Shoot from an unusual angle! Drastically altering your angle can completely change your perspective on your subject! Don’t just just shoot at eye level. Get up on a ladder! Lay down on the floor. Change your point of view and suddenly you’ll see exciting new imagery emerge.
Looking to enter the competition? Scroll to the very bottom
When I’m on location, I immediately analyze the environment for both beautiful light and usual angles. When I get down on the floor and shoot upwards, I often discover compelling compositions emerging. When I get at a high level and shoot down, at times I find interesting textures and poses.
Make something dramatic. For example, consider a very low angle where you compose your subject against a stormy sky, making the scene moody and dramatic. I shot something like that with the model standing upon my parents’ picnic table, with me seated below and the results are stunning!
I’ve seen portraits taken directly overhead so while a girl was twirling, her dress makes her look almost like a flower and her head the center of that flower. I’ve seen portraits of Olympic swimmers actually taken underneath the water (directly underneath the subject). What about a graphic pattern of tile on the floor of the location, only visible when shooting from above.
Another approach could be to completely abstract the scene. When shooting from an extreme angle, some elements become unrecognizable at first glance and become more like graphic symbols and composition elements instead of our subjects.
Vincent LaForet’s aerial photography often approaches visuals in this way. His subjects become an abstraction of color, shape and repetition, including the intriguing shadows from ice skaters or swirling patterns of streets in a housing complex. When shooting from such an extreme angle (like a plane), the world becomes an abstract.
Other artists for inspiration
One of my favorite (and very edgy) fashion photographers Steven Klein shot an editorial entitled “A Point of View” for Vogue Italia. In this editorial he had a set build where the models are actually above him (standing on a clear plexiglass set). This unusual angle makes the entire editorial intriguing and visual eye-candy. You stare, eagerly examining the unusual angles and perspectives it creates.
One of the most iconic images of the last century was taken from directly overhead. Annie Leibovitz’s portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono (of Lennon nude wrapped around Yoko), was taken with Leibovitz shooting from above the subjects. Her overhead composition allowed the subject’s to convey body language and a more graphic composition than could be otherwise achieved.
Usual angles do not need to be routine in your portfolio, but they can certainly serve to add excitement and unexpectedness to your imagery.
Steven Klein: http://www.vogue.it/en/magazine/fashion-stories/2011/09/a-point-of-view
Annie Leibovitz: http://liptonfinearts.com/annie-leibovitz-john-lennon-yoko-ono/
Vincent LaForet: http://fineart.laforetvisuals.com/Life/1
Have more inspiration to add? Absolutely feel free to add other links and artists you admire in the comments section so we can all share and be inspired!
For this creative photo challenge, I achieved my unusual angle by shooting on a ladder. My concept began with a gorgeous tulle dressed designed by the talented Fiori Couture. The dress is delicate and feminine, and I decided to add long strips of tulle to give it even more fullness and a ‘tendril-like’ feel to it. I knew that if I photographed it from about I could sprawl out all the pieces of fabric to create an elegant and flowing composition.
For this shoot I chose my Canon 24-105mm so I could shoot a wider focal length (at 24mm) to be able to catch all the beautiful pieces of the dress. I began the setup by placing the ladder close to the subject’s head. I know that when shooting from overhead and relatively close to the subject, perspective and distortion can mess up my final shot! Trust me, if you try this yourself and are a bit uneven, you will certainly see the undesirable effects of perspective. Whatever is closest to the lens looks largest, and if I shoot from the subject’s feet or off to the side the distortion will be visible.
Furthermore, I know that the the higher up I am on the ladder and the more directly above the subject, the less it will distort! For this reason I stood a few steps up on the ladder and held my camera directly out above my subject. For safety I not only had someone stabilizing the ladder, but also had a camera strap wrapped around my wrist. Personally I recommend using the SpiderPro Hand Strap (and I was borrowing someone else’s camera otherwise I certainly would have had it on for safety!).
When holding the camera out directly over my subject, it is extremely difficult to judge composition. To account for this I shot many images while slightly varying my angle, and also switched over into my ‘liveview mode’ so that I could see the framing on the back of the camera. Depending on the model of your camera, you may even have a screen that you can reposition to make it easier for you to see!
I placed my subject in the shade of a tree to give me soft, consistent lighting even though it was a sunny day. I didn’t want uneven or spotty illumination on the subject. Because she was in the shade, I switched my white balance to “shade” to give me warmer (more accurate) skin tones. I begin in aperture priority, but my subject was in a light dress on a darker background and I noticed that my exposure kept varying. For this reason I switched over to manual exposure to improve accuracy and consistency throughout the shoot.
Finally, I adjusted my subject’s pose so that the position of her arms would mimic the flow of the tulle of the dress. I kept the hands soft and elegant and even pointed the toes to emphasize the elegance!
If you want to know more about posing (hands, etc), I recently came out with a book specifically dedicated to the art of posing ANY and EVERY subject matter, so be sure to check out the Photographer’s Guide to Posing.
In the retouching stage of this image, I actually decided to mirror the tulle to create a surreal symmetry to the shot and more balanced composition. With the patterns of the dress and the symmetry, the image looks as though she is a butterfly!
Shutter speed: 1/200
I’ve actually challenge myself with this concept before and come up with another result from on a ladder. I actually created this image in the studio, standing above my subject to create a kaleidoscope theme. I have full behind the scenes of that shoot as well that you can check out the Adobe Creative Challenge.
Join the Creativelive Photo Challenge
I’ve shared my resulting image, and now it is time to share yours! Each month I’ll personally be selecting winners to be featured by Creativelive. Be sure to enter as we’ll be giving away some amazing prizes including a Canon imagePROGRAF 1000 printer to one lucky grand prize winner!
If you’d like even more inspiration, check out my book “Creative 52” for more ideas to invigorate your photography portfolio! I can’t wait to see what you create! I hope I inspire you, because my photographic community is always inspiring me!
Used during this shoot