When taking a portrait or capturing a scene, our first instinct is to shoot straight on. Doing so makes sure we get exactly the content that we need, but it can also make our images seem bland and uninteresting. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was just starting photography was to find my subject and then shoot it from five different perspectives. It sounds so simple, but if you ever try it (which I hope you’ll do), you’ll quickly see that it’s also very challenging! You’re forced to think outside the box, and when you do it adds a new dimension of interest to your images.
To illustrate this point, I took one of my daughter’s toys and set it up in front of a window in our living room. Now, this is just a toy mouse. Nothing special. But by taking photos at these different angles, I’m able to show you all possible aspects of this mouse. The entire story (short as it may be) is told.
This is the view we’ve already mentioned, the classic portrait. While, yes, it can be mundane, remember that this image captures the whole picture and tells an important part of the story. Every family needs a standard portrait where everyone is looking at the camera just as much as they need the fun images of them laughing and running together.
This flows naturally from the head-on portrait, but creates an entirely different image! I find that it’s much softer and relaxed. It can also be very pensive if the subject is looking away from the camera. (This angle can be especially useful when capturing motion. Standing to the side allows your subject to move across the frame, showing where they came from and where they’re going.)
The angle at which you are taking a photo plays a huge role in how the subject is perceived. (I could write a whole new blog post on just this!) Shooting from above forces the viewer to focus on the face while the majority of the body is out of focus. This can often make a person appear slimmer than they really are (and this is almost always a good thing!). On the other hand, shooting from below can add an air of authority to your subject. However, this angle can also be unflattering as it emphasizes the body over the face, so be careful!
(For this example, I’m using a baby doll to better illustrate the changes in body proportions.)
If you’re able to get really high above your subject, you can try an “aerial” view. This is one of my favorite ways to capture kids playing!
This is as easy as it sounds, but many people are afraid to try it! Simply fill the frame with your subject (usually their face) and allow part of their body to be cropped out. Focus on whatever is the most important to you (usually it’s the eyes) and show it off!
This is similar to Perspective Four, but instead of focusing in on your subject, you’re focusing on the “accessory items.” In the example with Mouse, I focused on the pink bow on top of her head. This might look like taking a close up of Dad’s watch, or Mom’s pearl earrings. It could also be taking a photo of the bow on the back of a girl’s dress, or the son’s dirty sneakers. These images are not of the subject themselves, but help to complete the story around them.
Go ahead, try it out! Hopefully these tips will allow your images to tell a much broader story. You never know what you’ll find with a slight change in perspective!