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To tilt (or not)


I’m talking about the horizon.

Some photographers do this a lot (Bambi Cantrell). Some, like me, don’t.

Personally, I think it can become overused and, if not done “properly” (my opinion) can not only be distracting but can dismiss your photograph and its impact to the viewer.

When is it OK to do the tilt? I think the following guidelines (“rules”, if you will), are a good place to start:

Where it makes sense.

For example, in this image, a sense of drama is created (and expected) for a film noir style image.

You almost expect the tilt. It fits the mood of the image.

To correct a problem

In this image the subject was actually not completely upright. The tilted horizon was created to correct this.

Competing Verticals

Subjects placed in corners, or where there are competing vertical lines in the composition, can be lessened or their impact diminished by using a tilted horizon.

When there is no horizon

If there is no visible horizon, such as a headshot or partial body shot, then there is nothing for the brain to register to compete with your tilt. Bambi Cantrell does this a lot.

When not to tilt

The following almost never look good to me:

  • visible horizons with a subject parallel to the horizon
  • the image has no implicit drama

Do what you want to, and what works for you. And remember: rules are meant to be broken. But make sure you are breaking them for a reason.

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