7 Tips For Great Low Angle Shots

7 Tips For Great Low Angle Shots

Copyright By Socceraholic

Low angle shots give us a different view on the world. Most of our lives are spent well above ground level and by the time we are teenagers we rarely spend much time down low any more. Yet there is a whole world down there!! Plus the forced perspective brings a boring, everyday scene into new light when done right. So what are some tips on taking great low angle shots?

(NOTE: While low angle photography can technically include shots simply looking up at tall items, I am intent on highlighting the reverse, dropping your camera down low to force perspective.)

Ignore Your Viewfinder

The first step in low angle is accepting you will not be able to look through your viewfinder most of the time. A lot of shots require the camera in such an angle that only the smallest of frogs could take a peek. If your camera has a flipout view screen, you will be thanking your lucky stars. If not, get used to having to go by sense of feel on this one.

Learn Your Angle

Low angle shots work best with a wider lens. Something in the 10-22mm range for 1.6 crop factor cameras works quite well. Fisheye lenses can also be handy. This is not to say a zoom doesn’t do the job if you can lay on your belly and frame things. It is just much harder to crop the image right in the filed of view that it will be with a wider zoom. Although three is no reason you can’t have it both ways and opt for something like a 18-200mm zoom which will allow for a lot of room to play.

Understand Aperture and Depth Of Field

A low angle shot is going to have objects near and far. That is part of its appeal, being able to show the perspective by including foreground objects. This means you will need to understand your camera and lens combination’s sweet spot for aperture. Cranking the f-stop up as high as it will go does not insure perfect depth of of field front to back. Each lens has positive and negative aspects this approach and it is best to learn where your lens performs best, then use that setting (via a Aperture Priority mode). Even better, some cameras have a Depth Of Field mode, which will do its darndest to hold as much of the image in focus as it can, by correlating both aperture and focus points.

Keep It All Level

When you bring the camera close to the ground or other low object, take an extra second to insure your camera is level. This will save time in front of the computer realigning everything. It may not seem like a big deal at the time, but if you want to use this technique again and again, it’s best to learn leveling early. It can be a huge time saver in the long run.
The good news is, if you can’t get it perfect, there always is the computer to make it nice and level. I simply prefer to get it right in the camera the first time around, even if it means a lot of trial and error to learn.

Preventing Blown Out Skies

It may be a sunny day and all your shots are coming out well. A nice balance of light and the exposure seems to be spot on…until you go for a low shot. The foreground is dark and the sky is not that well defined. What’s happening?
If your low angle shot is including a lot of sky, and it is a bright day, you will need to compensate or, possibly, accept the limits of the scene in front of you. Shooting up and near the sun will make your camera squint with all its might, just like you would if you were laying on the ground looking partially into the sun. To compensate, take a pick between the dark and the light and go for it. If you want a lot of sky or cloud to be defined, underexpose. If the foreground is too precious to you to let go, overexpose and accept that the sky will be blown out. But at least you can capture the aspect that is most important to you.

Positioning Objects In The Frame

Imagine the scene from down low before taking the shot. Just like eye level photographs, frame the scene to include something of interest. Maybe it’s just a rock, or an apple or anything. This is a chance to make the mundane appear huge by perspective. Because of the angle, nearby objects will be exaggerated in their size. Play around with it.

Shoot, Review, Repeat

This is where digital is a boon to the photographer. While I’m not a fan of reviewing every shot on a camera’s view screen, learning from your mistakes has never been easier than with the digital revolution. Use it! Take a shot and see what can be changed, either with exposure or composition, and try, try again until the shot you want is captured.
Just don’t forget to delete the dozens of attempts that failed before you get home to download.

Low angle photography can be a fun way to spice things up in your picture taking world. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see the world from another point of view!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Bertha Johnson April 3, 2013 05:43 am

    this website is just amazing. i just love all the details and information it has. and the pictures are OUTSTANDING!

  • anotherphotographynoob January 14, 2012 05:15 am

    love low angle !



    just love it !

