Taking better photos doesn’t always have to mean learning fancy techniques or settings on your camera. Simply changing the way you look at your subject or scene can make all the difference. Special rules don’t even have to be considered, though it helps. By playing with perspective, you can draw more attention to your photos than simply pointing and shooting.
There can be a few different ways you can experiment with perspective to take better pics. This can be changing your position to one that isn’t commonly viewed or just using objects in the scene to change your perspective. The idea is to take fewer “touristy” photos and more interesting ones. I forgot who said this, and I’m paraphrasing, but it stuck with me: an audience should not know how tall a photographer is by looking at his or her photos. In other words, don’t stand as you normally would and snap your photo. This is too common and uninteresting. Kneel, lie down, change your angle, etc. to make things appear more interesting.
By changing your physical position, you’re altering the perspective of your shot. It is a difficult habit to break of standing as you normally would and snap a photo — I still do this too often and I’ve been shooting for more than 5 years. However, my best pieces are from when I broke this habit and altered my position. The easiest way to get into this habit is to simply kneel down and compose your shot. This is how I approached my award winning “Empty Dock” photo shown to the left. The posts sticking up are not as tall as they appear and the lower angle exaggerates the length of the dock. By taking this photo from a lower angle, everything magically appears larger. The wide angle I used on my lens adds to this effect. Leading lines and symmetry also played a part in this composition, though the perspective may have contributed most to the aesthetics of this photo. Editing this photo in post offered more creative options, but we won’t focus on this today.
This also applies to macro photos as well. Most photos of flowers that I see, for instance, appear to be shot from above looking down at a flower. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it’s a very common perspective. I still shoot this way as well, but I also try to alter my perspective as well. A side view gives your audience something else to see that my not be as common. The flower to the right is shot from a low angle and from the side. This adds depth and shows detail in the petals that isn’t usually captured. The low angle also enabled me to capture depth with the background in addition to the flower by capturing a second flower behind it.
Perspective doesn’t always have to mean the angle at which you shoot your photos from either. It can be the way you observe the scene as well. The idea is to view the scene differently than others. It can be difficult to be creative in this regard, however. I find this challenging for myself, but make it a goal to achieve as often as possible.
The photo to the right is a recent example of how I saw my scene differently than those that may have been there. The photo is from a concert I attended. But rather than capturing the show, this photo captures a fan’s experience, capturing the show through someone’s smartphone. While this may not be of much interest to the artist performing, it does capture the ambiance of the venue and show as well as experiencing the show from a fan’s perspective rather than a professional’s perspective. I also tried to recreate the fan’s experience by capturing the performing artist interacting with a fan in the photo to below. This gives the viewer a perspective of being in the audience at the show as the singer reaches out toward the camera. I didn’t do anything fancy here other than anticipate the action while keeping perspective in mind.
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