Even the most banal object has the potential to be an interesting subject within a great photograph. Yet, sometimes it’s not immediately apparent with the naked eye how to best tackle an issue with your camera. When faced with a difficult composition the solution often time lies in simply taking a moment to see the scene a little bit differently. Here are a few tricks that can be used to help a photographer see the world from a different perspective.
Switch up which lens you use
A change of perspective can be as straightforward as changing which lens you choose to have attached to your DSLR. This is because each individual lens focal length has its own unique angle of view. For instance, macro and telephoto lenses can compress details and make objects appear closer to the camera than they actually are. Wide angled lenses, on the other hand, show a greater deal of the surrounding scene and exaggerate the distance between image elements.
With this information in mind, you can make photos that break the mold from what’s typically seen in traditional photography. For instance, a wide-angle lens used for a portrait can create a dynamic environmental image that engages an individual with a scene or setting. Though many photographers are tempted to use wide-angle lenses in landscape photography when capturing scenery, using longer lenses can be used to capture features far in the distance and exaggerate peaks, valleys, and other topographical details.
Specialty lenses such as tilt shifts can also be used to dramatically alter perspective and even create unusual changes in an images focal plane. In doing so, strategies such as throwing objects equidistant from the camera in and out of focus are suddenly made possible. A tilt shift can even make normal sized subjects appear miniature!
Utilize basic compositional elements to your advantage
Most artists know that visual elements such as line, shape, and tonality can work together to strengthen a photograph. So too can they be used to manipulate a viewer’s perspective of a scene. Framing main subjects based on the basic compositional elements can instantaneously strengthen an image and make it easier for the brain to process. An example of this might be the use of leading lines to guide a viewer’s eye to the focal point of a photograph, whether that particular subject happens to be resting just a few inches from the photographer or yards away from the camera.
Playing with sizes can be used to “trick” the brain and create illusions that add depth to a photograph and force false perspective. Most people have seen photographs featuring tourists pretending to push over the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or holding the Eiffel Tower in the palm of their hand. Though we realize that the notion of a human being able to perform either of these feats is completely ludicrous, the photograph makes it as such. These are examples of false perspective in everyday images.
Using the right tools
Using the correct tools can be used to further manipulate an image and distort viewer perspective. At times, these effects can be undesirable. However, some photographers use imperfections to strengthen an image and create interesting compositional elements. One example that architectural photographers often struggle with is the optical illusion of a tall building appearing distorted when photographing up from ground level. Photographer’s hoping to correct this can use bellowed 4×5 cameras capable of shifting and “straightening out” the building. However, a more artistically inclined photographer might choose to switch to an incredibly wide fisheye lens to exaggerate the effect.
Using the perspective to your advantage
When seeking out different perspectives, moving your own body and the camera can be the easiest and most effective solution. By simply shooting above from a bird’s eye view, looking at subjects from the ground up, or moving to a dramatic or unusual angle, it is possible to completely transform an image and create new meaning. Consider the implications of a camera towering down upon a portrait subject or tilted upwards so that the subject is towering over the camera instead. Looking down on a person might imply that the subject is weak or submissive. On the other hand, pointing upwards can make a model seem strong and powerful.
It’s important to keep in mind that changing the angle from which you shoot can directly impact the way in which light falls upon a subject. Be sure to keep an eye on the way highlights and shadows might be affecting your subject and avoid any sort of distracting tonality elements that might have resulted from a change in angle.
On the flip side, the changes in light that come with switching positions can be used to your advantage. Aspects like shadow silhouettes and unusual shapes can come into play to add interest and intrigue to a photograph by simply kneeling down, climbing up, or stepping a few paces to the side.