Composition Tip: The horizon job

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In sailboat racing, a horizon job is when you leave everybody in the dust. You’re so far ahead, you’re on a different leg of the course from everybody else. Or for distance races, you’re over the horizon.

In sailboat racing photography, a horizon job is what you do to thousands of photos with your photo editing software after a day on the water. It’s not nearly as glamorous; it’s just plain tedious. But it’s absolutely necessary, unless you get the horizons right when you take the shots, of course. After nine years on the job, we’ve gotten pretty good at keeping them straight, which helps to minimize the time we need to spend editing.

A surprisingly large portion of the general public does not notice when horizons are unnaturally crooked in sailing photos. I’ve seen large, expensively framed photos on display as decor at yacht clubs with crooked horizons, for instance. I’ve seen major boating brands’ marketing departments publish photos with crooked horizons. And if you look at iStock and search “sailing,” about one-third of the photos that come up on the first page have crooked horizons. Some people think its artsy. We don’t agree.

But it’s hard to take photos with straight horizons. You really have to think about it while you take the photo, as it’s surprisingly easy to concentrate only on the boat and end up with a 45-degree horizon in the background. Like everything, it takes practice. And until you get better at it, you’ll be spending hours on the computer doing the horizon job!

Here’s the image above, the way it should be:

Much better!

PhotoBoat

PhotoBoat

PhotoBoat.com owners Allen and Daniela Clark have been photographing regattas since 2005. The boating industry relies on the team to consistently provide high quality images without impacting the racing.