The Power of Perspective in Photography

Famous landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Queen Elizabeth, have been photographed from the same angle – the same way, so many times you almost expect it.  They are iconic.  And when something is iconic it seems almost like sacrilege to view it any other way.

This is one of the reasons Annie Liebowitz wanted Queen Elizabeth to take off her crown.

Before you get off the bus and stop at that spot labeled “scenic view” convince your self you will do one better.  Convince yourself of the power of perspective.

My greatest regret in taking pictures in Yellowstone National Park was not getting shots of the people acting like idiots around the animals.  Sure I got some great wildlife shots.  But how often do you see people interacting with large animals in the most memorable of ways?  Grown men with children on their shoulders approaching bull elk of within distances of 8 feet in order to take a picture.  Women and children running in and out of a group of cow elk with calves.

I missed the power of perspective.  I was not thinking like a photo journalist.

Learn to look at your subject like you are telling a story.  Sometimes you can accomplish this by simply switching lenses and zooming in or out.  But the best way to tell the story of your subject is to shoot it all at different angles by moving around your subject.

Telling the story of your subject photographically is a lot like using point of view in writing:

First person (I or we)

Second person (you)

Third person (he/she/it/one or they)

Try to utilize all these points of view when you photograph a subject.

Approach the Eiffel Tower like a story:

We came to the tower before lunch.  Approaching the chrome with some trepidation, we shut our eyes as the glass elevator hurtled to the top of the sky.  Hungry for something they were not serving, you looked down.  Lined like little ants, countless dots of people shifted along the concrete waiting to enter…

Did they enter?  Or did they get fed up and leave?

What was at the top?  What was at the bottom?

Show me with your pictures.

Photocredits: © Ellen Wilson

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23 thoughts on “The Power of Perspective in Photography”

  1. I agree. I will often take a few photos of the people mingling around the shot I actually want to get and then finally get the SHOT I want.

    When I look back it’s the people that capture that feeling I was after all along. 🙂

  2. Hi Ellen,

    You’ve brought up a great point. We’re often shooting pictures of the prime focus, but forget to get ones of how people are affected by what they’re seeing. I’ll have to remember this in the future.

  3. E, even though I don’t own a camera you always break things down so that they sound doable. You have such a fabulous eye which is what makes you such a talented photographer. Thank you for making me believe that I can actually shoot a picture (minus my thumb!).

    Karen Swims last blog post..I’m Still Standing! I’m Still Strong!

  4. I -love- taking pictures of things from different perspectives.

    I could take a picture of that landmark in the postcard kinda way, but I know it’s not going to be nearly as good as the one a professional took hours to setup and shoot. And I can buy that postcard in the gift shop if I want it.

    What I like is kinda the behind the scenes. What’s around this item, object, place. How did I get to the sightseeing spot? What about the people who live next door to it? What about their daily lives, and everyday items?

    hyrcans last blog post..Where am I?

  5. I love your photograph of the Eiffel Tower at the top, but I didn’t like Annie Liebowitz’s photograph of the queen; she just looks like a little old lady sitting in a cold room looking out the window at an oncoming storm. Funny how you say that we should tell a story with our photographs, because today I wrote about marketers telling potential customers a compelling story about the product they’re trying to sell. I guess at the end of the day we all want to be sitting around the camp fire listening to stories 🙂

    Marelisas last blog post..Creativity Insights from Seth Godin

  6. @Vered – I like to please my readers so I give you more photo posts!

    @Harmony – Good analogy. I can’t really say anything about THAT, feel like Forest Gump talking about putting your finger on it all. Because there is nothing to put your finger ON. There’s only the experience.

    @Barbara – You know, I didn’t mean for the post to go this way, but it did. But yeah, take it all in.

    @Writer Dad – Saying that is like saying you’ll be a writer one day. And you’re a writer now, eh?

    @Karen – I will work on that thumb post. Just for you.

    @hyrcan – Yeah. You could have wrote this post. That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying. Technically beautiful is nice. But boring. It’s Hollywood.

    @Janice – Hey thanks. It’s good to see you again.

