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HomeCompositionPerspective in Photography: Everything You Need to Know

Perspective in Photography: Everything You Need to Know

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Perspective photography is all about what you show your viewers through your images. You may have seen the composition from a totally different point of view. But how you shoot it, and the illusions you use to do so, can completely make or break a great composition. Furthermore, we live in a three-dimensional world, and using different perspectives in imagery is how you convey this.

Have you ever seen a great image and felt like you were standing there? Have you ever stared so long at an image you felt as though your eye couldn’t rest but needed more? These are both examples of perspective at play.

Toba Beta put it best when he said “No perspective, no perception. New perspective, new perception.” This article will cover all the technical aspects of perspective photography. Also why it’s important, the different types, tips, and how to change your point of view today to create a sense of depth in every new image.

perspective photography explained visually.

What is Perspective in Photography?

Typically your perspective means the way you see things, but when it comes to photography perspective it’s means something different. Perspective in photography is about showcasing the depth and creating a three-dimensional scene from a two-dimensional photograph.

Even more, if you want to become a better photographer, then using perspective in your images will help the viewers better understand what you were seeing and feeling as you stood in the exact place you snapped your photo.

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Why is Perspective Photography Important?

The creative expression of perspective shows viewers how tall buildings in a city were and how raging a river was. Furthermore, using perspective can help your models look skinnier or bigger. Once you master perspective you can tell different stories with your images and engage your viewers even more.

Perspective photography is one of the most important tools you can learn to take better images. We all see the world from the same eye view, this is why it’s so important to change elements in our photos so they appear more interesting and tell a better story.

Types of Perspectives

There are many different types of perspectives. Some of them you may have already heard of such as vanishing point, forced perspective, or parallel lines. Let’s explore some of the variations here. To make things simpler we have divided the different perspectives in photography into two categories, visual and physical.

transforming your photos with perspective.

Visual Perspective Photography

Visual perspective in photography focuses on shapes, lenses, and lines. With this type of photography, it’s important to draw inspiration from spatial and social information. Your brain processes visual perspective by organizing geometric elements and making sense of them to create the scene. This works well, especially in nature scenes.

Forced Perspective

example of forced perspective photography.

When you think of perspective in photography, forced perspective may be one of the first concepts that come to mind. This perspective plays with manipulation in two-dimensional images. It uses a diminishing scale to create distortion and sometimes absurd photos.

Some image ideas include people holding the Louvre or Eiffel Tower or other large objects and places in their hands. Or maybe you have seen people hold the sun or pinch a person with two fingers as if they are holding them up. The more absurd, the more likely it’s forced perspective. Use perspective to play with the viewer’s eye.

Distorted Perspective

example of distorted perspective photography.

Also known as curvilinear perspective, distorted perspective uses wide-angle lenses to make straight lines appear curvier. There are many ways to achieve this but a common example would be to lay on the ground and shoot up at a skyscraper with your focal point on the buildings.

At this angle, a tall building will appear further away and start to curve a bit when using a wide-angle viewpoint. The lenses you use, play a key role in this example.


There are three different types of optical distortion. Let’s examine them with examples:

Pincushion

Pincushion distortion causes straight lines to curve outwards from the center of your image. This type of perspective distortion is common in a telephoto lens. The longer the focal length the more image magnification that occurs, causing the edges of your image to curve. The field of view is smaller than the size of the image sensor, resulting in straight lines being pulled upwards into the corners of an image.

Pincushion perspective photography.

Barrel

Just like the name indicates. Think of the shape of a barrel for this type of image distortion. This is common with wide-angle lenses as well which tend to squeeze the image in to fit the scale of your lens. When shooting with a fisheye lens the relative size of your image will appear curved inwards. This is easy to manipulate in Lightroom and other post-processing applications.

Barrel perspective photography.