  • linus December 30, 2011 03:50 am

    I have tried very few low angle shots...surprisingly most of them turned up great. This is one I clicked at a Tulip field in Keukenhof.

  • Neville B December 29, 2011 10:50 am

    i tried in a-dep with my canon 300d, and what a nice surprise. the camera was on the floor and tilted up, facing into the bathroom, and another down the passage. the a-dep did try its damndest and did a damn good job i thought. i've never used a-dep before, but now i've learnt something.

  • Alexi1950 April 22, 2011 11:09 am

    I really had to get "down and dirty" to get up close and personal with this brand new maple tree

  • Digitaly Minded April 16, 2011 10:47 am

    I know that I have a successful session out amidst my green things, if at least one person comes over and asks if I needed help to get up...I just say not really

  • Great Digital March 31, 2011 06:00 pm

    nice article..thanks for posting..Taking great pictures with a digital camera is not a small feat. Of course, everyone knows to take pictures and knows how to handle a camera, however there is a difference between taking pictures, and taking great pictures.

  • Neil mackenzie February 15, 2011 07:47 pm

    Cool photography tips, just make sure you are not wearing your sunday best when rolling around on the ground

  • Erik Kerstenbeck February 10, 2011 04:06 pm


    Here is an example of a simple stack of wine glasses at a party that was shot low and close...notice the great bokeh throughout!

    Glass Menagerie: http://t.co/Gdbh1lp

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  • sumit January 31, 2011 10:26 am

    sorry for the 3 comments above 4m me that have the same link and look like spam! :p i tried commenting and the page refreshed, so i thought something had gone wrong, n did it twice again! turns out my link showed up thrice on this page (after a moderator check i guess).. oops!

    anyways, here's another one i took of a frog... ! it was pretty much essential to go to this li'l guy's level and capture him.. since a shot from my height wud've turned out to b a pretty ordinary shot.. take a look..


    for me, Low angle shots are a good part of my photography.. i find the view refreshing (n smetimes even dramatic) since that's nt hw u usually view a scene in front of u..

  • Colleen January 31, 2011 07:26 am

    Very helpful article; thanks!

  • Mike Anderson January 29, 2011 06:50 am

    "Ignore Your Viewfinder"????

    Other than getting one of those right-angle thingies, try laying on your back, head tilted back and camera held upside down (then ya just turn yer monitor upside down when post-processing *laugh*) I have used that position/technique more than once to get down low and still be able to see through the viewfinder.

  • PAW January 28, 2011 04:38 am

    You might try a polarizer for low angle shooting. At these angles reflections can be a curse or a boon and the polarizer can help control them to the degree you wish.

  • Bruce52 January 27, 2011 03:24 pm

    A useful tool for low level photography is a 90 degree viewfinder adaptor. Slip the eyepiece off and slip on the adaptor. This way you can view the image looking down to the top of the camera. Works a treat!

  • julie January 26, 2011 02:07 pm

    My first and, so far, only attempt at low angle shooting was just sitting the camera on a cobblestone street in St. Augustine, FL. Just to see what happened, you know. The depth of field was screwy...the bricks immediately in front of the camera were out of focus and the background also, only the bricks about 3-5 ft ahead were in focus. My hubby was running off and leaving me so I didn't have time to play around with it anymore. But my appetite is whetted!

  • ADW January 26, 2011 01:00 am

    I agree with alwin - a tripod that can be used for macro, or a flexible mini tripod makes it easier AND you can then bracket some exposures and combine in Photoshop (or HDR if you really want to take it up a notch) in order to deal with dark foreground / bright sky.

  • Alwin January 24, 2011 09:06 pm

    I agree with all the tips and would suggest to use flexible mini tripod, although it will take time to get along with levelling but it would surely keep your camera from shaking during long exposure shots.

  • tumitira365 January 24, 2011 10:21 am

    I don't have any wide angle lens but this is a very nice article.


