body of water during golden hour
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on

Day Three: “Water” — Image Orientation

We all have stories about water: how it has saved or defeated us. How it reminds us of family vacations, outdoor adventures, or the hot summers of our childhood. How it symbolizes a place we’ve left behind, or one we dream of visiting.

Here are the bright blue waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, at the site of a shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda:

How will you interpret today’s theme?

Today’s Tip: Ever wonder whether a photograph will work better horizontally or vertically? After you snap your picture, rotate your camera and take a shot from the other orientation — horizontally if you first took the picture vertically, and vice versa. Which way works better?

Day Three: “Water” — Image Orientation

Humans have binocular vision — which means we have two eyes, adjacent to one another — and naturally scan a scene along a horizontal, rather than vertical, plane. When composing today’s photo of water, experiment with both horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait) orientations.

If you’re aiming for a wide establishing shot, what orientation works better? How does a vertical shot affect your scene? In today’s shipwreck image, the horizontal format captures the wide expanse of the sea in the background, which makes the focal point — the tip of the ship — all the more dramatic.

Before you draft your post, study the different shots you’ve taken. Publish your favorite version — or publish both and let your readers compare the two takes! Here’s a shot of a man jumping off a cliff in Ibiza, Spain — while a horizontal image could work, the vertical orientation adds drama by emphasizing the height of the cliff and the man’s plunge into the sea:

Vertical shot of a man jumping off a cliff at Cala Tarida on Ibiza by Cheri Lucas Rowlands.
Vertical shot of a man jumping off a cliff at Cala Tarida on Ibiza by Cheri Lucas Rowlands.

If you need inspiration, the submissions for this “One Shot, Two Ways” challenge show how others have tested horizontal and vertical versions of the same scene.

When photographic large bodies of water, the one thing most people miss is to watch the horizon line. If you follow the rule of thirds, then make sure the horizon is placed on one of the third quadrants. Like this:

Thank you for joining in this exciting new program of “basic photo instruction” and learning how to take the different types of photos. Today was day 3 of 10 days, so come back tomorrow!

Speaking of water, click on this link and see all the different products related to water. (click on the red: water).


Watching your horizon line is very important to creating a more stunning photo.

The horizon line is where the sky meets the ground. Or as the dictionary says it: the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet.

The big question you should ask, and see if it works for you is: Does the rule of thirds apply to the horizon? And if so, how?

The Rule of Thirds is the process of dividing an image into thirds, using two horizontal and two vertical lines. This imaginary grid yields nine parts with four intersection points. When you position the most important elements of your image at these intersection points, you produce a much more natural image.

So, what would happen if you put the horizon on the line of the grid? You are right, you would get a more pleasing photo. Here’s some examples:

Now with this, you can make your choice you want to do with the placement of the horizon, but, don’t put the horizon right in the middle. There is something telling in either the top half or the bottom half of photos. Use it.

Adam Williams explained it this way:

In the first example, we have roughly two-thirds foreground to one-third sky. This composition tends to accentuate depth in our photos, as the viewer can take the journey from the close details in the foreground all the way back to the main subject, Uluru.

Notice the sense of depth when compared to the other versions. Almost inviting us to walk into the frame.

In the second example, the ratios are reversed: we now have roughly two-thirds sky to one-third foreground. With more sky, this composition tends to communicate a sense of open space, while still allowing our viewer to journey from front to back.

Finally, if we go for a contemporary composition with mostly sky and almost no foreground, this composition really emphasises the wide open spaces of the Australian outback.


To use the placement of your horizon, make sure the horizon line is in one of the “rule of thirds” line. Can you break the rules? Of course, but, beware it might only be you that likes it, so, pick which one is the best.

Here are just a couple of more horizon photos using the rule of thirds:

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