The Importance of Horizon Lines in Landscape Photography

I’m a stickler when it comes to horizon lines in landscape photography. Where do you place the horizon line for the most emphasis and drama?

Beginner photographers will almost always place their horizon lines dead center of their images and not consider this element of composition in landscape photography. Not only is the line dead center, it is usually crooked as well. And the funny thing about it, they don’t notice it.

Your horizon lines in landscape photography are more important than you think. Correct placement of your horizon line can add drama and dimension to your image, or cause it to fall flat.

This image I took on the west coast of Florida. My intention was to highlight the thousands of shells all over the beach and to capture the waves as they covered the beach. The sky was pretty, but not my focus. I got really low to the ground and waited for the right moment to capture this shot. I used my extra wide Lumix 7-14 lens  for my Olympus mirrorless at its widest point (7mm equivalent to 14mm full frame).

It’s important for you as a photographer to put some thought in to the emphasis of  your image, the location of the horizon line, the type of lens, and your point of view. All of these elements will help tell your story. Don’t leave it to luck. Be very intentional about your photographic composition.

The Old Rule of Thirds

Believe it or not, the rule of thirds is still a very important element in landscape photography composition. The rule of thirds also applies to your composition when considering your horizon lines.

When you place your horizon right in the middle of a composition, you are telling your viewer that you don’t really know what is more important, the foreground or the sky. You are not committing to either one, so the potential drama in the photo falls flat.

Take this photo that I took during one of our recent Iceland Photo Expeditions. I had to make a decision. What was more dramatic? The wild waves or the amazing sky? If you notice the shot where the horizon line is cropped dead center, you notice the intensity of the waves, but the sky falls flat. In the final version of this image, I composed it with the rule of thirds in mind. The waves have an important place in this image, but the incredible texture and color of the sky is highlighted. I made the decision that the sky was a more important feature in this image.

Again, this was not a drive by shooting, but a very intentional decision to shoot it this way.

The moral of this story…

Think about what are the important elements in your photograph and compose around those elements. Don’t forget how important your horizon lines are, their placement and angle.

If you would like some help with your photographic vision, join us at Jansen Photo Expeditions for one of our private or group workshops in California, Oregon, Wyoming, Iceland, or the destination of your choice. You will have an enriching learning experience and go home with a camera full of prized photographs.

Did you like the subject of this article? Consider these blogs as well!

How to Take Advantage of the Sweet Light in Landscape Photography

5 Things You Need to Know About Dynamic Photography Landscapes

Creating Depth in Landscape Photography

Posted in

Holly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly's Free E-Book on "Landscape Photography and the Light" and find out about her newest workshops at


About Mark and Holly
Mark and Holly Jansen
Jansen Photo Expeditions
(805) 701-8807 or


Email Sign Up
Scroll to Top