Do your pictures ever look a bit off-balance? One possible cause can be a crooked tripod.  Fortunately more and more cameras are adding a tool for leveling the camera called a virtual horizon.  It functions similarly to an electronic level.


In this image, the camera looked straight.  But checking the virtual horizon, I could tell the camera was slightly titled.  Turning this option on varies by camera, but it usually involves using a pre-assigned button or accessing a menu item.

The line across the center is yellow.  This indicates that the camera is not level. The displayed information is not recorded into the photo or EXIF data.  It is merely offered to help the photographer get a better shut and guide adjustments to the tripod legs or ball head.


Adjusting the height of a tripod leg I leveled the camera to get a better shot.  By slowly raising one leg, I can get the camera perfectly level. This method is best for panning shots or panoramas. You may also be able to adjust your ball head for a quick fix.


The virtual horizon graphic shows a green line when the camera’s position is aligned with the horizon.  This tool is invaluable for shooting landscapes and architecture as it ensures straight lines and minimizes perspective issues.

Note: This is just one way to level a camera.


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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. When I first purchased my D7100 I liked the virtual horizon in live view mode, then I found out I could get it in the viewfinder, great feature!

  2. I’ve used that occasionally and have found it helpful in certain circumstances. I realize that I tilt consistently to the right, so I have to be very cognizant of looking around the viewfinder very carefully to ensure that my photo is as straight as possible.

  3. […] move even slightly during the time the shutter is open. Also, this is a good time to use the virtual horizon if your camera has […]

  4. It might be handy to blog suggestions for the myriad people whose cameras do not have the built-in levels that Nikon provides.

  5. […] then adjust to place the horizon in the lower third and make it more level. If your camera has an artificial horizon built in, you’ll want to use it. Due to the ultra high ISO, this test image is really noisy, […]


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.