Camera Angles

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A typical portrait is a vertical photograph (hence "portrait" orientation) of a subject at about eye level. The subject mostly fills the frame, with a safe amount of negative space on all sides of the head. This is the most typical—and boring—view of a portrait. However, you can still create beautiful portraits with this basic, static orientation using flattering light or poses. You can see a sample of a successful traditional portrait in Figure 6.2.

Figure 6.1

This image breaks the traditional rule of centering the subject in the middle of the frame, but it works because it creates tension and symmetry and is bolder than a "correctly" composed image.

High Camera Angle
This image is elegant but demonstrates that even a static, "unexciting" portrait can be beautiful and high fashion.

One way to get more creative is to vary your camera angle. Shoot from a side angle, shoot from slightly above, shoot from below, or shoot from an angle high above the subject.

Photographers are usually taught not to shoot at a low angle to the subject because of getting an "up the nose" view. Fashion photographers, however, often shoot from their knees or even on their stomachs. By shooting full-length images from a low angle, you emphasize the height and slenderness of the subject. Shooting from below makes the model appear taller and to have longer legs, both of which are desirable attributes. When you are on the ground shooting from slightly further back (with a 50mm or longer lens), the effect is flattering. Generally, you won't get at a low angle right beneath the model, but from more of a distance.

Also, in most situations, you do not want to shoot slightly down on the subject if it is a full-length shot. This makes the subject look short and squatty. Many photographers make this mistake. They shoot from their standing position, and if the subject is shorter than they are, the effect is foreshortening. When you are photographing your portrait and wedding clients, many won't be tall and slender like models are. For this reason, you need to be even more aware of the height you are shooting at. Even if shooting on your knees is unnecessary for full-length shots, you should at least consider having the camera angle at about waist or hip height. Give it a try on your next shoot; you'll be sure to see a difference.

Figure 6.3 was taken at ground level. The low angle slenderizes the subject and gives her longer legs. Figure 6.4, however, was taken from my normal standing position. If I had shot the same composition from the standing position, it would have been much less flattering; she would have looked shorter and appeared wider. To remedy this, I adjusted my composition and instead moved in for a close-up shot at eye level.

Figure 6.3 was taken at ground level. The low angle slenderizes the subject and gives her longer legs. Figure 6.4, however, was taken from my normal standing position. If I had shot the same composition from the standing position, it would have been much less flattering; she would have looked shorter and appeared wider. To remedy this, I adjusted my composition and instead moved in for a close-up shot at eye level.

Angle Direction Camera Fill Shot Frame

Figure 6.3

This image was taken from ground level. (I was actually on the floor.) This low angle slenderizes the subject and makes her appear taller.

Camera Angles Photography
This image was taken from a standing position at nearly eye level. If I had shot full length, she would have appeared shorter at this less flattering angle, so I opted for a close-up.

If you take shooting from above to an extreme, you can create interesting imagery. You can have the subject lie on the floor or recline in a chair or on the couch while you shoot while standing or perched on a ladder. Shooting from high angles allows you to craft more interesting images and more dynamic compositions. I took Figure 6.5 standing above the subject and tilted my camera to create dramatic compositional angles. In Figure 6.6, I took the same position but laid down on the ground for a different feel.

Vary your angles, and you will get images that are far from typical.

Typical Etruscan Dress

Figure 6.5

Shooting from a high angle can create dynamic compositions and visual interest. Here, I stood above the subject and photographed her with a 50mm 1.2 lens.

Fashion Photography Grass

Figure 6.6

The camera and lens were in the grass for this shot using a 50mm 1.2 lens.

Figure 6.6

The camera and lens were in the grass for this shot using a 50mm 1.2 lens.

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  • ambessa
    What angle height to photograph women clothing?
    2 years ago

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