7. The Rule of the Horizon Line

Following the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of the Gaze is the last classic rule: the Rule of the Horizon Line. This rule tells us that if we divide the shot into three equal parts, the horizon should be close to one of the two lines that divide the shot.

This rule can be used when shooting the photo and it can also be adjusted when cropping in the lab.

This rule is great for composing landscapes. Understand that a photograph with the horizon line right in the middle will provoke indifference. However, putting the horizon line higher will center attention on the land, and putting the horizon line lower will give the sky center stage.

The Rule of the Horizon Line and the Rule of Thirds try to avoid having the various important subjects of a photograph end up in a position in the shot that brings us close to a dangerous symmetry, which usually lurks in the center or middle of the photo.


Example 1 The Rule of the Horizon Line

One of the first photographs I shot the first time I took up a camera to take photos. It dates from 2001, from the top of Mount Pilatus in central Switzerland. We can see how the horizon line is situated above the center, giving prominence to the land, in this case Lake Lucerne, the mountains and the low clouds.

Mont Pilatus Lluis Ribes i Portillo

"Mont Pilatus", Lucerna (2001)

Example 2 The Rule of the Horizon Line

Sol Lluis Ribes i Portillo

"Sol", L'Albufera (2006)

This photograph of the dam in The Albufera, with one of the most amazing sunrises I’ve ever seen, is another example of where the Rule of the Horizon Line takes on importance. The horizon line is very low down, giving absolute prominence to the sky with its colors and fluffy clouds.

Tutorial developed by Lluís Ribes i Portillo. This work is under license Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial 3.0 Unported