Now, I don’t consider myself any sort of professional photographer. I enjoy it as a hobby, and although my energy has waned for it as I’ve expended most of it getting our new house habitable, I do think I’m pretty decent. Good enough that people have paid me to take pictures of their kids, that photographs I’ve given as gifts have elicited tears (good ones, you smart alecks), and I’ve made enough cash selling stock photography to finance all the photography toys I’ve wanted to buy in the last three years, plus enough beyond that to fund some random eBay purchases. I have a long way to go and a ton to learn before I’d considered myself really talented, but at the risk of sounding pompous, I do have decent skills and a good eye. So I’m not just Monday-morning quarterbacking here.
What irks me to no end are photographs that’s aren’t straight. Now, I’m not talking just a little crooked because of movement, or trying to get a quick shot. I do that all the time and it’s easy enough to fix. What I’m talking about is the picture where the photographer frames the shot, and then says to himself, “Hey, what can I do to make this more artsy? I know, I’ll turn the camera 45 degrees!” and then snaps the picture. Buildings become Leaning Towers of Pisa, horizons become ramps, and vertigo is induced in anyone who looks at more than a couple of these pictures in a row.
It is probably completely unfair, and I’m sure there are plenty of people that wouldn’t agree with me, but it vexes me to no end. I hate looking at pictures and needing to crane my neck to figure out what I’m looking at and then to continue to regard the picture and look at what I want to look at. And then I just get frustrated and start mumbling incoherently about horizons.
I am in no way against playing with perspective. In fact, I’m pretty much in favor of the idea. But there are better ways to do it, mostly playing with point of view. Get higher. A step, a ladder, a building all help. Get lower. Sit, kneel, lay on your belly. Get over, get under, get behind, get on top.
But keep the camera level! Seriously. Keep it level. If you think turning your camera is the only way to make your photo seem artsy, or edgy, then you’re not doing it right. A flower doesn’t magically get more beautiful if you look at it crooked. A person doesn’t become more alluring or memorable at a 45-degree angle. Your job as a photographer is to accurately capture a moment, a sliver of time, to allow the people who look at your work to be transported back to that nanosecond, to see what you saw. You don’t want your artistic legacy to be a pandemic of stiff necks.