While we touched on this technique when discussing emphasis and proportion last month, I believe that viewpoint deserves a bit more getting into to fully understand how it can add power and interest to a photo. Viewpoint is pretty easy to use; it simply refers to the angle of the camera in relation to your subject.
Tip One: Eye-Level Photos
This refers to where you are holding the camera, not your subject’s eye level, so typically between 5 and 6 feet off the ground. From here you can point up for low-angle shots of things above you (such as buildings) or point down for high-angle shots of things below you (kids, dogs, things on the ground, etc.).
The thing about eye-level photos is that everyone does them, since this is the most common position to hold the camera, so your images are going to look very similar to everyone else’s shots – the trick to creating great images is to do it differently by changing where you shoot from, whether it means climbing up or getting down low.
Tip Two: Low Viewpoint and Low Angle
By getting down low and shooting upwards you accomplish a few things. First, you give your subject strength as they are typically the only thing in the photo, and the eye naturally starts at the feet and works its way up towards the face. These types of shots add drama (think Superman or other superheroes shots taken from this angle) and let you put your subject against a complimentary background of sky to eliminate distracting elements. See the photo at the top of this post for a great example.
Tips Three: High Viewpoint and High Angle
When you climb a bit higher and shoot down on your subject you essentially get the opposite effect as above – your subject is made less important, and by including the surroundings you are giving them context. This can be a fun way to capture kids in their own environment: reading books, painting, napping, as well as providing a scale (i.e. indicating how big or small they are at this point of their lives. As you can see from the photo below, it’s also fantastic for capturing babies and their siblings – without having to worry about head support.
One minor issue with high/low viewpoint techniques is distortion, which occurs when the camera is closer to one area of your subject than the rest. With the low-angle technique, since the lens is closer to the feet they will appear larger, the legs longer, but the head smaller. With a high-angle shot the head will appear larger and the feet smaller. It’s just something to keep in mind as it may affect how your image turns out.
So, the next time you are out, try these techniques and get away from your standard eye-level compositions – you’ll end up with more creative images!