With camera in hand, you’re headed out the door to take some great pictures. You’ve already learned about using perspective in your photographs, so let’s take your photography to the next step by going full tilt.
Camera tilt means to change any of the horizontal or vertical lines in the frame to diagonal lines to add visual interest to the image.
As you photograph your subject, keep in mind that your camera doesn’t process information like your brain does. If something is off balance when you see it, your eyes send a signal to your brain that keeps the information in the right perspective. If you photograph it, your camera would capture the information in its unbalanced state.
To better understand this, as you read this paragraph, bend your neck and touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Notice that although you’ve changed your perspective or view of the monitor screen, your eyes can still read the sentences in a straight line. If you were to take a photograph of your screen from this position, the image the camera would record would be sideways. (For more information about understanding relative positioning in your photography, search the internet or local library for articles on perspective control.)
Use this knowledge to your advantage to compose more dynamic and interesting images with camera tilt. You can achieve camera tilt through a couple of techniques:
Turn the camera around the lens axis: The lens axis is the line from the center of the subject to the center of the frame. This technique, called a “dutch tilt,” turns vertical and horizontal lines into diagonal lines, making the image more dramatic. Remember that the tilt should draw your eye from one corner of the frame to the subject.
Tilt the camera up or down: Doing this will alter the perspective of the subject as it is placed in the frame. Depending on the degree of tilt, the vertical or horizontal lines will converge, giving the image a new and interesting composition.
Digital Tip: Did you forget to tilt? Using your photo editing program on your computer, you can digitally create the tilted look. Rotate the image 20 degrees counter-clockwise and re-crop the photo to create a tilted look without re-shooting the photograph.
There are “do’s and don’ts” of how to successfully compose an image using the tilt technique. Here are some additional tips that will help you avoid tilting mishaps:
Always rotate away from a subject that has a natural tilt. Rotating with it will give the impression that the object is tipping over.
Don’t “cut” the image in half by creating a diagonal line corner to corner in the frame.
Keep the camera tilt rotation between 15-35 degrees. Anything less than 15 degrees or more than 35 degrees will look like a mistake on the final image.
Flip through any magazine and you’ll notice how many professional photographers use this tried-and-true technique. Whether you “tilt as you take” or edit the photo after the fact, you’ll quickly see how using angles can improve your photography.