How to Position the Horizon in Landscape Photography

How to Position the Horizon in Landscape Photography

  • The line of the horizon usually serves to separate the fundamental components of a landscape picture, but has no existence independently of them. It forms a natural division between the elements: sky above: land beneath.

  • The position of the horizon is a major factor in the balance of the picture. With the camera absolutely level, the horizon appears in the center of the picture, dividing the frame exactly in two. This bisection of the image generally looks static and uninteresting, and unless you are setting out specifically to create pictures that echo stillness and inactivity, it is best to avoid a 50:50 division of the frame.
    Lower and higher horizons shift the emphasis of the picture towards the sky and land respectively.

  • Even a small shift of the horizon above or below the halfway mark is enough to give the photograph a more active feel, but the most satisfactory division often lies a third of the way into the frame, or on the line defined by the golden section (separating the image with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines equally into nine section). Remember, though, when you tilt the camera to reposition the horizon, that your new composition will bring into view a greater area of sky or land, and you should check that you're not just introducing a redundant or uninteresting section of the landscape. For example, it's not usually a good idea to use a low horizon when the sky is a uniform, dull grey.

  • If there's a really spectacular sky, don't hesitate to take a radical outlook and position the horizon line right at the very bottom of the frame. At the other extreme, if the foreground of the picture is especially interesting, it is worth shifting the horizon right to the top of the image.

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