    @Marelisa – Ha! That’s so funny! That is what Liebowitz was trying to avoid! But she got stuck with it due to royal PR. You’re right. Marketing is all about telling a story. And we all want the starring role in the story. So make me feel like I’m in the center of the story, and I can influence the outcome…by what? Buying this product?

  7. @Dr Cason – I composed my reply in my head to you and then realized I didn’t write it down!

    What I was going to say was that yeah, it’s so funny how we plan things out photographically, I do it all the time, and then they don’t work out.

    What I like is this feeling of, what is going to happen that I will be privey to?

  8. Oh wow! I’ve got a lot to learn from you about photography. I don’t read any other photography blogs at the moment; I don’t have time to. I’m sure glad that you are covering this topic here on your site. I’d like to be able to develop my skills further!

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..Mind Travel To Ancient Egypt

  9. Awesome! When I think about the photos I love, it’s true: they always have an interesting angle or perspective and that really does lend so much to telling a story. You really feel there or in the mind of the photographer. I marvel at how people see the world through their lenses.

    I really loved your comparison to voice in a story. I’ll try to remember that for next time I pick up the camera!

  10. Spectacular photo!

    Last time I went up the La Tour Eiffel, I was 15ish and yelling in French to all the other tourist ants how I had butt and boobies, because that sort of thing is funny to a teenager, not so funny to anyone else.

    Great advice and interesting new perspective on photography perspective. Thanks!

    This advice goes for motion picture as well.

    My mom was filming the grand canyon and my dad kept jumping into the frame doing a funny jig, and my mom was super irritated at him. Now, many decades later, the canyon is the same, but that footage of my dorky dad is priceless!

  11. @Evelyn – Glad to be of service and I hope I write something you can put to use.

    @Lance – I know you have kids, and this works really well with kids. Better than the standard birthday blowing out the candles shots!

    @Steph – I thought you might like that analogy. I wrote that with my writer reader friends in mind.

    @Jaden – I can just see you doing that. I would love to see the film of your dorky dad. Hilarious! Now you’ll have it forever.

  12. It’s true for writers too! In fact, I think the ability to see things from a broad range of perspectives is a skill that most writers need to have. I rarely get a chance to play photographer, but when I do, I always take lots of shots from all kinds of crazy angles. That’s what makes it so fun.

  13. Hi Ellen – this is so true – stories, like pictures can change completely if told from a different angle.

    I know it’s sometimes easy when I’m blogging to cover the same old things that everyone else has done – and the story is pretty similar. I will try to remember to be a bit more creative.

  14. @Melissa – Yes, it’s good to focus in and focus out – as a writer and a photographer. You just never know what will work the best for your art, for your “frame” of reference.

    @Cath – I love your sense of humor and I think you are very creative! I suppose blogging about blogging does seem redundant after awhile, but everyone has a different perspective on it which makes it interesting.

  15. I’m happy you are teaching us about photography here. I really like this post b/c it will make me think twice next time I pull out my digital camera (only have had it since June) and get ready to shoot.

    I’m not sure I like digital 100% — I don’t feel I can capture candids with it the way I did/do with film. There always seems to be just a s-l-i-g-h-t delay that messes up what I wanted to shoot.

    I think I’ll be learning a lot from you. Thanks, Ellen!

    How’s the volunteering going?

    Linda Abbits last blog post..Inspiring Quotes for Caregivers — 9/24/08

  16. Hi Linda,

    Digital takes some time to get used to, but once you do I think you will really appreciate it.

    I don’t know what kind of camera you have so I couldn’t help with delay problem. It could be the auto focus or the flash, though. That takes a millisecond or so to register. I know a lot can happen with a millisecond so I feel your pain.

  17. You hit it on the head. Sure we can do what everyone else has done, but why not try somethng different! I think we can apply this to other aspects of our lives as well!

    Thanks for pointing it out!

    Jennys last blog post..Don’t Laugh At…

  18. Jenny,

    Try something that strikes you. Don’t hesitate. What’s the worst that can happen?

    You’re right. Try it in other aspects of your life. What’s the worst that can happen?

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