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Of course there aren't any fixed rules in photography, but since part of photography is about sharing one's viewpoint, I'd like to hear how experienced photographers choose this key aspect of composition.

What impact, in general, does it make to choose:

  • A high point of view, above the scene?
  • A eye-level point of view, at normal human height?
  • A low-to-the ground "earthworm's view"?

Does the choice of subject completely overrule any difference, or is there a general sense each viewpoint gives? When the choice of subjects matter, which subjects lend themselves to each perspective? Do certain types of photography work best with a particular point of view?

Are there other possible viewpoints to consider?

  • Well, maybe. The ideal is to make each question specific, but not so specific that good answers can't also cover the general. "Still life" is a pretty broad category, but perhaps it could work. I'd suggest taking these one at a time, as you've got something specific you're working on or with. – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 3:35
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    :) I'm not nitpicking, just trying to help you get good answers. These really open questions often aren't good matches for Stack Exchange, and as you can see, this one hasn't really gotten what you wanted. Here's a question on composition in food photography, although sadly from the point of view of providing a good example it didn't get good answers either. (I think maybe it started out too general and the edit came too late to save it.) – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 3:50
  • let us continue this discussion in chat – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 4:01
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    bam, there you go. Does that cover the essence of what you want to know? – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 4:31
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    It's okay. It's a collaborative site after all. I wouldn't have asked this question myself, or edited it in this way without your input. Plus, you spent 100 rep on the bounty and now you're earning that back. :) – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 11:50
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+100

ANOTHER ANSWER (following question changes) :

What impact, in general, does it make to choose :

  • A high point of view, above the scene ?

It gives a feeling of power to the observer. You are ABOVE the scene, you dominate it. You can "control" what is on the picture. Taking landscape and you could be a god who created that, a bird that is not affected by the elements, ... Taking a portrait you could be a father or a mother, an higher person, someone who exercise a domination on your subject, ...

  • A eye-level point of view, at normal human height?

It's a general point of view. You see things like many other people. There are no special feeling. But what is eye-level if there are nobody in the picture ? It depends on who should be impressed by the picture. Taking a picture at children eye-level would not have the same impact for a children viewer and an adult viewer. You should take care of the public you want to touch with your picture.

Another thing to take into account is the kind of lens you use. Being at eye level does not imply that you take pictures like everybody can see the scene. For example, if you use a wide angle lens, and take a monument or a lanscape, you may include in the photo more objects than a normal eye can see. If you move your camera a litle bit down or up, then you change perspective. A normal eye don't see like that too. So you can add, even being at eye level, some dramatic expression on your picture.

  • A low-to-the ground "earthworm's view"?

In the opposite of high-level point of view, this one gives the viewer a feeling of being dominated. You do not control anything on the scene. Taking landscape and you could be an earthworm, fragile, ... Taking a portrait you could be a son or a daughter, an higher person, someone who needs protection or is dominated or under the control of the subject, ... Here also, using a wide angle lens can change that a little bit, if you take the pictrue with the camera up. You add dramatic expression, and can shown a large view of the scene. So even if you seem fragile, the dramatic addition and large point of view may let think that you are not so fragile. A little flower taken like that may seem to dominate its surroundings, its little environment, even if it's just a little flower. taking the same flower, with that same POV and a normal lens, and the feeling is not the same. You may isolate the flower, lower the drama expression, taking it like this so the feeling of fragile may be more present.

Do certain types of photography work best with a particular point of view ?

Definitely, no. It just depends on what you want to express. But... if you want to impress, choose a POV that is not common. Classical POV are : eye-level for portraits, low-level for flowers, low-sized objects, ... high-level for large scenes (crown, town, ...). But saying this, I can see in my mind many geat pictures that do the exact opposite.

Low-level :
Nature :
http://1x.com/photo/44881/portfolio/67762
http://1x.com/photo/46927/portfolio/96704
http://1x.com/photo/46253/portfolio/48485

Portrait :
http://www.zphoto.fr/aurelia_photo652435.html
http://1x.com/photo/46313/portfolio/61156
http://1x.com/photo/247/portfolio/42

Landscape :
http://1x.com/photo/46223/portfolio/63062
http://1x.com/photo/44582/portfolio/37923

Eye-level :
Nature :
http://1x.com/photo/47005/portfolio/137168
http://1x.com/photo/46271/portfolio/11929

Portrait :
http://1x.com/photo/46346/portfolio/29189
http://1x.com/photo/46293/portfolio/11824

