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Perspective can certainly be a slightly confusing subject to wrap your head around but fundamentally it refers to the way in which our 3 dimensional world is represented in a 2 dimensional format.
Correctly using perspective allows photographers to represent a sense of depth in their work and gives the viewer the visual clues they need to understand the spatial relationships between the objects in frame. This allows a 2 dimensional image to look as though it is actually 3 dimensional.
There are many ways that it can be used to achieve different effects. For example, by changing the perspective in an image an object can be made to look smaller than it is in real life, and vice versa.
A photographer can also change the perspective in an image by altering the angle at which they shoot the photo. This changes the point of view and consequently the relationship between the viewer and subject of the photo.
To put it simply; just like you can use a motion blur effect to give the viewer the impression of motion in a photo you can use perspective to create a sense of depth in the image.
How Do You Change Perspective in Photography?
There are many things you can do to change the perspectives within your photography and when used to good effect it can transform the image entirely. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of taking all your photos from eye level but you could be missing out on a whole world of creative possibilities if you only stick to this.
One of the easiest ways to immediately alter the perspective in a photo is to move around the scene. This instantly changes the relationship between your camera and the objects that it is capturing. In many cases you don’t even need to move very far and a slight change of the angle at which you’re shooting can have a huge impact on the outcome of the photo.
Forced perspectives are one of the most common ways that you can easily portray powerful perspectives in your work. This is a classic technique in which you strategically position objects in the frame at different distances from the lens.
For instance, we’ve all seen holiday photos of somebody ‘holding up’ the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Of course, the person is not actually holding up the tower but they have positioned themselves in the foreground and the photographer has taken the shot from up close, making sure that the perspective makes it look as though they are much larger than they really are! This is a perfect case of forcing the perspective and although it has excellent comedy value when taken to the extreme it can also be a way of introducing new perspectives to your work.
To use this technique you need to position one point of interest in the foreground and one in the background. You can also use features of the landscape in the same way – for instance a tree might frame a mountain vista, in which case the tree will look far bigger than it really is compared to the mountain range! You can also use doorways, window frames, openings in fencing or anything that catches your eye and builds on the narrative in the photo.
In the example of using forced perspective below the arch of the window to frames the river view and buildings in the background. The contrasting elements of the image work well together to make a great composition with its highly engaging use of perspective.
Move Left and Right.
When you spot a great picture, or are setting up a shot, why not try moving to the left and the right a little? Even moving a few feet can have a massive influence on the perspectives of the photo – particularly if you are relatively close to your subject, such as in portraiture.
When you move to the left or right the background won’t be too affected by the spatial relationship between the subject and the background but the subject and the viewer will shift considerably. Remember, the closer you are to the subject the more effect it will have.
Move Up and Down.
You can either move the position of the camera by tilting it upwards or downwards, or actually move yourself up or down to significantly change the perspective in your photo. This can have some very interesting effects in your work.
In the photo above shows the picture with the perspective pointed upwards. This gives the viewer the impression that they are looking up the escalator and part of the scene. Perspectives have an incredibly important influence over the entire ‘feel’ of the image and when you use it in your work it gives you plenty of new options to play with.
To take this to its extreme you can actually lie down on the ground and shoot upwards! It’s amazing what you might see and your audience will be drawn in as well because it’s quite rare that we actually look directly upwards in our day to day lives!
Always Work with Angles – Up, Down, Left and Right!
Whenever you are shooting a photo you should constantly be shifting your position, changing the angles at which you shoot and looking for that perfect perspective! Getting into the habit of doing this when you’re setting up a shoot is a great way to bring interesting new points of view into your work.
Composition is Key When Working with Perspectives.
When you are using or experimenting with new perspectives don’t forget your basic rules of composition! A well composed photo taken from an interesting perspective will add so much to the final piece that it will really stand out as an epic photo!
The Rule of Thirds is a fantastic guide which will help you figure out where to place points of interest in the frame – if, for example, you were using a forced perspective.
Leading lines are a great way to enhance an upward shot and can always be used to create impactful vanishing points.
Use Different Lenses to Change Perspectives.
If you really enjoy experimenting with perspectives then you can also try working with lenses to create variation in your work. When you use certain types of lenses they actually create perspective illusions that can be extremely exciting to work with. But which lens to use?
You have a few main choices if you want to maximize the impact on the perspectives in your work. If you use a telephoto lens then you’ll find that it has the tendency to bring the subject and the background closer together. This can be used to great effect in forced perspectives.
Alternatively, if you use a fisheye lens it will make objects look further away than they really are as well as manipulating the over perspective to create the classic circular looking images we all recognize! Wide angle lenses will make objects towards the side of the frame look smaller and by contrast, the subject of the photo looks bigger.
All of these lenses manipulate the perception of depth in the image and with a bit of practise you can get some fantastic results.
It’s a common misconception that you can alter the perspective by changing the focal length however this is not technically true. The focal length will impact how close the subject is but it won’t actually change the perspective itself.
Fill The Frame.
This is a good tip when you’re working with perspectives but it also applies right across the board. If you’re shooting a photo of a tree for instance it’s far more interesting to fill the frame with the details than to just snap the whole thing – unless its part of a larger composition. Filling the frame also emphasizes the perspectives that you are utilizing in the photo and helps to draw the viewer into the frame!
Mirrors and Reflection – Working with Perspectives.
If you want to really alter the perspectives in a photo you can use reflections, mirrors and bodies of water to give the image a unique feel. You can use the reflections to guide your viewers eyes around the image and if you incorporate leading lines and interesting vanishing points you might well end up with a masterpiece!
This can allow you to incorporate the clouds or other things that are out of shot in the photo by capturing them in the reflections within the scene you’re shooting! The potentials for this are incredible and there’s no end to the experimentation that you can try out.
Perspective in Photography is a Powerful Tool.
Photography, just like all visual arts, relies heavily on the use of perspectives to draw the viewer into the frame and represent the 3 dimensional world in exciting ways on a 2 dimensional plane!
On the one hand, the problem of representing 3D in 2D space can create difficulties but it also brings incredible opportunities if you’re willing to take the leap! Once you start working with new perspectives, angles and techniques you’ll soon find that your photography is improving rapidly and that you’re creating highly engaging works of art.
Remember, always move around before you take a shot, look for unusual angles that you can use and incorporate the basic rules of composition in your photos. In time, you’ll be seeing things in completely new ways and the act of applying fascinating perspectives to your photography will become second nature!
Do you use perspectives in your photography?