Want an easy way to elevate your photos?
Photographers hate this one simple trick to take your photos from amateur to pro!
No, but really. Having straight lines in my photos has become somewhat of a hyper-fixation to me when I'm editing. Whether it be the actual horizon, the line of the land in the background, the lines of siding on houses, or even fences, you need to pay attention to the lines in your background.
Sometimes, depending on the angle you're shooting at, having straight lines isn't possible, or they will be crooked in some way. But they should match the perspective of the photo.
So how did I become such an advocate for straight horizon lines? I've been passionate about photography since I was a kid. When I was in high school, and the church I used to attend asked me one year to offer a summer camp for kids and teach them about photography. I was flattered, and terrified. I spent weeks coming up with a curriculum, and planning out how I wanted to teach these kids. It was only for a few hours a day over the course of a week, but I was so excited, and I had so much knowledge to share. I came up with a powerpoint, and planned all these little field trips to take these kids to.
I had about 12 kids show up, armed with their little cameras, and we had a blast. One of the days in particular sticks out to me, because my mom and I packed them all in a van and we drove to Lake Michigan. That day I taught them about landscape photography, and they ran all over taking pictures of the water, and driftwood, and cool rocks. And one thing I told them over and over again was make sure your horizons are straight! I taught them how to use the little grids in their viewfinders to line everything up, and each and every one was so happy with their photos.
So now I am constantly reminded of that day. Trying to corral a bunch of children and telling them over and over and over to pay attention to their horizon lines. Now, I try not to be judgmental, but when you're in the industry, you're kind of constantly judging, sorry! I see this on social media all the time. I can pick out amateur photographers really quickly, because when you know what to look for, it's not hard to find. Everyone starts somewhere (hell the first wedding I ever did is some of the worst photography ever), but if you perfect the basics, you can avoid that whole just starting out really obvious stage.
So, let me show you what a difference it makes...
A lot of times for these photos I'm kneeling on the ground to get level with my clients. And since the Lightroom straighten tool is so easy to use, most of the time I don't bother trying to align in camera.
Lake Michigan is an easy one. It's a solid blue line in the background, and it's very easy to tell when it's crooked. You do end up having to crop a little sometimes, but that's the sacrifice we make!
House siding is another easy one. I was taking rapid fire shots of the donut eating to make sure I got the one that I wanted.
Thankfully, it's an easy change in Lightroom. It looks so much more clean.
This one is probably the more difficult of these examples. There is a somewhat clear line of grass to follow, but sometimes it's not so easy to find. I usually recommend then just trying to straighten the shoulders of your subject.
Or you can follow the lines of the buildings in the background, or use the trees. Lightroom also has an auto straighten feature that works pretty well most of the time.
Here is how you can auto-straighten a photo in Lightroom.
If you're not intending to edit your photos after you shoot (preferably in Lightroom), then I would suggest not worrying about getting perfect horizons or lines in camera. You can get it 75% of the way there, and do the rest in post. A lot of times it can be hard to nail it exactly on such a small screen, and it takes precious time during your session.