Horizons & Reflections

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Lydia Bennett 9 months, 1 week ago.

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    Lydia Bennett

    I have a few questions about horizons and reflections that have been on my mind from time to time, so I’m finally getting around to asking them!

    1 – Is there a general rule about where the horizon should be in relation to the head of a person in a picture? Occasionally when I take a picture of a person in front of a body of water, it just bugs me where the horizon ended up being placed in the photo. For example in the first picture I attached here, to me it looks like the horizon is cutting through his head. There have been a few other times this has ended up happening and it irks me, so I thought maybe there’s some principle I should know.

    2 – I know that a horizon should typically be placed on a third. Are there times that you place the horizon directly center for symmetry, like when there are strong reflections in the water? I’ve done this sometimes, and haven’t been able to decide whether it looks good that way or not! …See example 2, although it’s not the best example!

    3 – This is something I feel like I should know the answer to, but, what is it that makes reflections in water extremely strong sometimes, and barely visible other times? Today I saw a body of water with reflections so crystal clear it looked like a mirror! It was beautiful.


    James Staddon

    Hmm. My initial thoughts:

    1 – I don’t know of any “principle” per se of where horizons should be, other than that if it irks you there’s probably a reason why so therefore avoid it. 🙂 I’m thinking the principle is that you want attention to go to the subject, so if there’s something that distracts from that attention, then find a way around it.

    2 – Tools like the rule of thirds and horizon placement are to help beginners think outside the box. If you’re thinking about the horizon placement, it means you’re thinking outside the box, so the tool has done it’s intended job and it’s now up to you to place the horizon in a place that looks good for the situation, whether it’s on a third, in the center or anywhere else. So yes, I often place the horizon in the center for simple or energetic symmetry like you’re shot! I think it’s well composed! If the “horizon” was on the lower third, then it would be a different picture. The subject would be the oldness of the textured wood. If the “horizon” was on the top third, then it would be yet another picture. The subject would be the abstract textures in the water.

    3 – I love this subject! Have you read this yet? It might have the beginning of some answers: https://www.lenspiration.com/2017/06/how-to-photograph-tack-sharp-reflections/


    Lydia Bennett

    Thanks @jamesstaddon!

    1 & 2 – that’s what I was generally thinking, just needed confirmation. 🙂

    3 – That answered the question to a certain degree, but I was more specifically wondering what causes reflections to seem almost non-existent at times, and extremely vivid at other times on the exact same body of water, not just when photographing but in general. I’m getting the idea that it’s angle of light and stillness of water?


    James Staddon

    Hmm, I’ll have to keep this in mind as I observe reflections from now on. I don’t know any science behind it if there is any. From what I can think of right now, it seems like there would be 4 main factors:

    1) The stillness of the surface (non-flowing bodies of water, amount of wind)
    2) The direction of light on the object being reflected (a clear object will reflect clearly…I think of clear objects as being under side lighting vs back lighting)
    3) Darkness of the water (I’m thinking like Bahamas vs Okefenokee, crystal clear vs dark, murky)
    4) Cleanness of the surface


    Lydia Bennett

    Well, that answers my question! Thanks 🙂

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