Landscape :
http://1x.com/photo/46430/portfolio/101715
http://1x.com/photo/46381/portfolio/130137
http://1x.com/photo/46260/portfolio/130808

High-level :
Nature :
http://1x.com/photo/46031/portfolio/75215
http://1x.com/photo/45161/portfolio/57812

Portrait :
http://1x.com/photo/1494/portfolio/22
http://1x.com/photo/46718/portfolio/138079
http://www.zphoto.fr/enfant_de_ganvie_photo653449.html

Landscape :
http://1x.com/photo/47002/portfolio/141698
http://1x.com/photo/46842/portfolio/19773

  • Hey Oliver...excellent links, with great examples. For longevity sake, is there any chance you could fix the links so they are not linked through the "latest-additions" 1x.com resource url? Those tend to "die" fairly soon, which would effectively break your post. If you could get links directly to each one of those photos, and replace the latest-additions links here, that should greatly improve the life of your post. Thanks! – jrista Jan 5 '12 at 20:44
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    @jrista : Damned, you're right ! I didn't notice that. It's now corrected. Thank you :-) – Oliver Jan 6 '12 at 0:06
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When you take portraits, the rule is to be to eye level. But... if your model does not have too much height, moving the eye point of view a little down can help. Same thing if your model has a double chin. A little higher than eye level can help.

Another thing is about the use of a wide angle lens. The rule is to keep the camera horizontaly and verticaly "aligned". But if you want to enhance some curves, or some perspective, you may rotate it a little bit.

Also, with a wide angle lens, getting a little bit down can reduce the importance of the ground, and at the opposite, taking it up may increase it (always with the camera H/V aligned).

A last thing. Putting the camera higher than your eye level may introduce a feeling of power / detachment. On the opposite, putting it lower may introduce a feeling of submission.

The main rules given in this answer also apply for all subjects. Another thing : taking a picture at eye level may give a picture that "anyone can see". The more you change your point of view, the more the picture will be intriguing. takin for example a landscape at your point of view, if there is nothing interesting in the landscape, would result to a not-so-good picture. taking the same landscape from the grass level could give some interesting effect and result to a Wooooaw to not-so-bad image.

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    @Anisha : the main rules given in my answer also apply for all those subjects. Another thing : taking a picture at eye level may give a picture that "anyone can see". The more you change your point of view, the more the picture will be intriguing. takin for example a landscape at your point of view, if there is nothing interesting in the landscape, would result to a not-so-good picture. taking the same landscape from the grass level could give some interesting effect and result to a Wooooaw to not-so-bad image. – Oliver Nov 4 '11 at 13:20
  • Perhaps it's the other way around with wide-angle and ground? Since wide angle amplifies objects that are closer, getting closer to ground would increase its importance. – Imre Nov 5 '11 at 9:46
  • @Oliver — note that the question has been considerably edited. You may want to update your answer. – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 5:22
  • You might want to clarify if the eye level means eye level of the photographer or of the subject. – che Jan 6 '12 at 10:46
  • @che : Yes, that's what I do in my second answer. – Oliver Jan 6 '12 at 11:32
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This is really a creative choice. If every aspect of photography had rules to follow, there'd be no artistic value in it.

As always there are certain rules of thumb for specific types of photography (e.g. shoot overweight people from a slightly higher angle to hide a double chin), but really, you should shoot from whatever point of view you think gives the best results.

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    How can you have a rule for shooting anything? How many billions of things are there in the world? The 'overweight' rule was just an example. Obviously each genre of photography has its own rules of thumb, which you can find in books and online. But very few rules deal with 'point of view', beyond the rule of thirds etc. The point of view is one of many creative choices you need to make for yourself. – ElendilTheTall Nov 3 '11 at 19:39
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    If you know there are very few rules concerning viewpoint, maybe you could name the ones you know? The asker already is trying to find them online... – Imre Nov 4 '11 at 22:38
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    The rule of thirds and golden ratio rules are all I can think of at present. I stand by my assertion that point of view is a creative choice, not something that should be constrained by rules. If you follow a rule for depth of field, a rule for exposure, and a rule for point of view, the only input you've had in the photo is fiddling with the camera's controls. If you're unsure about the point of view of a shot, take it from several points of view and see which one you like best. – ElendilTheTall Nov 5 '11 at 9:26
  • @ElendilTheTall — note that the question has been considerably edited. You may want to update your answer. – mattdm Jan 3 '12 at 5:22

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