On Perspective

ChaseWindyNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is a snapshot of Chase in the grass. He loves to sit outside, on a windy day, and let his fur blow in the breeze. He’s such a goofball. He has such an unusual perspective on life, squeaky toys, and playing in the yard.

Speaking of “perspective” I think it’s time to speak of a photographer’s perspective. Many photographers, myself included, think of perspective when shooting-but we think in terms of “the big picture.” That is to say, we look at perspective on a grand scale-are we looking up? Looking down? Straight on? That sort of a thing.

An interesting thing about perspective, and perhaps one I would have learned a bit earlier, had I been a better student, is that sometimes, even a slight adjustment in perspective gives us a whole new picture. It’s not always the “look up” instead of “look down” vantage point that gives us the better image, it’s doing the “tripod dance” (as Barbara used to call it) that can turn an ordinary image into something great. As photographers, we need to pay attention to the slight adjustments we can make. Are we shooting at a slight angle? Or straight on? How is the plane of our viewpoint related to the focal plane? These sorts of things, while annoying and time consuming out in the field (or, for that matter, the studio) really do make for better work.

A photographer’s perspective can alter and change the way we see things like scale, lines, shapes, and movement within an image. It’s very popular to see groups on Flickr nowadays that routinely focus on things like “the straight horizon” for example. That’s good-it’s good to have a straight horizon, but fixing a horizon doesn’t always have to be a matter of rotating and cropping. Sometimes, adjusting perspective is a better way of doing it. This can be done in camera (maybe as part of a re-shoot) or, if you are lucky enough to have Photoshop CS2 or higher, using a tool like Photoshop to make slight adjustments to your perspective in post processing. So, while it’s common now to see a lot of folks online complaining about “straight horizons” it’s still not commonplace to hear these same on-line photographers speak of “perspective” which is unfortunate. Perspective, even on a small scale, can really alter the impact a photo has. It has become a neglected element in our photographer’s toolbox.

If you are interested in testing out this theory, next time you are out shooting (or, you know, in the studio) try this exercise-compose your image as you normally would, and take the picture. Then, do the tripod dance-move slightly within a small circle around your current spot. Try altering your viewpoint with relation to your focal plane. Move slightly to the left, to the right, maybe try a diagonal or a few slight tilts, and see what you get. Take a few different images, upload them all, and compare your perspective (slight perspective) to see which works best. I’m not advocating changing the “big stuff” you know, like look up vs. look down, just try out changing your perspective on a slight scale to see what you get.

You just might find a new perspective fits your work oh so well.

Until next time…


  1. mythopolis
    February 4, 2009 / 5:06 pm

    I like the windblown look on Chase…Work it , Chase, work it!!!

  2. Carol
    February 9, 2009 / 11:11 pm

    LOL. He is cute when he sits out in the wind. He’d never make it as a supermodel though-he’s too afraid of the cameras!

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