In its most basic form, a photograph is a way for the photographer to capture the essence of a three-dimensional scene with a two-dimensional representation. Anyone can snap a photo, but creating a unique and striking composition requires knowledge of camera angles and composition techniques. One of the best ways to create a realistic two-dimensional representation of a scene is perspective. Using perspective in photography creates a sense of depth and scale to your images, enabling you to hold your viewer’s attention.
Let’s take a look at how perspective improves photography, as well as some tips for using perspective in your photos.
What is perspective in photography?
Perspective in photography can be described as the spatial awareness between objects within the scene you are capturing. Using perspective in photos allows you to evoke a sense of scale and depth by changing the camera’s angle and position and using creative compositions. By simply modifying your camera angle or the position of your body in relation to your subject, you can create a new and unique perspective for a more powerful image.
Why is perspective important in photography?
Using perspective in photography can take a photo from a flat, two-dimensional image to a striking photograph that captures a realistic sense of depth and scale. You are essentially creating the illusion of three dimensions simply by composing your photo to capture the unique perspective within the scene. If you ignore the way perspective affects your final image, you essentially leave the quality of your photo up to chance instead of knowledge and skill.
How do you show perspective in photos?
There are dozens of ways that you can show perspective in your images. Since perspective photography is used to create depth, the best way to show perspective is to use a strong foreground, middle-ground, and background in your composition. This will help bring your viewers into the photo and create a more impactful image. We’ll talk more about creating depth and scale by using perspective photography in the tips below.
Types of perspective in photos
Photographers use different types of perspective in photography depending on what they are photographing and the goal they are trying to achieve. Here are 5 important types of perspective that you can use in your photos. You can even use more than one.
Type 1: Linear perspective
Using linear perspective means photographing lines so that you capture one or more vanishing points to create more depth within your image. A vanishing point is created when lines (real or implied) appear to converge in the distance. The lines aren’t actually disappearing, of course. It’s an optical illusion. But when that illusion is captured within your photo, it provides your viewer with a unique perspective and a more dramatic image.
A photograph can have one or more vanishing points to create the illusion of depth.
- One-point perspective: With one-point perspective, you are capturing one vanishing point, usually on the horizon. An example of this is an image of a road heading into the distance until it disappears at a single point on the horizon.
- Two-point perspective: By using two-point perspective, you capture lines receding toward two vanishing points on opposite sides of your image. Picture the corner of a city block where the buildings, traffic, and roads on each side of the corner seem to recede toward different spots.
- Three-point perspective: With three-point perspective, you will usually have two vanishing points on the horizon line and a third vanishing point placed above or below the horizon to create a unique viewpoint.
Type 2: Forced perspective
Forced perspective is another illusionary technique that photographers use to make two or more objects within a photo appear smaller, larger, closer, or farther away than they really are. In order to use forced perspective within a photo, you have to line up the object or person in the foreground on the same horizontal plane as the object or person in the background.
Forced perspective is a fun technique to play around with since the goal is usually to create a striking optical illusion. Need some ideas? There are lots of forced perspective photos on Instagram. Just search the hashtag #forcedperspective.
Type 3: Diminished scale perspective
When you use diminished scale perspective in your photos, you are composing your image so that objects appear smaller when they are farther away, just as they do in real life. This is a great way to make your two-dimensional photograph appear more three-dimensional and create a sense of scale. Framing your shot with a strong foreground, middle-ground, and background often uses diminished scale perspective to add depth to your photo.
Type 4: Overlapping perspective
Another way to add depth to your photos is to capture layers of objects that overlap each other. Not only will objects in the foreground appear bigger, but the viewer’s eyes will perceive objects in the front to be closer than those in the back. This is useful information for viewers who are trying to gauge the distance of objects in relation to each other. Capturing overlapping objects in a scene is most often used with other composition techniques to add drama to an image.
Type 5: Atmospheric perspective
The last type of perspective photography, atmospheric perspective, is a natural phenomenon that occurs when light waves move across the atmosphere, changing the way we perceive them. Atmospheric or aerial perspective is best captured on foggy mornings. This makes objects that are farther away appear lighter with colors that are more muted. You can take advantage of fog or haze to enhance the depth of your image, especially if you are able to capture the contrast between a clear foreground and a foggy background.
6 tips for perspective photography with your iPhone
Now that you have a basic understanding of the different types of perspective in photography, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice. Here are some tips and techniques you can use with your iPhone to create a sense of scale and depth to your photos using perspective.
Tip 1: Change your elevation for a new perspective
Most novice photographers stand while they take a photo and shoot at eye level. This means that most pictures are captured from about five or six feet off the ground. Deviating from this standard elevation is an easy way to capture your scene from a fresh perspective.
When trying to decide on a composition for your image, don’t neglect subtle or dramatic elevation changes. Shoot from the hip, or even at ground level. Use a selfie stick to capture the scene from few feet above your head. While it’s easier to hold your iPhone in front of your face and tap the shutter, you can almost always do better by experimenting with a change in elevation.
Tip 2: Change your camera angle for new compositions
Similar to shooting from different elevations, you can also change the angle of your camera to find unique compositions in the sky or on the ground. Get down low and point your camera toward the sun. Climb a set of stairs and shoot the scene below you. Once you start experimenting with camera angles and elevation changes, you’ll realize that fresh compositions are everywhere!
Tip 3: Use leading lines to add more depth to your image
You can use leading lines to direct your viewer’s eye toward the focal point of your photo. Lines can be straight, curved, or zig-zagged, or they can be implied. The key is that at the end of the “line,” you find something worth emphasizing. Leading lines make use of linear perspective to make your image appear more three-dimensional and interesting.
Tip 4: Compose your shot with a strong focal point in the foreground
A strong focal point in the foreground of your image is one of the key elements of using perspective photography to create more depth. Anyone can shoot the sun setting over the ocean. But without something in the foreground like a rock, a shell, or crashing waves, your image will appear flat and two-dimensional. When you find something you want to photograph in the distance, your next step should be looking for an interesting foreground object to anchor your photo and give it more dimension.
Tip 5: Include a person in your landscapes to show a sense of scale
Adding a human element to your landscape photos makes your photo more relatable and gives a sense of scale and drama to the scene. When photographing iconic landscapes, sometimes the only way to create a unique image is by including people in your shot. Instead of a beautiful natural scene, your photo becomes a form of visual storytelling. A creative composition that includes a person will also make many images feel more balanced and complete. Of course, you don’t have to include people in all of your images, but if you get the chance, take it.
Tip 6: Capture your subject within a frame
We’ve already discussed including a focal point in the foreground of your image. But you can take that idea one step further by using an object in the foreground to frame your subject. Like a true frame surrounding a piece of artwork, a frame within your composition helps to highlight your subject and show off a unique perspective. Using a frame in your scene also gives your viewer a broader sense of the setting. Popular framing techniques include shooting through windows, doors, alleys, and tree branches, but there are countless variations that you can try to add perspective to your images.
Experimenting with perspective photography is a fun and creative way to improve the composition of your photos. Before you pick up your iPhone to snap a photo, consider the techniques you can use to show perspective in your photos and set them apart.