Perspective is a huge topic with many parts. All are relevant in one way or another to photography. To begin with, let’s focus on perspective as the angle or point of view from which you take a picture.
What does the average person do when they take a picture? They put their main subject(s) in the middle of the frame, snap the picture, and go happily along their way. There is nothing wrong with that. Such an approach holds real value for the individual.
Consider the picture of my spouse, son, and I during a trip to Niagara Falls. This is one of my favorite pictures of the three of us. Why? Because it presents a moment associated with fond memories of enjoying time together as a family at an amazing natural wonder. I remember when it was taken, by whom it was taken, and how much fun we all had.
But, no one will be beating down our door to purchase a copy. Ignore for a moment that people generally would not be purchasing a family photo of someone else’s family. The picture itself is technically horrible. The focus is soft. The shadows on the faces are distracting. Our group is plopped dead center of the frame in true snapshot fashion. One of my favorite family pictures? Yes. A piece of photographic art? Hardly.
So, let’s talk about this little fella. He’s awfully cute, but the picture is kind of … meh.
So, what are some simple things the photographer could have done to make this picture better?
By scooching down, the photographer changes the perspective from shooting the image standing up and placing the critter in the middle of the frame to something closer to the eye level of the chipmunk, thus bringing the viewer more inside the furry guy’s world.
The photographer also placed the chipmunk slightly to the right of center, thus giving the chipmunk space “to move into”, thus making the image a little more dynamic. (see the Rule of Space and the Rule of Thirds).
Photographers can actually up their game one more notch by considering a “worm’s eye view” of the scene.
You’re most of the way there already, so why not plop down the rest of the way and lay flat on your stomach.
The photographer is able to best immerse the viewer in the chipmunk’s world by laying flat and zooming in a little with the lens. Again, the subject is placed slightly right of center and is looking into space within the frame (Rule of Space). The shallow depth of field blurs the foreground and the background producing a frame that emphasizes the subject.
Shooting from above can provide a unique perspective from which someone has not generally been seen. The young lady pictured here possessed a beautiful, charismatic smile and eyes that sparkled with energy. Yet, she reported that she never cared for full length pictures of herself as she felt her body type was incompatible with traditional poses. As will be discussed in our section on portraiture, shooting from above helps stretch out the body. Add some bubbles and creative sue of shadows, and VOILA, a portrait that challenged her to see herself and her beauty the way others do. She was a lot of fun to have in our studio.
Photographers will also sometimes shoot from a higher position, especially in combination with use of negative space, to make a subject appear small and powerless.
Of course, shooting from above is not restricted to pictures of humans. Flowers, spiral staircases, and cityscapes shot from above often produce impressive results.
Shooting from below, flat on one’s stomach, or laying on one’s back are simple, yet powerful, tools in the fearless photographer’s toolkit. Bug Light in South Portland exists as one of the more ordinary lighthouses that inhabits Maine’s Coast. There are several spots from which one can take an acceptable snapshot.
Mousing over the picture reveals what happens when one lays flat and images the scene at an upward angle from ground level. A more visually interesting image is produced and effective use of objects in the foreground provide a sense of depth and scale.