Elements of Photography:
Guides the viewers eyes to the main subject. Can be vertical, horizontal, curved or jagged.
How you shoot a scene determines what kind of story you want to tell and what kind of mood you want viewers to feel when they look at a photo. The power of perspective is beyond the consideration of your photography subjects; it is about the angle of your camera, your proximity to the subjects and what you include in the frame that plays an important role in your final image.
Before you press the shutter, take a moment to think about how you want your subject to be perceived in the image. Is there anything you want to highlight? A story you want to tell?
You don’t need fancy camera equipment or a bunch of expensive lenses to create different perspectives. You just need creativity and the ability to move around…and BAM! You have it all.
Bird’s Eye View: Get Up High & Look Down
Looking down towards your subject is another way to get a new and unique angle with your perspective photography. You don’t necessarily need to climb to the top of a building to accomplish this, but that is one popular possibility. In fact, if you can gain access to the upper floors or the roof of a tall building, you can discover some amazing vantage points.
Outside on the roof, or looking through a window, observe the cityscape and capture a bird’s-eye view of the other buildings in the area. Also, scan across the tops of the buildings to the surrounding landscape.
Then inside, from a top floor, look for a staircase (preferably spiral) that allows you to see all the way to the bottom. This isn’t necessarily something you’ll find in every building, but when you do find them they can be breathtaking to photograph.
There are also plenty of alternatives to climbing around the tops of buildings. Get on a bridge and look down at the boats in the water below you. Stand on a balcony above a bustling location and observe the flow of traffic.
Do you have an upcoming flight? Get a window seat and hope for a clear day. You can capture some beautiful images of the sky around you and the landscape below you, especially during take-off and landing. It’s an added bonus if you’re sitting over the wing of the plane as it provides a sense of depth to the image – and lets people know you’re on a plane, in case they hadn’t already figured that out.
There are other ways to get above your subject, whether you’re standing on something that gives you a little lift or if you’re just naturally taller than your subject. It could be as simple as looking down into the cup of coffee you’re holding, with your feet and the ground beneath them included for depth.
You could also try this technique with portrait photography, having your subject lie on the ground or sit and look up at the camera. Just be sure the angle flatters them and enhances their appearance.
Go above and beyond your typical habits and present your surroundings from top to bottom. The view you create might serve as an exciting new perspective that you can use again and again, improving your perspective photography in the process.
Worm’s Eye View: Look Up At Your Subject
When you shoot from a low angle, you’re often looking up at your subject. But let’s talk about really looking up at your subject – way up at the buildings, the trees and the sky above you. Whether you’re roaming the busy streets of your city or hiking in a forest, there are many opportunities to look up and capture a creative new view of your surroundings.
You can lie on your back to accomplish this or just stand and shoot straight above your head. Look for the lines on the buildings – emerging from any or all four corners of the photo – to draw the viewer into your image.
The same can be done with the limbs on trees. In the image above, both the large and small branches serve as lines, twisting and turning in a variety of directions. This can create a very dramatic effect that instantly catches your viewer’s eye.
If you’re looking up at the sky, the vapor trail from a plane, or a group of planes soaring through the air, is another way to lead viewers into your image. You can also accomplish this with a flock of birds – maybe geese flying in a V formation – or a group of clouds or cluster of stars on a clear night.
Looking up can provide an entirely new view of your surroundings. As you capture those views, you’ll be offering your audience a perspective they may have never seen before.
Shoot From A Low Angle
Shooting from a low angle is probably the most popular alternative to eye-level perspective photography. It can be challenging because you may have to squat, sit, kneel or lie down to capture your image. It’s worth the effort because it provides an out-of-the-ordinary look at your subject and the results can be stunning.
Start by identifying your subject, then find a low angle to shoot from. You might even want to place your iPhone on the ground for additional support. You can use leading lines, like the rails in the image above, or anything in the foreground to draw the viewer into your image.
Alternatively, try positioning your subject in the foreground with the background out of focus. To set the focus point just tap on your screen where you want to direct the viewer’s attention, then take the picture.
Let your creativity run wild with this unique perspective. Hover your iPhone over puddles to capture reflections, set it on sand, grass, dirt or concrete – anywhere you want that will provide a low-angle look.