Mustache Distortion

This is a combination of barrel and pincushion distortion and creates the most obvious effect. The straight lines of your image will curve at the extreme corners of your image while at the same time curving inwards towards the center of your image. Often referred to as “complex” distortion because it is not easy to deal with if it’s not the desired effect. Lenses that are famous for this include 35mm and wider.

Mustache Distortion photography.

Linear Perspective

vanishing point photography.

When you think of linear perspective, think of vanishing points. This technique creates converging lines both vertical and horizontal to lead the viewer’s eye into a vanishing point.

This technique is great for creating a sense of depth. Telephoto lenses are great for making converging lines appear closer and emphasizing parallel lines. Farther away scenes will create more of a sense of depth when using your telephoto lenses.

There are three different types that use leading lines to create a different vantage point and a sense of scale.

One Point Perspective

one point perspective vanishing point.

This perspective in photography leads the viewer’s eyes to one vanishing point on a horizon. Generally, the focus is set to eye level and a scene such as a river, road, or bridge is captured. One point perspective goes hand in hand with leading lines.

Two Point Perspective

two point perspective.

As the name indicates, in this linear perspective there are two vanishing points. The vanishing points are set in two different directions and this is easier to accomplish in cities where roads break around buildings. Two-point perspective is great for creating a sense of length and depth, making a scene feel far away by setting the focus on. the horizon but in two directions.

Three-Point Perspective

3 point perspective photography.

This perspective has two vanishing points on a horizon, but the third point is positioned either above or below the horizon. The third point increases the distance and depth in your photograph. Imagine looking up at a skyscraper from a ground-level vantage point.

Vanishing Points

vanishing point photography.

This point is where all the lines in your image seem to converge and vanish. The meeting of these lines creates depth in any subject and gives a sense of distance to the scene.

The simplest example of this is standing in the middle of railroad tracks and as your eye follows them down a bit they seem to get farther away and converge into a vanishing background. The viewer is given a sense of illusion in the reduction of size and where the lines are heading.

Physical Perspective Photography

The other types of perspectives fall under physical perspectives. These are elements such as light, contrast, color, length, and height. Let’s examine each below.

Horizontal Height

desert perspective photo.

Our brains automatically assume that the camera is close to the ground and the horizon is far away when looking at a photograph. Even more, our brain automatically imagines that an object that is higher in the frame or closer to the horizon must be far away. This concept works well when shooting deserts or when trying to create a minimal scene in photos.

Diminishing Scale

example of Diminishing Scale photo.

We cannot control the fact that our brain has certain expectations of the size of objects already stored away in our heads. For this reason, diminishing scale perspective works, it is the process of scaling the spatial distance or size of objects by our brains.

For example, if you see two of the same objects next to each other but one is bigger and one is smaller, our brain decides that one must be at a further away viewpoint. Use your camera to create these images by spacing subjects in a specific manner to create an illusion of depth.

Overlap Perspective

Overlap Perspective image.

Overlap or adding layers to your image will also create a sense of depth. You can control this by adding a foreground, middle, and background to your photography. Objects in the foreground will appear larger, while objects in the background will create distance.

Common examples of this perspective can be seen in nature by overlapping valleys, mountains, and rivers. The viewer will be drawn to look deeper into your photos through the contrast of multilayering.

Light and Shadow

examples of light and shadow perspective.

When shooting an object that is hazy or covered in shadows, the viewer perceives it to be far away. This is a common occurrence when shooting cities. Cities are often polluted and full of dust creating shadows and different lighting effects.

Think of a stormy ocean where the waves are crashing into a dark sky and a hazy mist fills the frame. The foreground of the photograph may be difficult to find for the average viewer. Playing with light and shadow can add not only depth but mood to your photos. This is the best type of atmospheric perspective example.

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Tips on How to Use Perspective in Photography

Now that you have learned bit by bit what each perspective is, we can dive into photography tips to create them!

Perspective #1: Shoot through Objects

shoot through something for interesting perspectives.

