We photographers create a lot of photographs standing up. We tend to create a lot of our photography by holding the camera at eye level, shooting from a standing position. If you see any drawing or representation of a photographer, most often it is of them standing and shooting. Standing while creating a photo is the most popular position but it is also the most common perspective we see in photographs. This is good and this is not so good.
As full, upright walking Homo Sapien Sapiens we see and experience a lot of our world from a standing position. We travel through much of our world standing up. In the modern age we do a lot of sitting, for example driving, working and writing books about photography but as photographers we most often move. Moving requires standing. When we create photos we most often do it while standing. No matter what kind of photography it is almost always shot from a standing position: studio, landscape, weddings, journalism, street photography is most often all shot with the photographer standing up. (When was the last time you took a photo while sitting in a chair?) Standing allows us to move, it allows us to change views, it allows us to be a human tripod and stabilize the camera and it allows us to change perspective. Changing perspective is one of the most important things you can do to create WOW! photography.
The reason changing perspective is one of the most important ways to make your photography more interesting, to give it more WOW! is because, as humans, we see a lot of the world, everyday, from a standing position. This standing view ranges with our different heights, that of roughly around 4 feet to 7 feet high. If we create most of our photos from a standing position, with the camera horizontal, then this is the view we most often see and because we see it a lot it, well, it gets kind of boring.
Little kids, toddlers to be exact, have the cool perspective. They get to see the world while crawling close to the ground, or up high in mother’s arms or from standing a couple feet off the ground. They see the world from a perspective we, adults rarely do. If we gave a camera to a 2 year old we would find the photos interesting even if they weren’t great shots, all because of the fresh perspective.
Once, while teaching a workshop on the pebble beach in the postcard beautiful Positano, Italy I asked the students to try and capture a photo of the entire scene. I suggested they try and create what is called an establishing shot in filmmaking- a photo that shows the viewer the big picture- where they are in the story- in the world. We shot for the next hour, never more than a few hundred feet from each other. That evening, during the critique session in our hotel with some Italian wine we looked at everyone’s photos. I love doing these kind of critique sessions where we all created photos in the same place and never far from each other and each person has a totally different shot than anyone else in the group. At one point Shirley, a talented and keen photographer, put a photo up on the screen and everyone oooohed and awwwwed. It was a photo of the town of Positano taken from beach level. She took the shot lying on the beach with the camera on the sand. We were all stunned. It was a great photo. Although many of us had photos of the town from the same place of the same view, she was the only one who thought of doing it that way. We loved it because it was fresh. (Shirely photo)
When I prepare my portfolio for the nerve racking and humbling process of showing my work to editors and clients I always put the images that are the most ‘fresh’. Fresh is the photography industry term for images that are unique. Fresh is what editors or ‘ed’ looks for. Fresh gets our attention. Fresh gets us interested and keeps us turning the pages of a magazine. Fresh is why we love National Geographic. Fresh makes WOW! photos. The easiest and best way to make your photos fresh is take them from a different perspective.
Practice creating all of your photos from a position other than standing. Practice a variety of positions and angles.
-Lay down on the ground – worms eye OR toddler view
-Get up high looking down- birds eye view (but don’t fall off)
-look at down
-Put the camera against a wall
- Shoot vertical as well as horizontal
-Don’t be afraid to tilt the camera