Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick Digital Imaging Tip 32/101: Keep It Level

This is tip #32 of 101 digital imaging tips I plan to post here over the next few months. Stay tuned.

Today's tip: Keep it Level.

Not keeping the horizon line level is of the biggest mistakes novice still photographers make.

Keeping the horizon line level, and the entire scene level for that matter, is even more important when shooting video . . . but not always, as recently pointed out by an astute reader.

I've found, by watching Juan Pons in action, that the easiest way to keep the scene level is to use the Manfrotto Ball Leveller (438).

I just got mine. Juan was using his when we were at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas shooting videos for our upcoming Wiley Publishing DVD: Canon DSLR Video Master Class.

The new holiday classic, The Christmas Cheetah, was shot at Fossil Rim with the Canon EOS 7D and Canon 70-200mm IS f/4 lens. The camera/lens set-up was mounted on the rig you see at the opening of this post.

For all my video gear, click here.

Explore the light,


Carolyn Fox said...

Nice tip, as always. Lukily I have a level on my tripod. For those who don't, though, another option is the level that slides into the hot shoe on the camera. It wouldn't be as handy as this one, but only costs about $25.

thenetimp said...

I going to have to disagree. I have seen many wonderful pictures that were not level. That had an angle that gave it a look that was interesting and different. I have found level pictures to be very boring since then.

Rick Sammon said...

thenetimp... You are totally correct, especially when it comes to music videos and fashion shoots. Thank you for your comment.

I was talking more about wildlife and landscape photography.

Thank you again!

Anthony - Motojournalism said...

I've found that especially important when there's water in the photo!
Water at a slant just looks odd...

If you're shooting hand-held, you may be able to turn on a grid overlay in your camera's viewfinder to help get the horizon straight.

@thenetimp, I think photos that are not level can look great in the right situation. But the angle needs to be steep enough that the effect appears intentional rather than accidental!

JimC said...

I think the problem with leveling is really a matter of degree! Dutch angles that are obviously tilted to one side or another are intersting, but if that horizon dips just a little to one side or the other, then the shot just looks wrong!