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How-to's

Levelling images

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)


Keywords: photography, sins, tips, fixes, composition, jrp, seven_deadly_sins, levelling_images

This is the second part of the series The Seven Deadly Sins in Photography

In my early days as photographer, although I gained much of a good instinct from my father and uncles, there were many things I did not notice or paid not enough attention to. And so I incurred in many sins that prevented me to move from nice photographs to good photographs.

This is another one of such sins.

The Second Sin:

Not been careful about levelling our images.

Martin Turner, professional photographer and Nikonians moderator wrote: “Lines which appear horizontal or vertical in real life work best in an image where they are either as they would be, or substantially at an angle, but not when they are just a couple of degrees off 'true'.” (Wiki/Composition)

One of the several reasons to use a tripod is that you have the opportunity to avoid this cardinal sin in photography by studying the image in your viewfinder before actually pressing the shutter.

01

Shoreline crooked and lighthouse “falling” to the right

 

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26 comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 8, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Gary. Glad to hear you found it informative. All images presented here as leveled were shot with a bubble level.

Gary Worrall (glxman) on November 8, 2017

Awarded for his high level skills, specially in Wildlife & Landscape Photography

Excellent work JRP, Very informative ........Gary

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on October 18, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Edward, thank you for your comment. Shooting sports is most challenging. Getting such images leveled is tougher due to the action. Glad to hear it was useful to you.

Edward Beckett (D7KRookie) on October 18, 2017

JRP, THNX for the article. This is one of the first comments I received when I first posted images here. It never dawned on me until pointed out. I shoot a lot of high school basketball, and don't really focus on leveling, more on anticipating and getting the action sequence I am looking for. In PP I always level all shots as the gyms always have some frame of reference. One of my first learning experiences as a Nikonian. There have been and will be many more. This is a great community. Ed

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on September 18, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Michaela, we can agree to disagree, but the idea was to use a controversial example ;-) Thank you very much for your comment.

Michaela Perata (mikiSJ) on September 18, 2017

I do not believe your interpretation of the curve of the coast in the cove in your first two images is correct. You are visualizing a curve in a landscape feature from an elevation above the level of the water in the cove. This is different than when examining your horizon image with the horizon centered in the image. If image was of the coast taken at the water's level, then I could see a correction of level being needed. but the correction is not needed in your first image. The view in your first image of the cove is more correct and pleasing than the corrected view in your second image of the cove.

Michael Hurder (MKHurder) on August 6, 2017

equilibrioception...absolutely! ;~)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on August 4, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Geoff, Yes, the viewfinder grid helps a lot. However, a bubble level never lies and the results satisfy most -if not all- viewers. As for varying opinions, of course there will always be different perceptions depending on training and equilibrioception sensitivity.

Geoff Baylis (GBaylis) on August 4, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Awarded for his generous and continuous sharing of his high level skills with the Nikonians community Writer Ribbon awarded for his contributions to the Nikonians Articles. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

Having the "Viewfinder Grid Display" set on "ON" will help ensure that you have the camera level so long as there are horizontal or vertical lines in your subject to match them against. For those that don't, like "Bandon straight" above, although a tripod with spirit levels will give you an image that gives a true representation of the original scene, it's often easier to see what 'looks right' in post processing with a grid displayed on screen (as in LR's Transform tool): somehow having the grid gives the brain a reference against which to judge the content of the image. However, if there are no obvious horizontal or vertical lines in the image, then what 'looks right' will vary from one critic to the next. Geoff

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on August 1, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Dan.

Dan Mitchell (danmitch) on August 1, 2017

Thanks for the article JRP - another reminder to me that while sometimes speed is necessary, actually those few moments before pressing the shutter are critical with just small movements left or right, or to correct a tilt, can make a massive difference.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on August 1, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Greg, perception and reality tend to differ. Yes, you loose pixels even when editing in RAW and more in jpeg. Thank you for your comment.

Greg Scholl (Beatkat) on August 1, 2017

Great and succinct points...a reminder to us all....but I can't help feeling a little of this is subjective...like the "fountain" shot. In my eye, it seems that level is actually somewhere in between the two shots posted...the second shot feels tilted a hair left , actually...depending on one's focal point...to Ernesto's point, if you're editing for tilt in RAW...are you losing data??

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 28, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Bonnie, yes, I took some swimming shots and they looked well when aligning with the end side of the pool, but after cropping the level seemed to be elsewhere. Tricky at some times indeed. Glad you liked it.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 28, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Marion, I hope you have upgraded your camera support system.

Bonnie Christensen (BChrisRad) on July 28, 2017

Donor ribbon awarded for her most generous contribution to the 2017 campaign.

Very timely article, Ramon. I have been trying to work on this with my photo taking. Thought about it a lot this past weekend when taking photos at a swim meet. Most of the pictures were taken on the fly, so thought about leveling mostly when editing the photos. What do I line up--edge of pool, legs of people on deck of pool, lane lines, shoulders of the swimmer, lane line at bottom of pool, etc.? For my eyes, different things needed lining up in different photos. Thank you for the article.

Marion Pavan (pqtrths) on July 27, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

JRP: Good points all. As I review my photo catalog, I've noticed (and tossed) the photos exhibiting the problems you're writing about including this one. I'd like to add that I pay attention to cold weather and its effects on the metal adjustments of my tripod head and before that an earlier aluminum tripod: in a Yosemite winter, the tripod, camera, lens after setup would begin leaning to one side as I was ready to capture the photo. Mp

Tom Jacob (sevendayimages) on July 27, 2017

Awarded for his continuous knowledge and images sharing with community members Awarded for his win at the Best of Nikonians 2016 Photo Contest

Part II and another great article written, full of usefull information for the beginner or the advanced. Well done Jrp. Now if you excuse me I have to go lie down a bit from seeing the tilted lines in the examples...I have the urge always to shake my head to the opposite side hoping they'll magically turn straight ;)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 26, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Wednesday, 26 July 2017 ) Yes, Aart. Most frequently an incorrect level is not the product of carelessness, but of untrained perception. If you draw a straight line from tip to tip (side wise) you will see it. Thank you for your comment.

Aart Louw (AartPapaya) on July 26, 2017

Most likely I am not very straight as in some of the pictures, for example, bird and fountain, I could not find the difference between the original and the corrected image. Thank you, for me a very topical problem.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 26, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Wednesday, 26 July 2017 ) Ernesto, yes! I should have included a remark on resolution lost when fixing in post-processing. Thank you.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 26, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Mark. Glad to hear you liked it.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on July 26, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Marsha. Most kind of you.

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on July 26, 2017

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian.

Great pointer Ramon. With today's technology it is easy to correct image tilt in post processing. But what some don't realize is that when you fix in post, you lose or throw away pixelos/image data. When you throw away pixels, you lose resolution, when you lose resolution, you lose detail, acuity, and sharpness. Not good. So try to get it right in the camera.

Mark Roberts (mrob) on July 25, 2017

Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

Like Marsha says great reminder of the details we need to be looking at. Those details really help newbies like me. Thanks

Marsha Edmunds (meadowlark2) on July 25, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for her support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Fellow Ribbon awarded for her continuous encouragement and meaningful comments in the spirit of Nikonians. Donor Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

Such a good reminder of a small detail if attended to can really make a difference in an image.

G