Camera Basics #14: Position and Angle
The position and angle are two elements that greatly influence the outcome of your photos. Since they have such a significant impact, varying them ensures that you will be able to get a different effect in your photos. In the following, we go over 3 points each in relation to the position and the angle. (Reported by Tomoko Suzuki)
Position: The level where you hold the camera
Angle: The degree at which the camera faces the subject
- You can change the composition of your photos based on the position and angle.
- Decide on a position before choosing an angle.
The position refers to the height at which the camera is held relative to the ground. Holding the camera at a normal position to your eye is known as ‘eye-level position’, holding it at a position higher than your eye is referred to ‘high position’, and holding the camera at a low level, such as when you are squatting, is known as ‘low position’.
The angle refers to the degree at which the camera points towards the subject. Holding the camera at a horizontal level to the subject is known as ‘eye-level angle’, holding the camera facing downwards is known as ‘high angle’, and holding it facing upwards is known as ‘low angle’.
When you are shooting, firstly, observe your subject thoroughly before deciding which position to shoot from. Next, think of an angle. Significantly varying your shooting position and angle gives you different compositions from the ones you may have had before. In order to bring out the most appealing qualities of the subject, you will need to approach it from different viewpoints and vary the position and angle of shooting.
Hold the camera at a high position by raising your arms above your eye level, or get into a higher position with the aid of a footstool or platform. This shooting position allows you to capture further into the background. Combining this with a high angle creates a bold perspective.
This is a standard shooting position at a height where you look into the viewfinder while standing. Since it results in photos that simply capture what you can see, it gives the most realistic representation of what you are shooting. However, it can feel monotonous when all your pictures are taken from this position.
This is a position where you hold the camera at a height lower than your eye level. Since it captures a different view from what you usually see, it can result in impactful photos. Combining this with a low angle amplifies this effect.
This is an angle where you tilt the camera downwards to face the subject, which is also referred to as a bird’s eye view. As this captures the subject in its entirety, it results in a descriptive picture which clearly captures the surroundings as you see them. Since the ground tends to form the background in the picture, you may want to adjust your choice of background.
This is a standard shooting angle where you hold the camera to the same height as your eye level without tilting it. As you are shooting at the same eye level as the subject, which is the same level as normal human vision, the result appears natural and familiar, and has a sense of stability.
This is an angle where you point the camera upwards at the subject. When shooting a tall or high subject from a low angle, it creates a sense of depth and intimidation, which allows you to depict the presence and intensity of the subject. Since the sky usually forms the background, it is easy to adjust the photo composition.
For more about angles, check out the following:
Decisions in Landscape Photography: High Angle or Low Angle?
Related Concept: Changes in perspective
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/30 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 160/ WB: Auto
Shooting at an eye-level position
At this position, the suspension bridge appears shorter and loses a sense of depth, which results in a neutral picture that does not convey much intensity.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/40 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto
Shooting at a low position
This is was taken from a squatting position at eye level without changing the angle. Since this makes the suspension bridge seem farther from the front to the end, it conveys a sense of depth.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/40 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 500/ WB: Daylight
Shooting at an eye-level angle
Shooting at an eye-level angle makes your pictures appear natural, similar to what you would see. The effect of perspective will not be obvious if you do not change the angle of the camera.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/30 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
Shooting at a high angle
I tilted the camera at an angle lower than the eye level. The perspective is exaggerated, as the front of the picture appears wider and the far end of the picture appears smaller.
A simple, slight variation of the position of the camera and the angle it faces the subject can rise to a sense of perspective, which significantly alters the impression of your photos. If you were to hold the camera as you instinctively or normally would, you tend to shoot at a comfortable posture, with an eye-level position and an eye-level angle. Shooting this way portrays the scene as it naturally is, and makes your photos appear more straightforward. However, this can make certain subjects seem rather plain. When you are shooting, study your subject thoroughly so that you can identify the best position and angle to shoot it from.
For more on positions and angles, check out the following:
Camera FAQ #7: What is the Difference between Camera Position (Level) and Camera Angle?
Effects of Angle on a Photo
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A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
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After graduating from the Tokyo Polytechnic University Junior College, Suzuki joined an advertisement production firm. She has also worked as an assistant to photographers including Kirito Yanase, and specializes in commercial shoots for apparels and cosmetic products. She now works as a studio photographer for an apparel manufacturer.