Always a camera in my rucksack...

Take Better Scenic & Holiday Photos

Placing the Subject and Horizon

When the subject doesn’t fill the photo, you need to decide where in the picture to place it.

boring middle
Putting the subject in the center can be quite boring.

When you look at something, you look straight at it. For this reason, most people point the camera straight at the subject, placing it in the middle of the photo. This can make the photo a bit boring.

Similarly, many people automatically put the horizon 1/2 way. This can also look unexciting when viewed as a picture.

1/2 way horizon
The horizon is 1/2 way, which is not very exciting.

To get a nicer photo, try the following. If you have an interesting sky (a sunset or picturesque clouds), put the horizon towards the bottom, filling the top 2/3 with the sky.

low horizon
low horizon
Fill the top 2/3 with an interesting sky. Place the subject 1/3 along horizontally. click/tap picture

If the foreground is interesting and the sky lacks detail (plain blue or overcast), put the horizon towards the top, filling the bottom 2/3 with the foreground.

The same applies to any obvious horizontal line in your photo.

Once you’ve decided where to place your horizon, place your subject to the left or right of the image along a vertical line about 1/3 of the way horizontally.

high horizon
high horizon
Fill the bottom 2/3 with an interesting foreground. The subject (colourful houses) is a horizontal line that fills the width. click/tap picture

The viewer will still be drawn to the subject and the overall result will be more pleasing to the eye.

A 1/2 way horizon works well when there is a reflection

Two exception to these “rules” are:

  • When a reflection is involved, putting the line of reflection 1/2 way works well.
  • Where there is a natural line of symmetry, with one half of the image being a mirror image of the other.

If there is symmetry, it's fine to put the subject in the middle.

Be careful to keep horizons horizontal. A slight tilt can be quite noticeable, especially when a straight horizon like a sea is involved.

horiznotnal horizons
horiznotnal horizons
Make sure you keep your horizon horizontal, a small tilt (2°) is noticable. click/tap picture
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