"Dead on" means accurate or exact.

I don't find that the meaning fits its usage here well:

Avoid frontal shots with straight lines

Many camera phone lenses suffer from barrel distortion (straight lines appear to bow), especially when you get close to your subject. Avoid taking dead‑on photographs of building façades. Try to keep straight lines away from the edges of the frame, where the distortion will be greatest and most obvious. If you shoot from the ground up, buildings will probably appear to narrow near the top in your photograph. Unless you want this effect, photographing building corners and avoiding dead‑on shots of façades make perspective distortions less noticeable.
Source: The Camera Phone Book, by Aimee Baldridge

What does it mean in the text then? Thanks.

3 Answers 3


Dead on a target means facing or aiming precisely at that target, or precisely centered at that target.

ELU has a post about its etymology.


Dead-on in the camera phone sense occurs when the screen is parallel with the face of the building.

With common buildings made with vertical walls, dead-on means that you are holding your camera in such a way that you are looking horizontally, neither slightly upward nor slightly downward and with the plane of the phone's viewing screen parallel with the plane of a wall of the building.

You might also take a dead-on picture of a friend by lining up your shot so that you aim your phone so that the person is looking directly at the phone, much as though they are looking squarely into a mirror.

  • Could you be a little more elaborate? This is better as a comment.
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:32

It’s a bit of a strange usage, and I wasn’t able to find the intended meaning in any dictionaries. It’s an extension of the meaning you found. If you picture shooting something (other than pictures) at the front of the building, then shots from many angles would miss or glance off the surface while a shot directly facing the building will hit it squarely in the middle (accurately, exactly).

A dead-on shot would hit at 90°, like the red (left-most) line here:

Dead-on, straight-on, direct, directly facing:

Offset, corner, from the side:

  • Interestingly, as a British English speaker, it doesn't strike me as a particularly odd usage of the term, so I wonder if if it's one of these terms that's less common, albeit not unknown, in the US...
    – Gwyn Evans
    Jun 5, 2015 at 21:35

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