As I look back at my photographic history, I can pick out certain points at which my photography changed or developed in some way. This may have been due to the acquisition of some new equipment, the development of a new technique or a opportunity to work with new subject matter. No single step in my journey has been more important than realizing that I need to shoot things differently than how people normally see them.
To begin with, it’s important to be open minded when approaching a shoot. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of photographing subject matter in a way you’ve seen it photographed before.
When starting out, there is no harm in exploiting angles used by others to set the standard. But in order to express yourself as an artistic photographer, it is essential that you approach your subject with a fresh perspective on the location, objects, people and environment that you photograph. Remove from your mind the conventional way to shoot the scene before you and begin considering the vast variety of options before you.
Photo by Tim Caynes
Think about how to maximize the impact of the shot, taking into consideration the vital elements that need to be included. For example, if working on a fashion shoot, consider whether you need to include the entirety of the model, or whether there are more creative options in finding an angle that draws attention to a particular item of interest.
Working with angles centers around the compositional element of your shot, so as you explore the variety of options you need to consider certain compositional aspects, just as you would with any of your photography. Is there any dead space in your shot? Are you utilizing the space within the frame well, or are there areas of the shot that aren’t attracting any visual attention?
What is the focal point of your shot and can you see it in enough detail? What do you want to lead the viewers attention towards? Have you considered filling the frame with your chosen subject, but from an angle that the viewer might not expect?
Move your feet!
A lot of the compositional work within photography is not only to do with where you’re pointing the camera, but also, where you are shooting from. It is essential that you don’t get rooted to one spot and hope that you’ll find a good angle from a sole vantage point.
Be sure to get on your feet and move around, get up close, move around the subject and explore with your camera. Moving around is also important when considering perspective, are you looking to accentuate the size of your subject, if so, move closer or further away accordingly.
Photo by Fadzly
Shooting at eye level
It’s certainly a habit of mine, and is probably a trap that many photographers from around the world fall into. But it can be very easy to just shoot at eye level, standing with feet shoulder width apart and a camera to your face. Admittedly, eye level can be very good for shooting a lot of subjects, particularly portraits, as it is great to focus in on the eyes. However, if you’re one of those people that never moves or bends or crouches, then you’ve got a whole spectrum of shot angles available to you that are just waiting to be explored!
Photo by Jeff Balke
Shooting at low levels
Getting down low is one of the easiest ways to alter your photographic perspective and can be utilized effectively in a whole range of contexts. When shooting landscapes, it can be extremely beneficial to get down low in order to include some foreground interest and add a sense of depth to the image.
It’s also really useful when photographing kids and pets to get down to their level and take shots from a similar perspective as them. Using a wide angle lens will be very helpful when getting down low and it can also sometimes be difficult to look through the viewfinder (unless you have a flip out screen), so you may have to resort to a bit of trial and error to get your shot just right.
Don't be afraid to jump around
It’s important that you don’t rule out any options when it comes to finding a great angle for your shot, so don’t be afraid of getting down on the ground or standing on top of a desk. Don't be scared to stick out. You never know, you may be very pleasantly surprised at the aspect on the world that these perspectives gives you.
Any movement that gives you a different impression of your surroundings will inspire creativity and aid you in finding interesting angles.
Photo by Shanelin
Shooting from the hip
Shooting without looking through the viewfinder is inherently surprising, but with some practice and a wide angle lens, you can predict how things will turn out. This technique has been used in the past by street photographers aiming to be discrete and capture the world around them without being spotted. Be sure to hold your camera straight, have a steady grip on it and have your finger on the shutter button ready to go at any time in case something exciting happens in front of you!
Photo by SusanNYC
Getting a birds-eye view
This can often be harder than it sounds, but if you can achieve a vantage point to look down upon your subject matter, then the results can be extremely rewarding. Try and find a high vantage point that will enable you a good view of the world below and be sure to have your camera strap around your neck so there’s no risk of loosing your camera!
Shooting from above also has the distinct advantage of cleaning up your background. Instead of overexposed skies or ugly overhead lighting, you fill your shot with clean glass or other environmental factors that can add to your shot.
On the extreme side of things, if you’re ever lucky enough to travel by helicopter or hot air balloon, be sure to take your camera with you as you’ll have a great chance to try out some aerial photography.
Photo by Claire Brownlow
Still life & macro
For me, one of the easiest ways to achieve interesting angles is when I’m working with still life. This is mainly because you have as much time as you want to work with the subject matter (it’s not going to get bored and twitchy like a model!), so you can spend time exploring the angles and perspectives.
As I said at the beginning, this is a great chance to forget about the ways in which something would be shot in a conventional sense and approach it with an open mind. Try to find a way to represent the subject or a specific feature of the subject in an interesting way.
Try it out for yourself
So now it’s time to have a go yourself. Hopefully these few tips have given you a few ideas on how to work creatively with angles and will aid you when you next approach a subject and want to capture it in a fresh and exciting way.
To practice, find an object at home and try shooting it from different angles, stand up, sit down, lay down in front of it, crouch, kneel. Take your time in each pose and be sure not to have the camera glued to your face the whole time. Give yourself time to think and take in the subject and its surroundings to establish how it could be best portrayed.