Tilted compositions / Dutch angle
I am not a huge fan of tilted images, and I see it as an unfortunate visual ‘tic’ when I notice entire wedding galleries by other photographers where pretty much all the images are tilted at a very specific angle. That just means that little thought went into composition, and that composition and holding the camera has become a reflex action .. which just happens to include a 30′ tilt to the camera. There is a rationale though behind tilted compositions / the Dutch angle – the balance of the photo.
I tend to keep horizontal and vertical lines exactly that way … horizontal or vertical. But sometimes a tilted image just has more impact than one that is completely level. And it has been a “feel” thing for me. I never bothered to analyze why or when these images seemed to work better, since I have an aversion to over-intellectualized analysis of photography … and in this case composition. I feel that composition should be an instinctive reaction to the scene and subject.
However, when an image has certain elements that fall along a strong perpendicular line, then a tilted image has a dynamic balance. Instead of things in the photo looking like they are about to topple over, there is an equilibrium.
Note how the model’s face, hand and foot all fall along a perpendicular line … and the composition which is quite dynamic, seems ‘at rest’.
- Photography composition: Tilted horizons
- Other articles on composition in photography
Books on photographic composition
About the Lighting in this photo
The lighting in the photo is simplicity itself – on-camera bounce flash in TTL mode. No diffuser cup, and no other kind of light modifier. Just the bare flash bounced behind me into this museum room.
Camera settings: 1/250 @ f4.5 @ 400 ISO
There is a specific reason for that shutter speed – 1/250th is the maximum flash sync speed of the camera I used. It is the optimal shutter speed to use when trying to balance flash with strong ambient light, such as the bright outdoors seen through the window – I didn’t want that to blow out completely.
On-Camera Flash Photography – revised edition
This book is explains a cohesive and thorough approach to getting the best from your on-camera speedlight.
Particular care was taken to present it all with a logical flow that will help any photographer attain a better understanding of flash photography.
You can either purchase a copy via Amazon USA and Amazon UK, or can be ordered through Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores. The book is also available on the Apple iBook Store, as well as Amazon Kindle. Also check out the Amazon Kindle store.
Learn more about how the cover image was shot.
7 Comments, Add Your Own
1Tom Ireland says
I have bookmarked a number of your tutorials and come back to them time and time again for refresher courses.
When I saw the tilted photo above, the vertical line created between her eyes, hand a foot screamed for that tilted composition. I’m glad to know that this treatment is an acceptable practice and there is technical documentation to back it up.
I really appreciate your work and your tutorials.
“I have an aversion to over-intellectualised analysis of photography”
Just a comment.
I’m have been a wedding photographer for almost 30yrs.
I said so because I have been part of most of the diferent trends in wedding photography , from Bill Stockwell ,Don Blair , Monte Zuker to David Jay and Yervant. Uffff , too much talented all
At the beguining of the digital revolution my photography spirit reborned due to the fact of new visions and the freedom it has.
All art has spirit dimension behind it and also has another side that can be intellectualised , the heart of an artist tend to express and then to comprehend and that is good and beautifull, so more artists can follow and create , more like a formula. You can work from your heart but you have to know what you are doing with your tools.
Thanks for all the valuable info you bring in your web tutorials , all of them make much sense to me.
God bless you all.
4Paulo Ramalho says
Perfect point of view, just like all the articles in this site. Congratulations and so many thanks for your support.
5Sheri Johnson says
I totally agree with what was said here about the line created here, there is balance and it is very strong.
I hope you don’t mind, I linked to one of the photos in my write-up here: https://cosplay.com/archive/thread/5r1mp8/how-to-tilted-compositions If you prefer, I can remove the link.
Thanks for the wonderful article!
7Neil vN says
Tim .. thanks! Not a problem. :)