Photography Tips – Perspective

Get a Fresh Perspective

I changed perspective by getting lower and closer.
I changed perspective by getting lower and closer.

You’ve undoubtedly heard this expression, “get a fresh perspective,” but in photography, changing perspective can truly give you a new perspective.

I had a young photographer in one of my classes just tell me that she now had a new “favorite” type of photography after doing an assignment that involved taking pictures of the same still life setup from different angles and distances. More about that assignment later.

The object of this post is simple: If you ever get bored with the kinds of shots you are taking, or you can’t decide what to shoot, simply shoot with perspective in mind.

What is Perspective?

Perspective can mean a couple of things in photography. In fact, there are some who think about something like the picture below when they hear the term. This is a picture using Forced Perspective, which is manipulating two or more subjects to look like they are out of proportion to one another. Take a look at this picture.

104/365: Eiffel crushing

Two guys appear to be holding the Eiffel Tower from toppling over. (Picture by Ben Smith, on Flickr.)

These kinds of pictures are pretty cool, and, honestly, it’s not that hard to do. You just need some patience and very little know-how. Kids absolutely love to take these kinds of pictures. And it is a great way to get them motivated to take more photos and expand their knowledge.perspective1

But in most types of photography, age is not a limiting factor. Adults can have fun too, as you can see from the Eiffel Tower picture above.

So, after showing my students the picture of the Eiffel Tower being squished by two mere mortal hands, I set them loose to take some similar photos.

The results were fantastic! And I’m not just talking about image quality, because many of the pictures were blurry and poorly exposed.

What really happened that was exciting is that they got totally into the assignment. They loved the idea, and they loved their own results.

I highly recommend doing this on your own or with your kids. It is an invigorating exercise – creating excitement and energy in your photography experience. It is really good if you are struggling with “brain lock” about what to photograph next.

How This Picture Was Made

So, the idea is to position one person or object far away from the camera and another much closer to the camera.

The photographer become a director, moving people or objects to just the right place so the picture will “appear” real.

The most difficult part is getting both people (or objects) to be in focus at the same time. This is done by not having the camera too close to the closer subject. Instead, use the zoom lens of the camera to bring everything closer (even though it is not close at all).

Here is an example of a picture that is not quite perfect.

Tree/people perspective photographyIf the photographer had stepped back from the “little tree” (it’s really just a weed) and used the zoom on the camera, the two girls would have been more in focus. As it is, they are quite blurry. But the idea is excellent.

Changing Your Perspective

While forced perspective shots are very fun and exciting, there is a another kind of perspective photography that is quite different from forced perspective. What you do is change the way you see, compose, and photograph the subject or subjects.

One easy way to get started is to use still life or small objects. Take some articles from around your house and arrange them on a table. We used some books and bottles, musical instruments, and pine cones.

Here is one example of the resulting pictures.

bottles with perspectiveThe original scene looked like this:

original bottle pictureDon’t you agree that the change in angle and distance from the objects made the picture more interesting???

Take another look at the close-up of the bottles. Can you see that the bottles kind of tilt into the middle of the photo? That distortion adds interest to the picture. The entire scene requires the viewer to look closer to figure out what was done to get the photo… “Exactly what did the photographer do in order to grab my interest like this?”

Another Look At Perspective

During this assignment, we had the added benefit of having lots of art equipment laying around, but we also had some old cameras.

Here is a series of photos taken by one of the students using an ancient camera as the subject.

old camera - normal viewThe shot above is a nice picture because of the subject – an extremely old camera – but other than that, there is not much to hold one’s interest.

When the camera is photographed from a different angle and from much closer, we have a new perspective. Here it is…

Old Camera up closeAnd here’s another one with some overexposure due to backlighting. It is a unique shot because of the highlight and the composition, having the subject off center.

Old Camera Lens - a new perspectiveOne more shot, taking this idea of changing angles to the extreme. This time, the student got down below the old camera. It definitely makes you take a second look, doesn’t it?

New perspective of the old camera - from down lowTake Your Photography To The Next Level

As you read and study about photography, you see plenty of technical writing focusing on technique and analysis of the way a camera operates. What shutter speed is best? Choose the right f-stop. What about white balance?

Sometimes this information is so scientific and obscure that it makes one’s head hurt. Using the creative side of the brain allows you (or your students) to take some excellent pictures without having to get a degree in engineering or computer science.

It’s fun, exciting, and it keeps us coming back for more.