Camera Bubble Level – How To Keep The Horizon Straight

How to use a camera bubble level and set that horizon straight.

(This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com and Adobe.com. If you buy from them through these links, I may receive a commission.)

Closeup of a 2-axis hotshoe camera bubble level
Close-up of my 2-axis hotshoe camera bubble level

I bet you have seen photos with slanted horizon lines.

They don’t look very professional do they?

If it’s a picture of a lake or some other type of still water it looks like the water is about to run out of the photo.

It’s a thing that’s easy to overlook when you are so focused on your main subject that what happens in the background is kind of left out of the process.

I have done this often myself and there are remedies to correct this kind of thing in editing software like Adobe Lightroom.

Still, fixing trouble at the time of shooting is usually the preferred way as long as it’s possible.

Well, this problem is possible to correct.

How?

By using a bubble level (aka spirit level).

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not one those long bubble levels that carpenters use, or those you use to make sure your picture frames hang straight on your wall.

These are way simpler, smaller and cheaper.

All the following tips about using bubble and electronic levels require that you use your camera on a tripod.

Hotshoe bubble levels

2-axis camera bubble level attached to camera.

These are the smallest and cheapest kind of camera levels and they fit nicely in the hotshoe of your camera.

They come in a few different versions, from the simple hot shoe cover type, to the 2-axis and 3-axis types.

2-axis hotshoe camera bubble level attached to my Pentax K-7 camera in a vertical configuration
My 2-axis camera bubble level attached to my Pentax K-7 in a vertical configuration.

The added 2nd and 3rd axis on the bubble levels allow for greater precision.
Moving the camera until all the bubbles are centered between the markings means the camera is perfectly level.

2-axis hotshoe camera bubble level attached to a Pentax K-7 camera in a horizontal configuration.
My 2-axis camera bubble level attached to my Pentax K-7 in a horizontal configuration

Built-in electronic levels

Some modern cameras have electronic levels built in, and you can look in the viewfinder or at the live-view screen to see if the camera is level.

This method is ok, but I find the electronic level in my Pentax K-5 to react a bit slower than the bubble level.

This camera is a few years old now, and this may have been improved in models that are more recent.

Although this is a minor gripe, it can be a bit annoying if you’re trying to set up your level camera fast.

Tripods and Tripod-heads with built-in bubble levels

Some tripod heads come with a bubble level built in. They are usually small and hard to read accurately, but can work in a pinch.

Some tripods come with a bubble level at the top of its leg section.

This will do nothing to help prevent the slanted horizon, unless the camera is attached directly to the leg portion of the tripod (a tripod head is usually mounted between here).

However, this type of built in level will help you make sure that the leg section is level.

This can help make sure that the weight is centered over the legs and it will reduce the risk of your tripod tipping over.

 

If all else fails, you can find straightening tools in most decent photo-editing software.

I use Adobe Lightroom and this software makes it easy to straighten the horizon (or even objects within the image using the Upright function).

You can check it out at this link.

 

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