Beginner How important is it to have your camera level?

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jason
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#1
Ive always considered keeping the horizon level, across the scene, but how important is it to have the camera level front to back?
Its something ive never considered when taking a shot, unless its an obvious low level shot looking skywards.
But for landscapes and shots of scenes, Ive normally got the horizon level and all other factors sorted, but totally ignored the camera front to back angle.
What difference can this make to shots?
Im pretty much tripod mounted 99% of the time.
 
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Ian
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#2
As soon as you tilt your camera up and down, weird things start happening to verticals. There's no "right" answer to this of course because your own creativity should dictate your final image "look". It's one benefit of tilt-shift lenses though if you do want to correct it (in-camera).
 
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Alistair
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#5
The more you tilt the camera back, the more your verticals will stop being vertical and become angled. This is important in architecture for sure and in landscapes to a degree, but much of that can be down to your artistic vision and personal taste.
It's most noticable when shooting with wide angle lenses, but can also be noticed when shooting close to your subject.
Sometimes just changing your height to reduce the angle can help massively, but it does depend on your subject and distance from it.

Angled down with a wide angle lense, emphasising the foreground.
Epic Glencoe
by Alistair Beavis, on Flickr

Angled up from low down, emphasising the height and shape of the building.
Severndroog in the sun
by Alistair Beavis, on Flickr

You also have to think about what the angle brings to the composition. This was angled down a bit (from high up above Oslo), but still has loads of sky. Too much sky, or too much foreground?
Oslo Fjord
by Alistair Beavis, on Flickr
 

Canon Bob

Loves the Enemy
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Bob
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#6
I think that you're limiting yourself by sticking to 'rules' like that - if you composed intuitively it might free you up.
I don't stick to the rule, just more inclined to go that way rather than be concerned about the camera's azimuth.
 
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Tim
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#7
Correcting verticals can be done in post if you wish. Generally I want verticals straight and not converging or diverging - it’s a matter of taste and style.
 
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Phil
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#8
The more you tilt the camera back, the more your verticals will stop being vertical and become angled. This is important in architecture for sure and in landscapes to a degree
And often ignored in portraiture where it’s even more important.

It takes people a lot of trial and error to realise what effect tilting a camera or changing it’s position can have on the shape of a subject.
 

TheBigYin

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Mark
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#9
And often ignored in portraiture where it’s even more important.

It takes people a lot of trial and error to realise what effect tilting a camera or changing it’s position can have on the shape of a subject.
hence all the people in portraits with lightbulb shaped heads because the photographer's using too wide a lens, too near, and tilted downwards. :)


I think keeping the plane of the sensor vertical is a good start towards a neutral image - obviously, this is why cameras with "movements" and more recently tilt-shift lenses for the subminiature formats everyone shoots now came about.

But, as with everything, knowing the "rules" or what gives a "neutral looking" image, is a starting point for the photographers creative process - he might WANT someone in the photo to look like a Mekon, or a Conehead - he might want the tall building to taper radically and look like it goes to a vanishing point, or he might want the building to "loom over" the viewpoint and seem opressive and stifling. That's what creativity is about - and the skill in photography is knowing HOW to manipulate the equipment to get the artistic effect that's in your head. :)

Or you can just photoshop it. :(
 
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Nod

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Nod (NOT Ethel!!!)
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#10
I like any shots of buildings to look like they did when I was there - slightly converging verticals at a "normal" distance, with more or less perspective convergence the closer/further I am. Corrected verticals just look wrong to me (when overdone!)

The light bulb head tends to be a selfie thing.

Horizons should be level, although it seems fashionable to have wonkiness built in to motorsport shots at the moment - hopefully a fad soon to die out!
 
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Alan
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#11
I just go for what gives me the look I want. People on internet forums may quibble but who cares about them :D

Re comments about portraiture, I once took a picture of a then GF of mine with a wide angle lens, low down and pointed upwards to make her legs look longer. She was very very happy with it :D
 
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Phil
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#13
I just go for what gives me the look I want. People on internet forums may quibble but who cares about them :D

Re comments about portraiture, I once took a picture of a then GF of mine with a wide angle lens, low down and pointed upwards to make her legs look longer. She was very very happy with it :D
As she should have been (presuming she had good legs).

Exactly the point of my post ;) understanding the relationship between perspective and proximity.
 
OP
OP
jpgreenwood
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jason
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#14
The reason I asked this question was recently, at my local camera club, we went on a street shoot, long exposures of car light trails. The "old" guy running the workshop stopped me from taking a shot saying my camera wasn't level. I was pointing straight down the high street but we were slightly elevated from the road. I never thought it mattered as others have said. As long as the shot is composed correctly and any verticals are sorted if required. Nice to see a good discussion going on.
 
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Alistair
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#15
The reason I asked this question was recently, at my local camera club, we went on a street shoot, long exposures of car light trails. The "old" guy running the workshop stopped me from taking a shot saying my camera wasn't level. I was pointing straight down the high street but we were slightly elevated from the road. I never thought it mattered as others have said. As long as the shot is composed correctly and any verticals are sorted if required. Nice to see a good discussion going on.
He would have hated this then:

Hellish Traffic by Alistair Beavis, on Flickr

I was most definitely pointing down from above.

Sounds like someone stuck in their ways and unable to understand that 'rules' can be broken.
 
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