As photographers one of the things we do best is offer unique perspectives on what people see every day. A great photograph can take something mundane that most people wouldn’t grant a second look and give it new life and interest by showing it from a new perspective. Filmmaker, photographer, and creator of the Art Of Photography YouTube channel, Ted Forbes, has released a video to discuss one method to accomplish this in-depth – low angles.
Forbes points out that one of our tasks is creating the illusion of depth and dimension in a 2D medium and there are many tools at our disposal to this end: lighting, overlapping subjects, focal length, depth of field, perspective and camera angle. The most natural thing to most people is to take photographs from their own eye level, but as we see what the photographer sees through their photos, this doesn’t offer us anything out of the ordinary as far as perspective is concerned. I remember hearing somewhere that you shouldn’t be able to tell a photographer’s height by looking at their body of work – a reminder to continually seek out new points of view to keep things interesting.
Photography is art, and as such compositional “rules” can be carried over from (and to) other art forms. In drawing, the artist uses a horizon line and vanishing points for a 3D effect, and while Forbes notes that we don’t need to create these things ourselves in photography, it’s helpful to pay attention to where they exist in a scene. Low angles place the horizon line at the bottom of the frame and allow the subject a position of grandiosity. Scale can be dramatized as well as well – by placing people at the bottom of the frame juxtaposed with something immense, you draw the viewer’s attention to your subject’s size.
Low angles in combination with subject matter can be quite communicative – Abelardo Morell has taken a series of low angle photos of kids things which can stir feelings of nostalgia and provoke thoughts of childhood. Elliott Erwitt was also enthusiastic about low angles, using them for a dog’s eye view of minuscule canines and their larger companions.
Though a wonderful shake-up from eye level photography, use low angles with a little bit of caution, especially when photographing people – be mindful of what is accentuated.
Watch the video for more on low angles as a compositional tool. Forbes is wonderfully deep in his understanding of composition and his YouTube channel will be of interest to people who are into photography as an art and photo history.