Place your subject inside of objects. This creates a natural frame for your subject and a different perspective. You can commonly find objects to shoot through in stores, homes, and cities. Try to surprise the viewer with a new object in every photograph while shooting. This is also easy to create in nature. Place your model in the center of a flowering tree or between mountains.

Perspective #2: Get Higher or Lower

We all see the world from the same eye level which can become boring from a photography perspective. This is why it’s important to change your perspective by changing the distance your camera is from its subject. Try to get down low to the ground on your stomach or climb up on a bench or ladder for even more variations.

Perspective #3: Shoot Up or Down

viewpoint changes in photography.

If you are not one to climb up on objects or roll around on the ground. Then you may want to try shooting while standing up but aim your camera up or down. When you aim your camera up, objects will appear larger. If you aim your camera down you will create an illusion of smallness. When shooting kids and animals you especially create a small body and large head at this angle.

Perspective #4: Fill your Frame

Focus on how to fill the frame in every composition. This is just as important as the other tips above because negative space when unplanned can draw the viewer’s focus away from your subject. Remember that you are in control and you should try to plan every part of your image before hitting the shutter button.

Perspective #5: Subjects in the Foreground and Background

layering images.

As mentioned in the types of perspective above. Adding a foreground and background to your image creates a much more interesting photograph. The viewer will jump around the photo not knowing where to leave their eyes. Adding layers to any photo is something the pros do on a regular basis.

Perspective #6: Reflections

Reflections are all around us, whether it’s a puddle on a street corner or a lake. Even using a mirror on your wall. Reflections are fun to play with and create a dreamlike photo that will make your composition fascinating.

Perspective #7: Color

colorful photo tips.

Since color photography arrived, photographers have been using it to play with perspectives. Placing vibrant colors around or behind your subject will help them pop better. Look for contrast in colors especially in nature.

Perspective #8: Contrast

As mentioned above look for contrast in color and even more in the highlights of your photo. Playing with shadows in the light and dark of your photography will add a different perspective to the object you focus on.

Perspective #9: Sharpness

tips and tricks for shooting perspective.

Using a sharp lens is important in photography, but if you want to change the perspective, focus on which parts of an image you will blur vs make sharp. Adapting this bit by bit makes for some interesting outcomes. Photographers especially love to play with bokeh in unexpected ways when using this tool in perspective.

Perspective #10: Shoot at Hip Level

As mentioned above, your subject is often photographed at eye level. So why not try hip level? This technique is especially interesting when shooting children. It gives the viewer access to the life of a child and how they see the world on a daily basis. It brings us closer to their connections with others as well.

Conclusion

Perspective photography will help you create more interesting compositions and better your overall work. Try to work them into your images whenever possible. The more you shoot with perspective in mind, the more it will become second.

If you want to gain more control over your photography, it’s important to keep these tools in mind when shooting any subject matter. We hope these tips helped you!

We would love to see some examples of your shots, share them in the comments below or join our private Facebook group for more info and reviews from pros and your peers. Remember to change your perspective today to open up your photography world to new possibilities.

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Krystal Kenney
Krystal Kenney is an award-winning photographer residing in Paris, France. She has been photographing for over 10 years and enjoys teaching others about the craft. She spends most days shooting events, portraits, and weddings around Paris and working on writing new books.
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Help us grow

Did you learn anything? Maybe consider giving a small donation 🙂
We’ll get straight to the point. To keep quality high, we work together with the best photographers in the world. As a company, we are spending a lot of money to give our writers a fair compensation. 

To stay online and become better in what we do, we depend on contributions and some products we sell. If everyone who enjoyed reading the above article gave just a little, we could keep Photographycourse.net thriving for years to come. The price of a cup of coffee is all we ask.

We know that most people will ignore this message. But if photographycourse.net is useful to you, please consider donating $2, $5, $10 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Photographycourse.net. 

Thanks,

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CEO Photographycourse.net

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