To my understanding one-point perspective is produced when the parallel lines (depth) in a scene are orthogonal to the image plane and the other two dimensions height and width are both parallel to the image plane. Furthermore this would place the vanishing point at the oculus/eye-point of the image, as after all a vanishing point is, as defined by Christopher Zeeman:

“Given a set S of parallel lines, define the vanishing point V of S to be the point where the line through the eye E parallel to S pierce the picture P”

enter image description here

In regards to cinema, the images shown as examples of the use of one point perspectives are those of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". Now my question is when would an image truly be considered a one point perspective (including some example scenarios)

Take this image as an example, where there is a single vanishing point (x).

enter image description here

If for example there was a cube on the table with a oblique orientation to the image plane, the width would no longer be parallel to the image plane and produce a second vanishing point (y). Now in theory would this still be a true one-point perspective image. Well I would say yes because the x vanishing points is still at the location to the oculus.

However, if were to now tilt the camera ever so slightly, either up or down, we would now see that the x vanishing point has moved away from the oculus which would still be in the center of the image. So to my understanding it would no longer be a one point perspective image?

So how do we decide which vanishing point is the one that determines the perspective? What if I had a bunch of obliquely placed cubes in the scene, of varying sizes, some perhaps as big as a third of the image. What would be the perspective of an image in taken in real life photography where there could be a bunch of vanishing points, could it really ever exceed three point perspective?

Thank you for your time. I hope the text is somewhat comprehendible.


What perspective is this? Both one-point perspective to the room and two-point perspective to the cube? I feel like paintings are often referenced as either one point, two point perspective or three point perspective, so what would you label this, if it were a painting?

enter image description here


2 Answers 2


So how do we decide which vanishing point is the one that determines the perspective?

We don't; at least not in photography... it is the perspective (point of view/camera position) that determines the vanishing point(s); not the other way around.

Similarly, in composition/drawing/etc you decide which vanishing points/references to use to create the resulting perspective (place the viewer in the scene)... the desired perspective comes before the creation/placement of the vanishing point(s).

If trying to work out what the artist intended (if they actually/knowingly used such techniques); the best you can do is to "place yourself in the scene," as best you can with the visual cues given.

Edit: A scene has a single perspective; that of the viewer/camera (position/angle/distance). But it cannot be defined as one point, or two point (or 5).

"Point" perspective may be better thought of as the viewer's perspective of an object at that point in the scene; and it only relates to that object, not the scene as a whole.

enter image description here

Edit to address the additional questions:

What perspective is this? Both one-point perspective to the room and two-point perspective to the cube?


so what would you label this, if it were a painting?

I wouldn't, but If I had to I would probably describe it as two point because that is the characteristic of the dominant object, and it hides where the other resolves to.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So in theory would that mean that if I placed my camera to align perfectly with the oblique cube on the table, to make it perfectly facing the camera, with its vanishing point now aligned with the oculus I would now have a one point perspective with respect to the cube. So my scene would be a one point perspective despite all the other objects and the walls of the room itself being placed obliquely to my camera? \$\endgroup\$
    – vannira
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or perhaps if I gave another example, if we had a large plain room like the one above with the side walls parallel to the camera, it would be a one point perspective. However, now lets place a giant cube (practically filling the room) into the center of that room, obliquely to the camera, with one of its edges facing the camera. The cube would appear to have two point perspective, like those classic two point perspective images of buildings. However as the camera (oculus) is still lined up perfectly to the vanishing point of the room, it would also appear like a one point perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – vannira
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ So which is it? I suppose another way to imagine it, is that if in the frame from shining instead of having Danny Torrance moving on a Tricycle down the hall, what if it was just a giant rotated cube, with the side edge perfectly facing the center of the camera. \$\endgroup\$
    – vannira
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 10:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vannira; If perpendicular to the side of the cube it is one point, if aligned with a corner edge it is two point, if aligned with a corner point it is three point... but only in relation to that cube. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if that answers my question but if it does I'm sorry if I still don't quite understand. I edited my question above to show the theoretical picture I was referencing. If I took a picture with the camera of something like that, what in what perspective is said image? \$\endgroup\$
    – vannira
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 21:31

Perspective is a concept that helps us determine relations in space when we have parallel lines. (I'll explain a bit more on this later)

So how do we decide which vanishing point is the one that determines the perspective?

What determines "the" perspective are the dominant (parallel) lines. In the first case, all the walls in the corridor. On the second image, it is accentuated by the orientation of the planks. So they are dominant lines, and we assume they are or should be parallel.

You can have a photo as the one you posted, and have some tilt, because you need to frame the kid. It is still one vanishing point.

If your camera and your scene change to the Kid approaching an open shaft of the elevator, and you make a cenital shoot, the vanishing point showing the first floor way down, obviously the dominant will be that one.

But there are an infinite number of vanishing points... or none at all.

Let me spam you an answer I made on another post: on a landscape, you do not have vanishing points unless you have structures that you assume are parallel lines.

These are rules for composition, not for nuclear energy safety regulations.

Another related answer.

Regarding tilting.

In Photography we have some degree of freedom while tilting, using a tilt lens, where we can align the planes and keep the verticals vertical.

Additionally, we can think of a case where we have a rectilinear lens, focus perfectly on the vanishing point, the corridor at the center, so all other lines are parallel, and then make a crop. Now we can have the appearance of tilt.

We did not add any new vanishing points.

But besides that, in real life the perspective is not absolute, it is a tool.

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ However, wouldn't the slight tilt by definition, being very pedantic, make the scene not a one point perspective anymore, as (this is from wikipedia) : When the set of parallel lines is perpendicular to a picture plane, the construction is known as one-point perspective, and their vanishing point corresponds to the oculus, or "eye point", from which the image should be viewed for correct perspective geometry.[1] Traditional linear drawings use objects with one to three sets of parallels, defining one to three vanishing points." \$\endgroup\$
    – vannira
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 10:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ If we tilt the image the oculus would no longer correspond perfectly to the vanishing point so in theory it isnt a one point perspective, but perhaps in practice it may seem that way, but in theory wouldnt the slight tilt lead the formation of another vanishing point far far far off the page with respect to the other dimension that is now no longer parallel to the image plane? I also am curious to what you mean by dominant parallel lines, if I had a room with the walls parallel to the camera and placed in the center of the room a giant cube facing obliquely, which lines are dominant? \$\endgroup\$
    – vannira
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 10:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.