A beginner in photography usually tends to shoot almost everything at eye-level. It is only natural since we tend to take pictures while standing most of the time and the camera is placed at our eye-level when we peek at its viewfinder. The resulting pictures, though, may look unexciting and familiar. This is because it is at this angle we normally view the world.
Simply changing the camera angle we can introduce a different perspective, sometimes a unique angle and a fresh view that can make a world of difference in the impact of our shots.
How to change the camera angle to the level other than eye-level can be as easy as lying low on the ground or climbing up a flight of steps. However, an unusual camera angle can imply various meanings that affect how a viewer interprets the shot. It also has a direct effect on compositional perspective.
Shooting lower than eye-level will make everything seem larger in size. The viewpoint seems to be coming from someone small in stature that’s why it is normally called ant’s eye view. In order to get that ant’s eye view you can simply lie on the ground or adjust your tripod to the lowest level if the camera is tripod-mounted.
Penang City Council Building
I chose an angle lower than eye level to shoot this majestic colonial building and tilted my camera upwards to make it look more dominant and perhaps larger. The passing motorbike was included to give a sense of scale.
My daughter Aishah while she was 2 years old
When photographing kids always shoot at their eye level. By doing that they will respond better to you because you are at their eye level instead of looking up at you.
A lotus bloom
Sometimes, when a subject is surrounded by distracting elements which cannot be physically removed from the scene, shooting it at low angle is a good trick to keep the subject in the shot while keeping those distractions out of the frame.
Conversely shooting higher than your eye-level gives the opposite impression that the photographer appears to be very tall, while everything around is smaller or shorter than normal. This elevated angle can be achieved by using a stepping stool, walking up a flight of stairs, or shooting from a second-storey window.
Subjects taken from a high camera angle can appear smaller, and this can be used to convey the impression of insignificance or weakness. This illusion of shrunken size is even more dramatic when the subject is known to be large. From a high angle, houses, boats, and cars can look like toys, and people may look like lilliputians.
As with unusual camera angles, a high-angled shot can provide a fresh take on an ordinary scene. Shooting at a high camera angle can also get rid of distracting elements so you can focus entirely on the subject. On the other hand an extreme high camera angle is the bird’s eye view. As the term suggests, the viewpoint is as if it is coming from a bird flying high up in the air. Aerial shots of landscapes are perfect examples of this camera angle. You can also get these kinds of shots from atop a tall building and shooting downwards at the ground-level, or if you are on top of a mountain with the scenery down below.
View from the peak of Genting Highland (about 2000m from sea level)
I shot this at a higher level to show the pattern formed by colourful clothes on sale and the frenetic activities of shopping. I wouldn’t be able to present this scene had I shot it at eye-level.
Tea plantation in Cameron Highlands
I preferred to shoot this vast landscape of tea plantation at higher level to emphasize its vastness.
A blue bow
You can also get an overhead view or top view of your subject by standing higher than your subject and shooting downwards just like what I did when shooting the blue fishing boat above and the fish silhouette in the picture below.
Next time you go out shooting, remember to vary your camera angle and don’t only shoot everything at your eye level.
You may want to read my previous articles on composition as listed below: