Lesson 95: A Change of Perspective


How many times have you seen or taken a picture of a dog that looks a lot like this?  (You could probably replace the word “dog” with “child” here as well.)

02 Tisen grateful for Jack

Now, I don’t mean that all dogs (or children) look alike.  Rather, I mean that our default way of looking at a dog is from a standing position looking down at them.  Most dog photos dog owners snap are taken very quickly, spur of the moment without time to think or plan how we want to shoot.

This is usually because each of our dogs is the cutest, most brilliant canine kid in the world and we want to capture that hilarious thing he or she is doing that makes him or her that much cuter.

However, sometimes changing the perspective just a little can make a big difference  For example, compare these two photos:

In the first one, we have a funny expression that still cracks me up every time I look at it, but notice that the camera is above the dog’s head shooting down and the angle of his head to the camera makes it look considerably skinnier than it does in the photo on the right.  The one on the right was taken about level with the dog’s face, straight on to the nose.  If these were the only two pictures you’d ever seen of my dog, would you still feel certain these were both of the same dog?

Let’s compare a couple more:

Notice how in the image on the left, we have a cute snapshot of a dog rolling in the grass.  The camera is held almost parallel to the dog, leaving us no sense of the height of his body relative to the ground (except perhaps because of the stray foot that snuck into the shot).  But look at the leash that starts at the lower left corner and creates a line down to the dog.  It looks like it could be 10 feet long!  (It’s only 4 ft.)

Now look at the length of my dog’s front legs.  The are folded and parallel to the camera.  Compare that to the front leg in the photo on the right.  Notice how the leg now forms a similar angle to the lens that draws the eye back to the dog.  But this time, it’s his leg that looks exceptionally long.

Next, let’s look at wide angle perspectives that create a sense of size.

In the photo on the left, you could argue that the dog (and man) look really small, or, if you imagine the dog and man to be average sized, you might see this more as the waterfall looking really big.  On the right, we have an example shot tighter, but again, it’s wide, the camera is further back, and it’s shot from a standing position angled downward.  This creates the impression that the bench, man, and dog are all a little shorter than they really are.

Finally, here’s a perspective that creates a little bit of an optical illusion:

Both images were shot from the floor looking up at my dog hanging over the edge of a sofa.  In the photo on the left, the back legs are not visually connected to the front end of the dog.  They visually look like either there is a second dog in the photo or the visible dog was cut in half with his back legs moved to the side.  I can assure you that no animals were harmed in any way in the making of this post.

In the photo on the right, I got up tight to my dog’s back paws and created more of a silhouette effect.  By changing the perspective so that I am both closer and looking up, the paws look huge!  Notice that the one on the right looks significantly bigger than the one on the left.  This is because it was closer to the camera and it’s turned at a slightly different angle that makes the full breadth of the pad visible, but angled to the camera.

Your Assignment:  Experiment with the visual effects you can create by changing where you’re angle to the subject.  Move up, move down, move all around.  Try shooting from above and shooting from down low.  Try head on, too.  None of these angels are right or wrong; they just create a different perspective that affects the way the eye perceives the shape of the subject.  Bonus Tip:  want to look taller and thinner?  Have the iPhotographer get down low and shoot at an upward angle.

Lesson 5: Exposure

I mentioned in yesterday’s lesson that the iPhone’s default camera app both focuses and sets exposure based on where you tap on your phone’s screen.  Yesterday we talked about focus.  Today we will talk about exposure.

The fact that focus and exposure are tied together in the iPhone app can create some frustrating situations.  In later lessons, we’ll talk about other iPhone apps you can use that separate these two functions, for right now, we’ll stick to the default app.

Let’s take a made-up example.  Let’s say I want a picture of my dog that includes the patio door for some reason.  When I tap my dog on the screen, the iPhone both focuses and sets the correct exposure for my dog, which works reasonably well:

Setting the focus/exposure point using my dog work reasonably well for this image
Dog chosen as focus/exposure point

Now let’s pretend there is something really fascinating about that patio door and I want a picture that exposes the patio door correctly, but also includes my dog.  If I tap on the patio door to get the right exposure for it, this is what I get:

Glass in door focus/exposure point selected
Glass in door focus/exposure point selected

If we could see my dog, we would find that he’s kind of fuzzy in addition to being too dark.

To get both my dog and the door, I can choose a portion of the image that is approximately halfway in between the two and turn on the flash like this:

Choosing a compromise point and turning on the flash
Choosing a compromise point and turning on the flash

You’ll notice in the image above (click to enlarge) used to show where to focus, the downside of using the flash is that my dog’s eye reflected the light, but we’ll learn how to deal with that later.

As you can see, when the exposure required for a subject causes the rest of the image to be too bright or too dark, this technique can help.  By choosing the place to tap so that it’s between the two extremes, it helps equalize the gap.  If the gap is too big, you can use the built-in flash to help equalize things further.  Note:  the distance the flash will have an effect is limited to very short distances (a few feet).

Your Assignment:  Take a walk outside during the day.  Try taking a photo of a solid subject that has a lot of light behind it.  See if you can find good spot to tap on to get both reasonable exposure and focus.  Try turning on the flash to see if it helps.  For bonus points, try using the rule of thirds in the same photo.