My art professor used to always tell us that “perspective is a disease of the eye”—his point being that forcing everything to fit an arbitrary rule causes us to always see things the same way. Every time I’m on flickr, I can hear him saying this as I’m constantly running into people who instantly judge and dismiss photos for completely arbitrary things like canted horizons, lens distortion, lack of sharpness, etc. etc.
Now, it’s one thing if someone’s incapable of ever getting a horizon level or if every shot uses a gimmick like fisheye distortion or blur. But many times I’m seeing the comments in one-off cases. Heck, many times I receive those comments when I’ve intentionally shot something that way. I often shoot things off-kilter and I’m not wedded to perfect focus or lack of distortion.
At the same time, yeah, the constant criticism of this kind of shooting has made me think about exactly why I frame certain things the way I do.
REASON ONE — laziness
Sometimes I can’t be bothered to frame something perfectly level. Maybe I’m in a hurry, but often it’s just easier to make it obviously intentionally slanty rather than looking like I tried to make it level and failed. It’s also a lot easier to shoot interesting lines out of the corners of the frame rather than trying to line up everything parallel to the edges while keeping the camera level. One of these days I’ll use a tripod and actually compose carefully.
REASON TWO — cheap zoom
Originally a digital SLR phenomenon for me, the nice thing about a crop sensor is that I get some free extra reach. And what was the first thing I did with that reach? Start turning my camera so that I can squeeze out every last angle of view out of my lens. I do it with my wide angles and I do it with my telephotos.
The next step of this is to start doing it with all my cameras by coupling it with foot zoom. Want to get closer and fill the frame more? Better start angling the camera so the subject fits.
REASON THREE — focus point limitations
My D40x has a measly 3 focus points. When I have an auto-everything lens mounted, I tend to have one of the two side points active. And I tend to keep it active and trained on my subject while just paying attention to its location in the frame rather than looking at the horizon or anything.