A common mistake we see in new photographers images are crooked horizon lines. But if no one has ever told you, you may not know that you want your horizon line to be straight in your images.
The horizon line is where the sky meets land or water. Our eyes are drawn to horizon lines which is why you will also hear it referred to as “eye level”.
A straight horizon line makes an image more visually appealing. Take a look at the above image then look at the one below. Do you notice how the horizon line isn’t straight, and how it just looks off?
How to get a straight horizon line
You can ensure that your horizon line is straight by turning on your grids in your camera. You then would line up your horizon line with one of the provided lines. Some cameras even have a level in it which will help you make sure it is straight. If you use the Lightroom Mobile app to take your images you can turn on the grid and level.
You can also crop your image later in Photoshop using one of their grids. Find the icon that looks like a grid and check rule of thirds or grid and make sure “auto show overlay” is also checked.
Where to place the horizon line
You have four options when it comes to placement of your horizon line.
Both the high and low horizon option follow the rule of thirds composition. A high horizon line will be in the top third of your image, like the image below. When we place the horizon line here it puts the focus on the landscape.
A low horizon line will be placed in the bottom third of your image. When we place the line here, the sky is the main focus of our images. This can also be a great way to use negative space to draw the viewers eye to your subject.
This shouldn’t necessarily be your first choice as it breaks the rule of thirds however, rules are meant to be broken and sometimes it just works! Like in the image below… since our subject is centered in the frame a centered horizon works here.
If really want to draw the viewers eyes to your subject you can eliminate the horizon line altogether by zooming in on your subject.
About the Author
Beth Mancuso is a portrait and landscape photographer based out of Minnesota. She has been in business as a portrait photographer for over ten years. She has spent the last six years working as an instructor and mentor. Her work has been featured by National Geographic, Huff Post, My Modern Met, Peta Pixel, and Lensbaby. Her work has been published in Click, Midwest Living, and Black and White Magazine. You can read more about her here. You can find a portfolio of her landscape work here. You can find here portrait work here.