Focus on the interesting angles you find when your mobile camera is really close to the ground or better yet, on the ground, level with or looking up at your subject. You could also experiment with flipping your iPhone so the camera lens is closer to the ground. This will provide an even stronger low-angle effect.
This isn’t your only option when shooting from a low angle, however. You can shoot anything from a low angle to provide a different and unique perspective of it. Try it on anything you want to take a picture of, as I did with this old adding machine I found in an antique store.
Practice this technique and soon you’ll look at everything with a new perspective. You may even find that you prefer shooting from a lower angle to give your photos the creative spark they’ve been missing.
Use Foreground To Create Depth
When you add something to the foreground of an image, it provides depth and leads the viewer into the picture. The foreground can draw your viewers to the subject or it can serve as the subject itself. It’s your call. This works in a variety of shooting situations we’ve already discussed, including the eye-level angle we’re trying to improve upon with these perspective photography tips.
Here’s an example using the powerful rule-of-thirds principle. Imagine your portrait subject is in the middle of your picture with a wall behind them. Rather than shooting straight on with nothing in the foreground, move around your subject until the wall stretches from the foreground to the background, as in the photo above. The subject can remain in the middle of your picture or try moving them to the right or left. This provides an entirely new angle and feel to the photo.
Another example would be a cityscape or landscape. Rather than simply shooting a building or mountain from eye level, include an element in the foreground that will add depth and interest, and maybe even serve as the subject of the picture.
It could be a tourist telescope with a cityscape behind it, like in the photo above. In an urban neighborhood, it might be a flower with a mountain, sunset or road in the distance.
Adding a foreground element to any image can really turn an ordinary photo into something extraordinary. Always be on the lookout for foreground elements to add depth. Over time, you’ll develop an eye for finding them.
Frame Your Subject
Another way to create unique perspective photography is to frame the subject in your shots. This doesn’t mean you should find the latest app that creates a graphical frame around your image. Instead, find something in the scene you can surround your subject or focal point with.
It could be a man-made object like a fence or a door, or something more natural like trees or leaves. This provides a unique perspective and it helps to direct the viewer’s attention to your subject.
When you frame a shot you don’t have to completely surround your subject. You could simply shoot through an opening between some trees, like in the photo above.
You can even frame a portrait, possibly using a door or window. For a really unique image, consider having your subject use their arms or legs to frame themselves.
Framing may take some time to master, but it’s worth the effort. Once you know what to look for, you’ll see more opportunities to capture your subject in a whole new way.
Use Reflections In Water & Glass
Reflections are a great way to offer a new perspective on your subject. In fact, reflections can completely transform your image into a work of art. You just need to train your eye to look for them.
Reflections can be found anywhere. In a puddle on a city street, a pristine lake, a pair of mirrored sunglasses, a window of a building. Reflections offer powerful and oftentimes intriguing ways of providing new perspectives, and improving your perspective photography.
If you’re using a body of water as a method of reflection, your results will vary depending on how calm and clear the water is. A puddle can sit relatively dormant on a city street, providing a vivid reflection of the cars and people around it and the buildings above it.
A calm river in the early morning hours could provide a smooth, almost glassy appearance for a potentially stunning image. Turbulence on a lake on a windy day can be more dramatic, adding waves and swirls to any reflection.
With windows and glass, expect the unexpected. In fact, you’ll likely not notice some of the details in your image until you edit your photos later. This is especially true of windows in a building on a busy city street.
Sometimes glass can serve as a mirror giving you many possibilities with how you shoot and edit your image. Watch that you don’t accidentally include yourself in the picture, unless that’s your intention.
Reflections can be a powerful tool when you’re creating a photograph. Always look out for them and use the buildings and bodies of water around you to make a unique image.
Shoot Through An Object
One way to create particularly unique perspective photography is to shoot through an object. Choose something like a fence, a window, a prop, or frosted glass, with your subject on the other side. There are a wide range of possibilities here.
A chain-link fence is one option with varied possibilities. It’s typically thin enough that you can use it across your entire image with the background in or out of focus, or you can use a smaller part of the fence and frame your subject within one of the openings. Yet another possibility is to show only a small part of the fence in the foreground, providing some of the depth we discussed earlier.
If you’re open to making a small purchase, consider shooting into a prop, like a crystal ball or glass orb, with your subject around or on the other side of it. What you see inside the ball will appear upside down.