10,000/365 Day 9: Perspective

Row Houses

Having experimented with lines, let’s go a step further today and take up perspective. As it relates to photography, perspective is simply how an object appears to the naked eye (or your capture medium) based on spatial relationships. Perepctive can vary depending on several things, such as the lens used, our position relative to our subject, and subjects’ positions relative to one another.

The form of perspective that most of us are familiar with is linear perspective. This manifests in two ways: first, as objects become more distant they appear smaller because their visual angle decreases. Second, if you have strong lines or edges in your photos, they will appear to diminish toward what’s called a vanishing point. The further away you are from your subject, the more pronounced the perspective effect; this is also, in turn, influenced by the type of lens used. Take the photo of the row houses as an example; the part closer to the photographer appears much larger, and diminishes as the distance from the camera increases. If the houses were longer, there would be an even more pronounced vanishing point, ’til the last houses in the row would appear very small if they were visible at all. The building is the same height from end to end, but because of the perspective, its far side appears much shorter than the near side.

Compression depending on focal length: If your photo contains multiple elements, you can use perspective as an element of composition to change the apparent relationship among those elements. Let’s try that again in English. The images of the bicycles below show how the use of different focal lengths effect the apparent “distance” between the bikes. The shots were taken at 24mm, 50mm, and 85mm, with the framing of the shot more or less the same from one photo to the next. You’ll notice that the bicycles haven’t been moved; they’re in the same position. I wasn’t (I had to keep stepping back as I zoomed in to maintain the composition). You’ll notice that in each shot, everything appears a bit closer together even though it’s still occupying the same physical space.

Perspective comes into play in nearly every form of photography, including portraits, nature photography, and pretty much any other form you can think of. It’s a reason to choose your lenses carefully, but it’s also a good reason to decide whether you want to “zoom” with your feet or with the lens, since it’s not just the “size” of the subject that will change within the frame, but also its relation to the rest of what’s depcited.

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2 thoughts on “10,000/365 Day 9: Perspective”

  1. Your three photo comparison was so eye opening! I can’t wait to play around with this and do some comparison shots of my own. I always thought of perspective in the ‘railroad track’ illustration and not really as related to photography. Thanks!

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