We don’t always talk about Photoshop Training and InDesign Training, sometimes we talk about photography! In this post, Heather Buckley gives her tips on shooting photographs from ‘A Different Point of View’…
I’ve been asked to name, judge and instruct a group of photographers’ work in response to a theme. The attendees will be of mixed ability some just starting out and some experienced photographers.
I’ve decided on the theme “A different point of view” because experimenting with the infinite possibilities in which something can be viewed often leads to capturing an image that is simply different. It forces the photographer to examine endless ways in which an object, person or environment can be seen and come up with something that will capture the viewer’s imagination.
Even the most experienced of photographers can get stuck in a rut. When you eventually develop something that resembles a style, a way of looking at things that others recognise as being “your thing” it’s easy to start looking at everything in the same way. Repeating your successes, and automatically taking an image in a particular way.
In many ways this can take the fun out of photography. For me the best kicks happen when you try something completely off the wall, not really knowing if it’s going to work or not and landing an ace. Of course there will be many failures along the way, even famous names have bad days, a card full of 2’s of spades, void of those exhilarating aces.
Beginners often beat themselves up about it, maybe because they are still trying to convince themselves that they have talent. It’s important to view your experimental days as just that – experimental. Those images that didn’t work give you the opportunity to learn, ask yourself why it didn’t work and what you could have done differently. Also it’s important to remember that those photographers that you love only publish a fraction of their work, you don’t get to see the thousands of images that didn’t make the grade.
What I am trying to stress is never, never avoid taking an image because you are afraid it won’t work. Also, that if it doesn’t work, you have still learned something useful, and it has helped you to identify something in the image that could work, and you can add that to your toolbox next time you go out shooting.
Opportunities are everywhere. Even the most mundane of subjects can somehow be brought to life if taken in a way that makes the viewer think.
Of the endless choices that you make before clicking the shutter, one of the most important decisions to make, the one that will ultimately have the most impact on your image, is where you are (or your camera is) in relation to your subject.
One technique that it often associated with my images is getting down low. A really easy technique that has a dramatic impact on an image. It distorts the view of a scene, it’s different for the view because people don’t go around lying on the floor and looking up at everything, it provides them instantly with a way of viewing something in a way that they don’t see every day.
It distorts perspective. With people it makes their head much smaller, especially when taken with a wide-angle lens. Their feet look huge. They appear a lot bigger.
Remember that if you are shooting upwards your subject will probably be back-lit. It’s a good idea to use flash, even the fill flash on a compact will give your subject more light whilst retaining detail in the sky.
The advantage of shooting upwards is that you can get nice clean backgrounds, but some of your subjects might not like the unflattering double chin look!
With landscape, You will get the foreground detail in the image, the foreground will appear large in the frame. Foregrounds in shots really add depth. You can make the viewer feel like they were standing in the scene. The foreground adds context, perspective and interest.
Watch out for focusing though. Make sure you are using the smallest aperture you can (bigger F numbers) whilst keeping the shutter speed fast enough to hand hold (unless you have a beanbag on the ground or are steadying your camera somehow). Remember a wide-angle lens can be handheld at lower shutter speeds.
If in doubt stick in P Mode and focus on the foreground, look at the camera settings and if you think it could be better with more of the background in focus then increase the F number and re-shoot.
I take images from the ground so often that I can usually see in my head what I’m going to get if I put the camera to the ground and shoot. A wide-angle lens or even a fish eye makes this process a lot easier, much less chance of chopping off heads or feet. Just have a go at this using the widest your lens will allow you to go. I still lie on the ground a lot too!
A lot of drama can be added to an image by looking down. there are many famous images of the shadows people and objects make when looking down on them from an elevated position.
It can work with people too. It makes their head look enormous and their feet tiny. The perspective distortion is again much more obvious when shooting with a wide angle lens.
If your lens is wide enough you can tippy toe and lean over to take what looks like an aerial view.
Turn it around
You should always have your horizon straight – right? Wrong! Try taking images on the diagonal, or even just a bit squiff.
This works well, as with any technique, when the treatment says something about the subject. Is your subject a bit squiff? Do you want your image to look like a grabbed and hurried moment?
Turn it upside down
Easiest opportunities for this sort of image are reflections in water, and shadows.
Try and think about this before you click the shutter. You will need at least as much reflection or shadow as the subject. Sometimes you can cut off the subject altogether and just take an image of the reflection or shadow that is representing your subject.
Take one image then turn your camera upside down and look at it that way. Think of how you would improve the composition and reshoot. This is always better done in camera than as an afterthought, you will be surprised how different it will look to how you imagined – try it.
When taking reflections you can have great fun getting images of people who don’t know they are being photographed. Shops provide plenty of opportunities for this, allowing you to capture the street and inside the shop together. Mirrors are a common theme in photography, look out for them in the street.
Glass is everywhere, keep looking at reflections as you walk through the streets. Experiment with the above, look up, look down, put your camera somewhere where your face wont go!
A technique I often use is putting the camera (wide-angle again) as close to a reflective surface as it can get and shooting from there.
Another point of view
I can think of many other ways to get alternative points of view. Try looking through things that diffuse or distort images. Try making something very big look very small or vice versa, just by getting close and shooting wide.
You can also look out for odd relationships between people or things. Find strange similarities between usually unrelated subjects, or obvious differences between people or objects in an image.
You can come up with your own ideas.
Whether you are reading this to prepare for the task or just for some inspiration, remember your viewpoint will have more impact on your image than any other decision you make.
I can think of other interpretations of this theme too. You can interpret the theme any way you wish. A different point of view could be a comical, social or political comment captured by putting together different objects or people who make the viewer think.
Have some fun, experiment.
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