How Low Can You Go?

So many cameras, so many photographers, so many pictures, yet so many images all look the same

So many cameras, so many photographers, so many pictures, yet so many images all look the same. With all the competition out there, what can be done to put a new spin on your images to make them stand out? The thought that comes to mind is to photograph from a unique perspective. Rather than simply raise the camera to your eye, take pictures from a lower angle. While there are many situations you’ll encounter where this won’t work, there will be many that do. You won’t know unless you try. When applicable, give it a whirl to begin your quest for a signature look.

The next time you’re out with other photographers, be a casual observer. Watch as cameras are raised to the eye and listen to the sound of clicking shutters. Take a mental tally of the number of times this occurs. All the while, keep another tally targeting how many times you see a photographer get down on the ground to photograph the subject from a low perspective. I can almost guarantee that the percentage of shots made while a photographer is down and dirty in comparison to those who remain conventional is in the single digits. This being said, why compete with 90% of the population if you can reduce your competition to 10%? Chances are, your images will stand out due to their novelty. While I realize this style may not suit everyone, if you’re willing to pursue it, you’ll walk away with many winners.

There are some considerations to take into account if you decide to go low. If you get down low, it’s difficult to look through the viewfinder to fine tune a composition. This problem is solved in two ways; a) Purchase a right angle viewfinder. It attaches to the eyepiece and enables you to view the scene from the top, right, left, or even below. As the name implies, rather than look directly through the viewfinder from behind, it allows you to view it from a 90 degree angle. b) many cameras offer live view mode that enables you to create a composition using the LCD. Some even have the capability of swiveling the screen which really makes composing the photo a breeze. Another consideration to take into account is how low your tripod can go. While some of the images you create from a low angle will be hand held, others may dictate the use of a longer shutter speed. If this is the case, you’ll need a tripod whose legs can be splayed across the ground. You will also need a short center post so it doesn’t interfere with getting the tripod low.

Outdoor Photographer Tip Of The Week

Wide angle lenses work great when shooting low, but don’t overlook the use of a telephoto. Take advantage of the lack of depth of field with a telephoto. From a high angle, the environment on which the subject sits has to appear in the background. From a low angle, it’s no longer in the image. Use this to your advantage to create a wash of color behind the subject. In that wide angle focal lengths have more inherent depth of field, use them to get close to a foreground subject to emphasize it. Stop the lens down to f16 to get everything from that foreground object to the background in focus.

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4 Comments

    You’re right, not many go low. Works for landscapes and people too. I see this lady with her 5dmkii and 70-200 at our kids sporting events and it drives me crazy seeing her stand as straight as can be. Our kids are small so he lens is actually pointed down half the time. If she only knew…

    The person who taught me landscape photography had two keys: get low, then get lower.

    Emilio, have you considered going to live view and using a shutter release. I just rotate the screen on my Nikon, and sit comfortable, with the camera 6 inches off the ground. This way you can stand tall, or sit painless, while shooting low.

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