Perspective can mean a lot of things, depending on the situation.
It can be used to describe the way you think about things. Or for giving form and depth to a drawing on paper.
For photographers, perspective is a handy tool you can use to enhance your shots and get better photographs.
We all start with whatever perspective nature gave us. My natural perspective, for example, is short, because I’m short and I’m used to having to look up at a lot of things taller than me.
This means that, when it comes to taking pictures, I need to consider my perspective when shooting a lot. No one wants a portrait, for example, that’s shot from my natural perspective because it’d be a photo looking up into my subject’s nose! If I’m photographing a subject who is 6-foot tall, I have to get up higher… or get my subject lower.
Shortness may not be your issue, but perhaps photographing babies or very small children presents the opposite dilemma where you have to get down very low and resist the urge to photograph them from your natural height.
Generally speaking, you want to photograph most people from eye level (their eye level, not yours), including children which means you may need to squat down or stand on a stool, depending on your height in relation to theirs.
Taking this time to consider the angle you shoot from will improve your photos dramatically and it can be fun, too.
As an example, here is a shoot I did recently.
The guy in this photo is about 6 foot 2. I don’t want to shoot upward at him—that angle would likely not make for a good photo—so I had him get down really low for me to take the photo. To get the right perspective, I had him basically sit on the ground. Not always possible, but the result made for a much better photograph.
Here’s the thing about perspective, though: Considering your perspective doesn’t just matter when it comes to photographing people. (That’s just the example that I’m constantly having to deal with myself.)
Finding a unique perspective is a skill that applies to just about every other kind of photography, too.
When traveling, it’s always a good idea to look for the iconic places and things—meaning those things that are widely recognizable (even if just by the locals), because they tend to sell well as stock, to magazines, and as fine art.
But if it’s a site or landmark that’s commonly photographed, perspective is how you can make your images unique.
Look around for opportunities for getting a unique perspective in your photo. Consider:
• Is there a rooftop bar nearby?
• Is there a way to get closer, or to get under, or over, or an unusual side angle to take your shot from?
Stepping away from the throngs of other travelers and photographers to find a unique perspective can bring big rewards to your photography.
Here are a few examples:
I ran out to the backyard with my camera today to get some more examples—and to show you how a unique perspective can also change nature photography.
Below are some pictures I’ve taken of one of the trees that grows along my back wall. This one tree is full of these little tiny (worm-filled) apples. On the other side of the wall is a massive (and I do mean massive) wave of blackberries which you can see in some of these pictures.
I thought the red apples could be a good subject for this example, so I went out and looked at the wall and wondered how I could shoot the apples. I looked for and took some shots from a variety of angles and perspectives.
For this first shot, I was just standing on the ground looking at the top of the wall. It’s an easy perspective to take and the result is a picture that is not too exciting… and, you can barely see the apples.
Next, I got under the branches and shot up. Those shots weren’t working well at all, so I moved on. This time, I went sideways down the wall, taking a shot from under the branches. This is the result:
After that, I got up higher so that I was taller than the top of the wall. I found a nice branch of apples and shot down at them, including some of the gray wall behind the branch. I think this shot might be my favorite:
I kept experimenting with my perspective from there. The next one I shot was from across the top of the apples, with an out-of-focus leaf right near my lens:
One way we tell our viewers what’s important is by where we place our focus. By experimenting to find unique perspectives, you get to change the story you tell the viewer.
By “working the shot” and changing around my perspective, I’ve walked away with at least four potentially usable shots for stock photography. All of them contain the same subject, but each is a very different image. While one of these might be the winner for someone’s project, all four could also be bought and used together, quadrupling my sales potentially.
So get out there with your camera this summer and try to “work the shot.” Change your perspective to get a much wider array of photos, and you might find you’re getting more photos that you can make sales on over and over.