Sunday, July 26, 2015


I teach composition in my classes and workshops. I devote an entire chapter in my RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY book. It is that important. I judged 863 photo entries recently for a national annual photo competition and exhibit. One of the weaknesses I observed was composition. I cover seven (7) key principles of composition in my book. Today, I will only provide a few highlights regarding only one of the principles I apply to my photograpy--Perspective. This principle alone will increase the "wow" factor in your images, add mystery to your images, and might even make people ask you questions like, "What is that?" "How did you get that?"

It is a common habit, for both beginners and professionals, to shoot from mostly one perspective: eye level, whether they are 5'6" or 6'5" tall. I urge you to break the habit and vary your perspective. 
Even if you have a hard time getting down on your knees, you can still vary your perspective--don't let that stop you.

Now let me show you how I vary my perspectives. Sometimes it isn't obvious to the viewer, and I like that. The most important reason for varying my perspective is to give my images obvious or subtle different looks; a different feel to them, whether the viewer is aware of it or not.

I will now show you some images, then explain what I did to create them.

For this image, I got very close to the cobble stones, about two feet from the ground, with the camera on my tripod. If you look closely, you're looking upward toward the young woman and her black umbrella in the foreground. It's subtle, but makes an effective difference. 

Two types of perspective are at play here. I was about two feet from the wooden walkway to give it more emphasis, and more power to the facade of this old building. Secondly, I got close to the building, about 2-3 feet and aimed my camera down the walkway. Doing so gives a two-dimensional object, my image, a three-dimensional feel---a feeling that this boardwalk goes a long way back there. The perspective lines of the boardwalk, combined with the tops of the buildings lead the eye to infinity.

This is the inside of a long-abandoned 1800s house near Victor, Colorado. For this image, I got as close to the bottom of the staircase as I could. It wasn't easy, as I aimed my camera up toward the top of the stairs from a low angle. This extreme perspective gave me the illusion that the staircase spirals to the second floor. It also makes the next level of the house seem much higher than it really was. It helps to have wide angle lenses for situations like this. 

This is a very tall structure. It occurred to me to place my camera right below the cross and aim it straight up toward Jesus. The camera was away from my body at arm's length. I was standing up. I could not see what I was doing, but I estimated where I had to aim my camera to get this perspective. The flair from the midday sun added to the spiritual feel of the image. It took a couple of tries to get this.

This is inside a historic 1800s farm house, in South Park, Colorado. I liked the elements in this scene---the coffee cups, sugar bowl, the old kerosene lamp, the table cloth, and the gold mine era curtains with all the folds. However, I wasn't satisfied with just taking a good snapshot of the scene at eye level. It would look too common for me. What to do? I did just the opposite of what I did with the cross and Jesus structure above. I held my camera at arm's length, slightly higher than my head, and aimed it straight down at the table. I used my wide angle lens and assumed that it would cover the curtains as well---it did. 

I think you've got the idea now. So, go out there and think outside the box. We have programmed ourselves to keep our cameras close to our eyes and bodies as we stand there and "take pictures" with very expensive equipment. Alter your thinking and you will alter your perspectives and give the world a new way of seeing life.

Feel free to ask me any questions or if you need some 1-on-1 lessons to help you "connect the dots."