Week 20 - Place the horizon to emphasize foreground or sky

Before you take that landscape photo with the horizon in the lower part of the frame, stop and think about why you are doing it.

I know that the horizon in the lower third can give your photo a sense of stability, but it might not always be where you find the most dramatic composition.

What will have the greatest interest - the foreground or the sky?


In this photo of the Cherry Blossom, placing the subject in the lower third highlights a bland and boring sky. It’s an expected placement but not the most interesting on that day.

Moving the horizon to the top third of the frame highlights the foreground. In this instance, the reflections provide a little more interest than the featureless sky.

Here is a more extreme angle of the kind of sky that invites you to place the horizon very low. The threatening clouds clearly stand out as the interesting feature here.

Horizons can play a role in other types of scenes as well. When you are indoors, treat the place where the back wall and floor meet as the horizon. Even when you can’t see it, the horizon is usually implied. We all know it is out there and assume its location. Your goal is to place it where it would have the most impact not reflexively move it to the lowest part of the frame.


The Challenge

Feature a horizon in one of your photographs. Be deliberate about the placement and tell us what influenced your decision. What effect were you trying to create?


Share your images with us

Once you have a great photo, post it in the comments here or tag it #composition21 when you post it on Twitter or Flickr. Note: Just post the link to your photo, and the system will generate your preview icon.


Join the Composition Challenge

Sign up to join the 21-Week Composition Challenge. Every week, I'll deliver a photo challenge by email for you to shoot and share. Learn more about it or sign up below.

Sign me up