Shots at a low angle offer us a different perspective of the globe. Much of our lives are spent high above sea level and we rarely spend a lot of time down low by the time we are teens. Yet down there, there is a whole universe!! Plus, when handled properly, the forced perspective puts a dull, ordinary scene into a fresh light. So what are any tricks for taking decent shots at a low angle?
While low-angle photography can theoretically involve shots that clearly look up at high objects, I plan to illustrate the opposite, lowering the camera down low to force perspective.
1. Ignore Your Viewfinder
The first move at a low angle is to recognize that much of the time you won’t be able to see through your viewfinder. The camera takes a lot of shots at such an angle that only the smallest of frogs will take a look. You would be grateful to your lucky stars if your camera has a flip-out view mirror. If not, get used to getting to go to this one with a sense of feeling.
2. Learn Your Angle
With a larger scope, low angle shots perform well. Anything for 1.6 crop factor cameras fits very well in the 10-22mm range. It can also be handy with Fisheye lenses. This is not to suggest that you should lie on your belly and frame stuff, a zoom doesn’t do the job. In the filed view, it is only even harder to crop the picture right than it would be with larger zoom. Although three is no excuse, you can’t have it both ways and go for something like a zoom of 18-200 mm that will leave a lot of space to play.
3. Understand Aperture and Depth Of Field
A low angle shot will have objects closer and far from it. This is part of its charm, being able to reveal the view through the use of foreground objects. This suggests that you will need to recognize the sweet spot of your camera and lens combination for aperture. Cranking the f-stop as far as it can go does not guarantee perfect front-to-back field depth. This approach has positive and negative implications to each lens and it is better to understand where the lens works best, then use that environment (via an Aperture Priority mode). Even better, some cameras have a Depth Of Field mode which by correlating both aperture and focus points, will do its darndest to keep as much of the subject in focus as it can.
4. Keep It All Level
Take an extra second to ensure the camera is straight as you put the camera close to the ground or some small object. This will save time by realigning everything in front of the machine. It might not seem like a big deal at the moment, but it’s better to learn to level early if you want to use this technique over and over again. In the long term, it can be a big time saver.
The good news is if you can’t get it right, the machine is still there to make it level and sweet. Even if it means a lot of trial and error to practice, I simply enjoy seeing it right in the camera the first time around.
5. Preventing Blown Out Skies
It could be a bright day, and all of your shots are going to turn out well. A good mix of light and exposure, before you go for a low shot, seems to be spot on. The foreground is dim and not so well-defined as the sky. What’s taken place?
If a lot of sky is included in your low angle shot, whether it’s a bright day, you’re going to need to compensate or maybe, recognize the limitations of the scene in front of you. Your camera will squint with all its might by aiming high and close to the light, much as you would if you were lying on the ground looking partly towards the sun. Take a choice between the dark and the sun to compensate, and go with it. If you like to describe a lot of skies or clouds, underexpose them. Overexpose and agree that the sky will be blown away if the foreground is too valuable for you to let go. But the element that is most important to you can at least be caught.
6. Positioning Objects In The Frame
Before taking the shot, visualize the scene from below. Frame the scene to have anything of significance, much like eye-level images. Perhaps it’s just a rock, or an apple or whatever. This is an opportunity, by insight, to make the mundane look massive. Nearby artifacts will be exaggerated in their dimensions regardless of the perspective. For it, mess around.
7. Shoot, Review, Repeat
This is where multimedia is a photographer’s boon. Although I’m not a fan of watching any shot on the view screen of a camera, it’s never been easier to learn from the errors than in the digital revolution. Yeah! Use it! Whether by lighting or composition, take a shot to see what can be tweaked, and try and try again before the shot you want is taken.
Just don’t forget to erase the hundreds of attempts until you get home to download the crashed.
In your picture taking world, low angle photography can be a great way to spice things up. Don’t be afraid to experiment from another point of view and see the future!