Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Photo Tip Tuesday - Keeping a Level Head

So what does the vestibular system of the ear have to do with photography?  Have you ever looked at the horizon at the beach, a tall building or any other straight line? With your vision they always look straight.  In a photograph, your eye is naturally drawn to things that seem "out of place".  This includes horizons or things that should be straight that aren't. Let me show you some examples and see what you think. Let's start off with something with a definite horizon.  Here is a picture of Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina.  When I took this photo, I was using my tripod.  I still managed to not have the photograph perfectly level.  It feels uncomfortable, almost like you could roll of the left side.  This photograph was only off 1.4 degrees.  That is not very much, yet it stands out like a sore thumb when you really look at it. Roll your mouse over the image to see the difference.  So lets take a look at a building with vertical lines.  This is Cora Mill that used to stand in Gallia County, Ohio.  Again this was shot on a tripod but I was not perfectly level.  The mill is 1.2 degrees off. The mill looks like it is tipping to the right.Roll your mouse over the image to see the difference.  Here is an example from soccer season. The goal is crooked. This one is off about 2 degrees. Again, mouse over the image to see the changes. While these are very subtle changes, it is the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph Getting this correct in camera is the best way to do this. If you are using a tripod, some tripod heads have a built in level. If not, you can get a hot shoe bubble level. Many new cameras however, have a level built in to the viewfinder. Correcting horizons or vertical lines is very easy. Most basic editing software allows you to adjust your image. Basic editors may not give you precise control. I use Adobe Lightroom and find the grid overlay when adjusting the angle very helpful. Here is a view of the crop tool in Adobe Lightroom. Adobe Lightroom and many other editors have an angle tool that you can drag along a vertical or horizontal line to correct the angle. Keeping a level head isn't limited to regular cameras. I often take pictures with my iPhone or iPad. The Apple IOS allows you to adjust your photograph's angle, but I prefer Snapseed. Here is a photograph from my iPhone. The horizon is obviously not level. Using the Straighten feature in Snapseed, I can correct the level of the horizon. Remember, keep your head level and take a few extra seconds to straighten your photographs. Enjoy, Chris