Camera position (level) and angle are things that you should always keep in mind when shooting. Changing the position and angle can change the atmosphere of a photo even if the subject remains the same. Hence, understanding the differences between position (level) and angle, and making use of the different types of positions and angles will help greatly in your shooting. (Photo & text by: Kazuo Nakahara)
Camera position (level) refers to the height of your camera relative to the ground while camera angle refers to its angle relative to the ground.
In terms of position, if the camera is the same level as the human eye relative to the ground, it is eye level. A position lower than that is known as low position, and similarly, a position higher than that is known as high position. Since eye level is the same as your normal point of view, it imparts a sense of stability to the photo. However, it can also result in a photo that lacks appeal. When shots are taken from a low position, you adopt the point of view of a child or animal, which reveals a whole other world. High position shots, on the other hand, provide a sense of openness that makes you feel as if you are looking across a wide area.
As for camera angle, when you point your camera downwards from the horizontal plane, the resulting shot is known as a high angle shot, which allows you to capture the expanse stretching from your feet into the background of the image. On the other hand, pointing your camera upwards is known as a low angle shot, which makes it easy to express a sense of space towards the sky. Both of these techniques enhance the photographic effect when combined with images that emphasize the perspective distortion of a wide angle lens.
POINT 1: Camera position refers to the distance (height) between the camera and ground
I took this shot by extending my arms to hold up the camera. I checked composition via the vari-angle LCD screen, which was tilted downwards. You can also stand on a footstool or step to take such shots.
As this position allows you to hold your camera securely, you can also shoot at ease in low light conditions as well. Always keep the composition in mind to prevent your shots from getting too stereotypical.
Shooting from a position close to the ground can change the impression of a photo dramatically. Be aware of the distance to the ground when shooting.
POINT 2: Angle refers to the camera’s angle relative to ground level
Taking high angle shots is an easy way to express the sense of space before you. It also has the effect of making a narrow space appear wider. When shooting in direct light, take care to ensure your own shadow doesn’t get in the way.
The surrounding scenery appears to converge at the centre of the screen. Take care when shooting at this angle as the shot tends to turn out strange if the horizontal and vertical axes are out of line.
The expanse at a position higher than your point of view can be emphasized. You may want to be careful of flaring and ghosting as the sun is often captured in the picture.
POINT 3: Use different positions and angles for different subjects
Low position + low angle: Helps to emphasize height
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 16mm / Aperture Priority AE (f/16, 1/125 sec, EV+0.7) / ISO 500 / WB: 5,800K
This shot of a group of densely-packed buildings was taken with the camera pointing towards the sky from close to the ground. Compared to the lower half of the screen, the scope captured in the upper half is wider, emphasizing the height of the sky and buildings.
High position + high angle: Emphasizes the expanse and continuity from the background to the foreground
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 16mm / Aperture Priority AE (f/9, 1/100 sec, EV+1.0) / ISO 250 / WB: 5,800K
Shot of a ship's wake taken from a ship above the water surface. The high angle and position imparts a sense of the space and continuity from the island in the background to the foreground.
Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.
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