One of the hallmarks of casual snapshooters is that most of their shots come from one perspective — their own eye level. And why not? It’s so much easier to just tilt your camera than kneel, crouch or climb a trash bin. While it’s more or less ok for these people, it’s nothing short of laziness for anyone attempting to seriously take up photography. It’s not that it’s a necessarily bad level to take pictures from. But it’s not always the best one. That is especially the case of you’re shooting other people and you are not of average height.
Take a look at the above picture. The distracting distortion of body proportions was caused by two things — the man was leaning slightly towards me and I was shooting from a high point of view. This would have been averted had I stooped lower and shot near the level of his abdomen and if I circled him a bit to the right.
Biomodd[TUDelft3] was a collaborative new media art installation project I was involved in back in 2011 in Holland. The installation stood several meters and reached the loft of the venue and a lot of it was interactive. As a photographer, covering its exhibition was an exercise of playing with perspectives.
The above made one mother happy. It was a picture taken during the opening of a new media art installation I helped build in Holland. Part of the installation was a makeshift cockpit at the base. A child crawled into it and was a perfect fit. I didn’t want to shoot from above. For one, there were too many obstructions to get a clear view. But more importantly, I wanted to capture as close to what he sees from below is I possibly could. That meant I had to get down myself. There were lots of people, so crouching was out of the question and I couldn’t kneel any lower. Luckily, I can live with the proportions I got. More importantly, I got to compose the shot as well as I could have under the circumstances. Props to the kid, as well, for being game with some Asian guy with long hair pointing a camera in his face.
Shooting from the level of the subject is a logical point of view to try first. The obvious benefit is that your camera will capture proportions accurately — very important when taking portraits. However, that does not mean that taking shots from other angles are to be shunned. In fact, you will discover a lot of really good pictures taken with the photographer aiming from way up or way down. Playing with perspectives can be a good way of finding unorthodox but interesting compositions from an otherwise mundane scene. I certainly figured that out with Biomodd.
If you are not used to it, consciously keep in mind to look at your subject from as many points of view as you can. I’m sure you’ll thank yourself for it in the end.