We’ve joined together with Adorama for the #CreateNoMatterWhat campaign, an initiative aimed at “reflecting and finding ways to create, learn, and think outside the box” while navigating these uncertain times. You can learn more about this series on Adorama’s YouTube Channel. Subscribe to see more of our videos on their channel throughout the next couple of months and watch as we work through our process for framing, lighting, and posing to create amazing portraits, despite the limitations imposed by the current climate. To watch this and our other series, check out our playlist!
Video: How to Get Creative with Perspective
In photography, perspective is defined as the sense of depth or spatial relationships between objects in a photo. In other words, perspective adds a sense of depth to an otherwise flat, two-dimensional platform, making it one of the most powerful compositional tools you have to work with. Photographers and filmmakers alike have built their entire careers on mastering the art of perspective. In this article/video, we’re going to walk through a case study, from concept to execution, in order to show you how to use perspective to level up the creativity in your portraiture.
Step #1: Create a Concept
To get started, we need to create a concept. For this case study, I wanted to document giving my son, Ethan, his first camera, which happens to be a Canon 7D with a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. I thought it would be fun to create an unboxing-type shot featuring Ethan with his new camera.
[Related Reading: One Secret to Great Photography Compositions]
Step #2: Think Perspective
After we’ve decided on a concept, we need to think about how to use perspective for creative effect. This is where we want to invite the viewer to see the world from a unique, visually compelling perspective. This might mean we’re shooting from above, below, or even through something, to add interest to the image. Photographers often gloss over this step and the resulting images suffer for it.
For example, the images above (featuring my son, James) offer no unique perspective and they simply reflect what we’d typically see while watching an unboxing. I captured these images on my iPhone to illustrate how uninspiring an image can be when little thought is given to perspective. Now, the photos are fine for capturing a moment for the family, but for any other application, most viewers would label these images uninteresting walk up shots.
I thought it might be fun to capture the unboxing from the box’s perspective. What would the box see when Ethan opened the top and pulled out his camera?
Step #3. Plan It Out
Now that we have a concept and an idea for using perspective, we have to plan out the shot so that we can get the camera to capture the scene from our chosen angle.
For this particular shot, I had to do a little DIY work. I went to Home Depot and picked up a sheet of acrylic/plastic that was clear enough to shoot through. When I got home with the acrylic, I cleaned off all of the excess dirt and dust. I then taped a box to the acrylic and added packing peanuts into the box (see the image above).
I then took the box outside and placed it across two of my dining room chairs, right in front of my garage (see above). I placed it over the black top to minimize any reflections that might appear on the acrylic that I’m shooting through. A black sheet or blanket would work just as well. As it turned out, the black top was pretty hot under the midday sun, so I ended up using a pillow as well.
[Related Reading: How the Lens Affects Composition]
Step #4. Think Exposure
It took all the way until step four to start thinking about exposure, which demonstrates how important it is to plan out and set up for the shot before worrying about exposure and other elements. When it comes time to dial in your exposure, it’s helpful if your subject can stand in so that you can adjust your settings to get the right mix of shadows and highlights. For this shot, I wanted to maximize my dynamic range to retain as much detail as possible in-camera (using the Fujifilm X-T4 with a 16-80mm kit lens). For these types of shots, I generally like to shoot wide and close to emphasize action. A lens in the range of 14-24mm should work just fine for a full frame camera.
Step #5. Direct Your Subject
With all of your settings dialed in, it’s time to direct your subject into a pose/expression and capture the shot. For this image, I wanted Ethan to look excited as he opened the box to discover his new camera. I focused on the camera itself as it serves as the main part of the story, but Ethan is still sharp (with an aperture of f/4) to the point that his expression plays an important role in capturing the mood of the unboxing.
Bonus Tip: Get the Camera Close to the Acrylic
Get the camera as close as possible to the acrylic for the shoot through in order to minimize any glare, dust, or reflections.
The Final Image: Before and After Using Perspective
The difference in the images is drastic, but it only took a few minutes of planning to create a more visually compelling portrait using perspective. This is something you can do almost anywhere, even in front of your garage.
We hope you enjoyed this video and lesson on how to get creative with perspective. If you like what you see, I invite you to follow my new account on TikTok (@bornuncreative), which I update regularly with quick photography tutorials like this. Be sure to catch our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!