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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials In Focus: Lens Basics- Part 6

Lens Basics #5: Perspective

Perspective is the phenomenon that makes nearby objects look bigger, and faraway objects look smaller. It is one of the concepts that is central to photography, and mastering and exaggerating it can make your photos have greater impact. In this article, we introduce the three elements that affect perspective. (Reported by Tomoko Suzuki)

Lens Basics top image

 

3 factors that affect perspective

Diagram on perspective effect

Perspective refers to the visual phenomenon where objects that are nearer to us appear bigger, and those that are farther away from us appear smaller. In photography, it is influenced by 3 factors: Focal length, Shooting distance, and shooting angle.

1. Focal length: The shorter the focal length that you are using, the stronger the perspective effect. Conversely, the longer the focal length, the weaker the perspective effect.

2. Distance from subject (shooting distance or "focusing distance"): The nearer the camera to the subject, the stronger the perspective effect. The further away the camera from the subject, the weaker the perspective effect. 

3. Shooting angle: The more parallel your camera is to the subject (the shallower the shooting angle), the weaker the perspective effect. Conversely, if you align the camera at a steeper angle from the subject, you will get a stronger perspective effect. 

In short, the easiest way to get the strongest perspective effect possible is to use a wide angle lens, move as close to your subject as possible, and shoot from a steep, diagonal angle. The perspective exaggeration effect unique to a wide angle lens can help to create impressive photos with a strong sense of depth, dimensionality and scale. This is a good effect to use with deep focus.

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 factors that affect perspective.

 

Focal length

The images below were shot from the same position, but with different focal lengths on the same standard zoom lens. At a shorter focal length (24mm), the perspective effect is quite obvious: The elements in the image that are nearer to the viewer appear bigger, and those that are further away appear smaller. Meanwhile, at a longer focal length (the 70mm example), the perspective effect is not as obvious.

Shorter focal length (24mm)

Stronger perspective at 24mm

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE(f/8, 1/30sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 1250/ WB: Auto

Longer focal length (70mm)

Weaker perspective at 70mm

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 70mm/ Aperture-priority AE(f/8, 1/80sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 3200/ WB: Auto

 

Distance from subject

The examples below were shot using the same focal length (50mm), but from different distances away from the subject. In the examples below, note how the part of the building that is closer to us looks proportionately bigger compared to when we move further away from the subject (3m example). This is obvious when we look at the lines above and below the signboard in each image. They form a triangle with the right edge of the image as the base. In the 2m example, this triangle has a broader base, compared to the 3m example where the lines converge towards each other at a more gradual angle and form a more tapered triangle with a narrower base. This shows that the nearer the camera from the subject, the stronger the perspective effect. 

Nearer (2m)

Stronger perspective distortion at nearer shooting distance

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/200 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Manual

Further (3m)

Weaker perspective at close shooting distance

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/200 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Manual

 

Shooting angle

The examples below were shot with the same focal length (50mm), but from different angles. Shooting the subject from a diagonal angle (the 45° example) creates a perspective effect in the windows, distorting the rectangular shape. Meanwhile, shooting from a relatively flat angle (the head-on example) results in no perspective effect—the rectangular windows are faithfully reproduced as rectangles.

Diagonal (45°)

Diagonal angle, stronger perspective

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE(f/2.8, 1/320sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Flat (camera and image plane aligned)

Flat on, weaker perspective

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE(f/2.8, 1/250sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Important things to note when emphasizing perspective

1. Be very aware of lines when you compose your image

Diagonal and vertical lines

EOS 6D/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/160 sec, EV+1)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
Combining vertical and horizontal lines

Leading lines for depth

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Program AE (f/8, 1/250 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
Using leading lines to create depth

 

When you are using a wide angle lens to create a photo that makes use of perspective, be very aware of the lines in your image. Shooting from a bold angle so that the lines in building, roads, pathways, rivers and other elements appear more diagonal can enhance the perspective effect. You can also use them to give the image depth, or draw the viewer’s attention to a particular point.

 

2. Play with your camera position and angle

Low position shot

EOS 6D/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/200 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
Low position

High angle shot

EOS 6D/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 25mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/80 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
High angle

 

It is not easy to get a perspective effect if you shoot at eye level. Instead, try shooting from a low position or high angle. Even simply tilting your camera up or down a little can make a considerable difference.

Check out:
Camera Basics #14: Position and Angle

 

The perspective effect can help you achieve photos like this!

Wide-angle photo with strong perspective effect

EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/30 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 500/ WB: Daylight
Place yourself close to the subject and shoot with a wide angle, from a low angle
This chair in a lounge was a beautiful green colour. I moved close to it and shot it using a low angle and a wide-angle focal length. The part of the chair nearer the viewer appears big, but narrows further into the image. This showcases the depth of the room.

For more tips on exaggerating perspective, check out:
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 2: Composition Techniques for Wide-Angle Lenses

 


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Digital Camera Magazine

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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Tomoko Suzuki

Tomoko Suzuki

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.