Amongst the many ways to achieve a great shot, composition is probably the most talked about. From the rule of thirds to leading lines, the possibilities are endless. That said, perspective should be every shutterbug’s priority; it usually means the difference between an average shot and a great one, and aligns with the other principles of photography well!
(n.) the art of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth and position in relation to each other.
Eye-catching perspective comes a lot from the 3 E’s – Exploration, Experimentation, and Experience. But if you wish to get a quick start, look no further. We spoke to two professionals in perspective photography, Junjie and Glen, on how to begin and save you a few neck strains.
Put that camera down
It’s counter-intuitive but it really makes a difference. Sometimes, before you “sweep” a scene with your camera by swinging your lens, it’s better to just pause and observe your environment first. Are there any interesting features? Any leading lines? Where can you position yourself to have a different vantage point?
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F7.1 | 1/125s | ISO 100
Glen agrees and says, “Take the time to study, observe and appreciate the subject. The angles and perspectives to achieve a unique style and interpretation will come much easier after that.”
Some basic approaches
After exploring the site, where do you begin? “One of the easiest methods to achieve a dramatic effect is to take a shot that is not from the typical eye level, such as from high up or down low” Glen shares. “You can also achieve depth by creating a sharp contrast between the foreground subject and the background, and playing with lines, textures or light.”
Junjie feels that sometimes, all you need is to look up. “Look-up shots can help achieve a dramatic effect as it helps the photographer portray how incredibly small we are in this huge city,“ he says. And with the popularity of the #lookup hashtag, it’s definitely on trend.
If you’ve got a macro or wide-angle lens handy, Glen also suggests “Going in close or using a wide angle lens as easy ways to achieve a dramatic effect.”
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F2.8 | 1/80s | ISO 200
Sometimes the right camera helps
Junjie uses a Canon EOS 6D, while Glen is holding onto a Canon 5D Mark IV. Even though they get great mileage from their current bodies, they both agree that the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is ideal for playing with angles.
“I think that with the flip screen, it would greatly increase the convenience and efficiency of the shoot. It makes things that much easier, and of course it would still be quite an experience to lay down flat on the floor and shoot,” Glen admits.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F5.6 | 1/80s | ISO 400
And this is something that Junjie has experienced before. He recalls, “I once laid down in the middle of Raffles Place in an attempt to capture a look-up shot of all the office buildings. No doubt, it was really embarrassing as the office workers were all staring at me.” Because of this, he recommends the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. “It is definitely one of the best full-frame cameras out there to capture creative angles due to its articulated flip screen as well as the touchscreen autofocus. It allows the photographer to capture various angles that are relatively hard to shoot.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F4 | 1/1000s | ISO 100
Glen remembers his own episode. “I remember once in Sydney (Australia), I was planning to take a bird’s eye view photo over the cliff. So to get a better reach over the edge, I had to hang my tripod over the edge while my friend helped to trigger the shutter.” He admits, “Of course, it was nothing short of a heart-stopping moment, considering that it was super windy at the time.”
“The ease of use of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II gives the user more time to think about their image and creative process rather than stressing out about the operations. One of the many excuses that we always hear is that the camera is too heavy, so the Canon EOS 6D Mark II being the lightest full-frame EOS camera allows creatives to just pick up and go.”
Canon EOS 6D | f/8.0 | 10s | ISO250
Choosing a creative angle
Achieving a creative angle may look easy, but actually requires a lot of research, either of the subject or on-site. Sometimes, bringing a prop might help give a new take too!
Junjie agrees, and says, “Do research on the location beforehand and conceptualize various angles that you can potentially pull off. I tend to often carry a crystal ball around with me to bring a fresh twist to the photo.”
Canon EOS 6D | f/2.2 | 1/8s | ISO100
Glen does the same. “I would start off by doing some research on the subject. If it is a person, I would have a chat over coffee, get to understand who it is that I’m photographing. Then, I would observe to see how the light interacts with my subject. Light is the language of photography and so we must be really conversant with it, and that’s where the angles come into play – to tell the story of the image based on what was the theme or message planned for the shoot.”
Canon EOS 6D | f/5.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 1250
But planning is not everything! It’s important once you are on-site, to be spontaneous and experiment with the space. “Keep photographing the subject! Depending on what the subject may be, walk around it, move it, experiment with it, observe and study it,” Glen shares. “You never know what you might get.”
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F4 | 1/500s | ISO 100
With all the flat-lays and Wes Anderson straight-on symmetry in visuals these days, it’s easy to forget some of the more quirky ones.
Junjie shares one of his popular options. “Reflections are one of my favorite methods as it involves me trying to create a mirror out of puddles and marble floors.”
Glen shares, “I feel that the Dutch tilt (a camera angle that is deliberately slanted) is probably one of the most overlooked angles, but it can be used to create some very creative photos.”
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F5.6 | 1/80s | ISO 1000
And while all the fancy camerawork might be very exciting, don’t get distracted from the basics!
“I feel one of the most important things when taking a photograph is whether you are leading your viewer to a point of interest,” Glen highlights. “Ensure that there is a direction in the image or a focal point so that it brings out a story or a strong anchor within the image.
Junjie supports this by saying, “Locations like staircases and escalators will usually require me to use leading lines to direct attention to the subject.”
Canon EOS 6D | f/5.0 | 1/40s | ISO 2500
Both photographers admit that the key to good perspective photographs really come from having fun with your process.
“I think the best way is to have fun (and sometimes be a little fearless) with the process!” Glen enthuses. “Don’t be afraid to stick your camera (and even yourself) in places you would never imagine. Think of perspectives people don’t normally get a chance to see, play with dramatic lighting and experiment with different angles while shooting.”
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F5.6 | 1/60s | ISO 2500
Junjie adds, “Make use of your surroundings to frame your photo and keep practising. There is no right or wrong when it comes to photography so don’t be afraid to try.”
As Glen puts it, “There is no set rule for creativity, minus the foundations that we all learn. But even then, we are meant to break boundaries.”
Canon EOS 6D | f/2.8 | 1/50s | ISO 640
About Chiok Junjie
The young but savvy 18-year-old freelance photographer likes genres such as architecture, street, aerial and the occasional portrait photography. He appreciates how photography has allowed him to travel and experience the world, while meeting other people from other parts of the world who share his passion. His photos are a visual collection of his experience, along with stories that go beyond the picture. Junjie can be found on his Instagram.
About Glen Chen
Glen is a minimalist photographer who enjoys portraiture and architecture. A graduate of the University of New South Wales (Sydney), he continues to explore media art forms and evolve his photography in its many aspects. He pushes beyond aesthetics to explore narratives, the moving, the unseen, and present a perspective to take the viewer back a step from the hectic world. Witness Glen’s work on his Instagram.
Surprise us with your own take! Tackle perspectives and tag your posts with #CanonSG to tell your story.