What constitutes a successful image? First and foremost is the quality of light. Add to the mix great composition, a clean background, sharp focus, good exposure and good subject choice, and you have a winner. But there’s an often-overlooked key ingredient that nets eye-grabbing shots with tremendous impact. Rather than simply raise the camera to your eye or create a composition from atop a fully extended tripod, find an angle that’s unique yet still incorporates all of the above factors. Get down low, find a high vantage point, walk around your subject and photograph it from the side or from behind, get up close and personal using a wide-angle, or simply tilt the camera on an axis somewhere between vertical and horizontal.
From the options I listed above, the easiest is to get down low. Rather than extend your tripod and work from a standing position, leave the legs collapsed and sit in front of your rig. While this may not be your first thought if you photograph skyscrapers, I offer you this thought. What if you were to strap on an ultrawide, find a fire hydrant or other low-to-the-ground subject synonymous with an urban environment and incorporate it into the composition? You now have a unique angle with a prominent foreground and main subject. I offer you another scenario: Most parents photograph their kids from a standing position. Instead, get down on your belly and photograph your son or daughter straight on rather than look down upon them. The same holds true for any other low-to-the-ground subject. While I was growing up, the expression “Get Down” was a cool thing to do. Time to resurrect the saying for a photographic standpoint; so … Get Down!
High vantage points offer a bit more of a challenge but net a lot of impact when utilized. A safe way to create the effect is to photograph from the second story of your home or find an apartment or office building and photograph from a high point. Look for long shadows to incorporate into the composition in that shape and form become important elements. If you’re agile and secure in your athletic prowess, climb a tree to put yourself in an advantageous place. Or simply head to an overlook that provides a view of what’s below. What may seem mundane from the ground may take on graphic and interesting qualities from up high.
Sometimes, a unique angle can be a simple matter of looking at your subject from one that many photographers may not use—in that the obvious one is to photograph the subject from the front. With people, go behind them and have them turn just their heads to look over their shoulder and capture them with a big smile. Have you ever explored the backside of a sunflower and photographed a small portion with a macro lens?
Use a wide-angle lens and get very close to a subject. Use the distorted perspective to create a unique look. If you have an ultrawide, give it a go. Also, incorporate a technique used by many wedding and advertising photographers where the horizon is skewed about 45 degrees off axis. Rather than hold the camera level with the horizon, it’s given an exaggerated and unnatural slope. While it’s not for everyone, it does provide a very contemporary feel.