if the sea is draining away out of the photograph – doh! – rarely does it look creative.

This is an easily remedied fault (either when shooting or in post production) but is often overlooked (even by ‘alleged professionals’) – gosh, I’ve even been known to do it myself. Well, I’m not gonna deal with the post production options here, instead I will just show you some examples to raise your awareness of the potential cock-up and spell out the obvious ways to avoid it.

OK, so dealing with horizontals first, the obvious piece of advice is ‘keep the horizon horizontal’ – the clue is in the name.

Many cameras have the facility to superimpose a grid onto the viewing screen – if you have trouble with horizons, use it, that’s what it’s for.

Now, if you’re using a tripod, many come with built in bubble levels or you can buy an attachment to fit onto the tripod or camera.

Whilst we on the subject of horizons let’s look back to VoxTip#4 – remember what it was?

Yes, of course you do. Either place the horizon one third from the top or bottom (approximately) – the important thing here is to avoid cutting the picture in half – it just grates (except in those situations where it works perfectly of course).

Now, I couldn’t actually find any of my own examples so I guess I’ve deleted them all – but you’ll come across some examples on the web.

Whether it’s closer to the top or bottom of the image depends on several factors including which part of the image is most interesting and where you are trying to draw the viewer’s eye – more on this later. Hey, it’s digital – try both, see what works – learn by your own experience.

Finally, if you have a strong horizontal line take care where you position it relative to other subjects in the photo. It can have the effect of partitioning the image or making it look as though someone is being decapitated.
Ok, so what do you do in the absence of a clear horizon?

Look at the verticals. Are they leaning? A leaning vertical can ruin a potentially good photograph just as easily as a sloping horizontal.

As long as you know it is actually vertical you can use said vertical to align your image. Take care though, I know for a fact that some local authorities deliberately fix telephone poles and lamp posts at an angle just to fool the unsuspecting photographer and as for trees, forget it.

One quick aside, the exaggerated perspective you sometimes get – e.g. with tall buildings – is a totally different issue. Here the left hand vertical leans right and the right hand vertical leans left. This is not the same phenomenon that we have been discussing and whilst there is software which can help to rectify the leaning (should you want to) it is not my intention to cover it today. So, for now, you’ll just have to live with it – often looks quite good.

However, it does have a bearing on using a vertical to align your image – watch out for the exaggerated perspective and where apparent use a vertical in the centre of your image.

Right, so now it’s up to you. Get out there – point and shoot BUT now is the time to start to think about COMPOSITION. Relax, just do it after giving it some thought.

Don’t forget to post your results, comments and questions on VOXTIPS WINDOW http://www.facebook.com/groups/voxtipswindow

“I wish you good shooting.”

***Next Friday we’ll be looking at ‘The Devil Is In The Detail’***

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