Next to light, composition is one of the most important factors in determining the overall outcome and impact of a photo. And while light can often be a variable outside of your control, how you choose to frame the subject matter within your frame is almost always on you. In other words, the way you choose to compose your photo can have a dramatic effect on the outcome. Now, let’s make a clear distinction here. When I’m talking about adjusting your composition, I’m not referring to being able to move what’s in front of you. After all, it’s not like you can just pick up a rooted tree and move it out of frame. However, there is [usually] nothing stopping you from moving yourself and your camera to adjust your perspective. And that’s where perspective comes into play. The relationship of how you position your camera relative to your subject is so important and should always be considered when composing a shot. And since we live in three dimensions, you can leverage each axis to suit your needs.
Let’s start with this tree incredibly growing out of some solid brain rock in White Pocket, Arizona.
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As you browse between both photos, you’ll notice two distinctly different ways of presenting essentially the same primary subject. In the first photo, I used a longer lens and filled the frame with the tree. However, in the second one, I attempted to portray the tree more creatively by changing perspective. I used a much wider lens, filling the frame with more foreground brain rock, thus allowing the tree to sit in the back corner of the frame. It may look smaller but it’s still very much the focal point and is arguably more interesting to look at.
Next up is a tiny barn located near the Garden of A Thousand Buddhas, located near Alree, MO.
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When I first approached the scene, I went with what is probably the most common perspective: standing eye level. At face value, this perspective provides a generally pleasing view of the barn and the surrounding field but it is lacking any sort of intrigue. However, when you compare it to the second photo, you’ll notice that things get more interesting. That’s because I simply knelt down and framed the barn with my camera closer to the ground. By doing so, the barn takes on a more looming feel and a greater sense of depth is created because of the reeds in the immediate foreground. I’ve often found that you can vastly improve your composition simply by lowering or elevating your camera from standing eye level.
In this final example of a bench display at the aforementioned Garden of A Thousand Buddhas, let’s combine the two elements of perspective discussed here: distance and height.
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When you compare the two, you can see that even just a few small tweaks can have a strong impact. All I did here was get a little closer to the bench while positioning my camera closer to the ground and angling it slightly downward. Doing this allows the bench to form a slight leading line, pointing towards the shrine in the background while also framing the statue above it.
I hope these tidbits help spark new creative ideas with your photography. Be sure to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!