Lesson 109: Getting It Straight

Before we start, grab your smartphone, open the camera app, and follow along.  All smartphone cameras will have the functionality I describe; yours might look different. If you know the functionality exists, you can find it, figure out how to use it, then practice it so it becomes an action you can take when the great picture you want presents itself.

Getting it straight

Obtaining a level picture on a smartphone camera can be challenging because the screen has no visible reference lines.  Being a few degrees off of level may not be noticeable when you capture a picture, but it becomes bothersome when later viewing the image.

Luckily your phone can produce a rule-of-thirds grid for you! While this grid is meant to be used as a composition aid, it also produces reference lines you can use to make sure your camera is level.

Here is how to turn it on: 

Navigate to and open the Camera app

Tap the Settings icon in the upper left corner (circled in red)

Swipe to and tap the switch next to "Grid lines"

Navigate back to the viewfinder to see the horizontal and vertical lines on the screen.

Once this feature is turned on, you will see the grid lines until you turn them off.

"Grid lines" turned on in the camera app Settings.

Now use the rule-of-thirds grid to obtain level photographs on your cellphone camera.  

Position eyes, the horizon, or some element of the image that should be level along one of the horizontal lines.   


Position some element of the image that should be straight up and down along the vertical lines.

Easy Peasy

We will discuss using the rule-of-thirds in a future composition lesson.

This image would have been difficult to level without the grid lines. The camera needed to be level horizontally and vertically.  The vertical lines will only be aligned if the camera looks straight on, not tilted up or down

Pro tip

Your artistic insight might want an image that isn't level, and that is OK.  The grid lines can still help you to decide how out of level you want your image to be.