A place to think about composition in photography

Placing the horizon


There are many sources of information that tell the photographer that the best place for the horizon is on one of the two imaginary horizontal lines that divide the picture into thirds.  It is true that many photographs I have taken do seem to conform to this convention such as the picture of Scarborough seafront below.


Scarborough Seafront

In the Scarborough photograph the horizon is placed on the imaginary line that defines the upper third of the picture (two-thirds from the bottom) and all is well.  This picture was not taken with this explicitly in mind at the time, it just felt natural for this compostion.

Adding more interest

The ‘comfort’ of having the horizon on the two-thirds line is balanced by the dynamic diagonal lead-in formed by the railings and walkway that takes the viewer to the extreme left of the picture before the eye is led back across to the bottom of the cliff where it meets the sea.

A subconscious emotional journey is taken through the picture with the viewer being led right out of the frame by the diagonal before being brought back to rest on the horizon line where order is restored at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical thirds.

It is my belief that we all share an understanding of the ‘rightness’ of this placement because we are surrounded by images and designed objects that use this composition element.

This immersion has given us all a visual literacy so we may respond positively to a picture that employs this technique without being aware of why.


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