Horizon Placement Matters

Horizon Placement Matters

You may not have thought about this, but where you place the horizon makes a big difference when taking landscape photos. The feel of the image instantly changes, so it’s important you place it knowing the effects it makes. This post will outline the three most common areas to place your horizon so you can get a better feel for it and make a conscious decision the next time you’re out shooting landscapes.

Where to place the horizon

Where to place the horizon

Horizon placements

In any given image, there are three areas where you can place your horizon in a photo:

  1. Top half of the image
  2. Centre of the image
  3. Bottom half of the image

But as I’ll show you below, the three primary areas that you will want to place the horizon in a photo are below:

  1. Top third of the image
  2. Dead centre of the image
  3. Bottom third of the image

Let’s take a look at how each one of the above makes us feel.

Placing the horizon in the top third of the image

In the first list above, I said the top half of an image. I rarely place the horizon just slightly above the centre mark because I feel it doesn’t make a strong enough impact to the viewers. Placing it in the top third separates the effect enough from if you were to place it at the centre point, creating more of an impact to the image.

The horizon placement here doesn't make it clear enough to the readers what you want to convey in the image.

The horizon placement here doesn’t make it clear enough to the viewers what you want to convey in the image.

Let’s look at another photo. What do you feel?

The houses and streets seem much more closer to you with the horizon up in the top-third of the image.

The houses and streets seem much more closer to you with the horizon up in the top-third of the image.

Do you feel a sense of closeness? A sense of intimacy perhaps? That’s because with the horizon being so far up in the image, the foreground objects (houses and streets) become more the centre of attention, giving you much more of an intimate feeling to it.

In the photo below, I love how you can sense the choppiness of the waves as that is what is highlighted when you bring the horizon up in the top third of the image.

The waves are highlighted here in the foreground.

The waves are highlighted here in the foreground.

And here’s a few more so you get the feel of the effects of having the horizon in the top third of your photo.

The snowbank looks like it's right in front of you with the horizon in the top third of this photo

The snowbank looks like it’s right in front of you with the horizon in the top third of this photo

You can feel the closeness of the rocks under the water here with the horizon in the top third of the frame

 

You can really sense the closeness of the water here  with the horizon on the top third of the photo

You can really sense the closeness of the water here with the horizon on the top third of the photo

Placing the horizon at the centre of the image

This is an all too familiar shot where the horizon is placed right at the centre of the image. It brings us a sense of balance as it divides the image evenly. But be warned, if the horizon is not completely centred, it may look a little jarring and even worse, make it look like somewhat of a sloppy edit (see first landscape photo above).

Reflections look great with the horizon at the centre as it creates a nice divide and balance from the top and bottom half. Also, make sure that the horizon is clearly visible, otherwise the subject matter in the photo can get a little confusing.

The horizon is clearly visible, doing a great job at dividing the top half with the bottom half

The horizon is clearly visible, doing a great job at dividing the top half with the bottom half

The horizon in the middle works well here with the balanced water and clouds.

The horizon in the middle works well here with the balanced water and clouds.

Placing the horizon in the bottom third of the image

Similarly to placing the horizon on the top third of the image, I prefer to place the horizon within the bottom third of the image to give it more of an impact. This placement yields a spacious feel as you see the sky open up above the horizon. It gives a sense of freedom or openness that is completely the opposite of placing the horizon on the top third.

The horizon placed in the bottom third of the photo gives way to a more open and spacious feel.

The horizon placed in the bottom third of the photo gives way to a more open and spacious feel.

And here’s a few more so you can get the feel of the openness when the horizon is in the bottom third of the photo.

The clear blue sky screams openness with the horizon on the bottom third of the photo

The clear blue sky screams openness with the horizon on the bottom third of the photo

Horizon on the top third

Even in a portrait orientation you can sense the openness of the sky here with the horizon in the bottom third of the photo

 

The sky takes centre stage in this photo with the horizon on the bottom third of this photo

The sky takes centre stage in this photo with the horizon on the bottom third of this photo

I hope you get a sense of how different landscape photos can feel depending on where you place your horizon. It makes a big difference so the next time you go out, be conscious of where you place your horizon, and you’ll be able to maximize the impact the photo will have to your viewers.

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