  • Alan Schantz January 22, 2011 05:27 am

    Great article and something I've been doing more of. I agree with all the tips and suggest using a spirit level that fits in the hot shoe of your camera to help with leveling, they work great. Also, I never delete shots in camera, I view them on the computer screen to be sure I didn't miss a detail that I missed that makes a great shot.

  • Terry Goodfellow January 22, 2011 03:26 am

    That's when HDR (or using masks plus multiple exposures) is useful - wide expanse of sky is notoriously difficult to get right!

  • BerlinS January 21, 2011 12:58 pm

    Some good pictures here. Thanks for sharing.
    My first photography class in 1972 required us to shoot a roll of film with all the shots in the camera no more than six inches off the ground. And back in the film days, as a student with limited resources, I couldn't take a bunch of random shots and not get a few good ones. I spent a day running around, finding interesting locations, then ignominiously flopping down on my belly to actually see what I was shooting.
    It's not horrible. Wear old clothes and ignore the people who look at you like you're a looney tune. Just check for fire ants before you flop down.

  • Steve January 21, 2011 09:12 am

    I like low angle shots too. I took this one recently at the mall when I had just gotten my new Tokina 11-16 wide angle lens.

    Hope you like it. http://www.flickr.com/photos/skwpics/5284599582/

  • rob January 21, 2011 07:23 am

    Good article, but there is a big difference between the word "insure" (used repeatedly) and the word "ensure" (what you most likely mean).


  • Christine January 21, 2011 07:22 am

    Sometimes I just put the camera down on the ground and hope for the best. This works a lot better with digital, as I don't want to "waste" film just goofing around, though I've been known to do it anyhow. My favorite was a shot in Miami, taken at pool-level... the result looks like a city skyline, when in fact it's the edge of the pool, with Miami only barely visible in between the deck chairs.

    on flickr: liquid paradise

  • wayne west January 21, 2011 07:15 am

    thanks for yet another interesting article. one of my favorite low angle subjects is the spring bloom in death valley ca. with my great g11 + flip out screen & my spirit level on the hot shoe i'm in low angle heaven.

  • Danny January 21, 2011 06:38 am

    You say the sky might be blown out on a sunny day, or the foreground will be under exposed, you just have to choose the compromise. Not so.

    Expose for the sky, then use an external flash to fill the foreground. Usually -1 stop on the flash is a good starting point. Practice will get you where you want to be.

  • MichaelK January 21, 2011 06:03 am

    One thing that comes in real handy, especially since you can't normally look through the viewfinder, is a hot shoe bubble level. This will help you make sure that your camera is nice and level.

  • Keith January 21, 2011 05:45 am

    Right angle view finders are a great help in this situation. While the original manufacturers accessories are expensive there a less expensive third party alternatives with adaptors for a wide range of dslrs.

  • Chris January 21, 2011 05:23 am

    Using tripod (low) might help get the camera level and get some elevation and compose teh shot better.

    Sometimes ground level is too low.

  • JesseAdams January 21, 2011 05:16 am

    Low became essential in capturing the atmosphere and this Lamborghini outside a bar in Vancouver as I had no tripod with me. The curb did a great job.


  • Denis January 21, 2011 05:12 am

    I'm a bit dissappointed with your comments about having to live with not being able to see in the view finder when taking low level shots. I have a rightangle viewfinder for my Nikon which has a number of adapters to suit other brands of cameras. They have been available for at least the last 8 years. I use mine a lot for animals and children to get good eye lines

  • Sarkari Naukri January 21, 2011 04:25 am

    I love low angle. This post is a good comprehensive set of tips.

  • fortunato_uno January 21, 2011 12:09 am

    Low angles Is something I fell in love with after the first time I took one. It works great for shooting child portraits, birds, things on the water, and most any time I want to bring a different perspective to a shot. I find with most of the shots, that is seems to bring you deeper into the subjects world
    Here are a few examples.
    My biggest fear is that I'll drop my camera in the water but, I can't help my self, I have to get the shot when I see it.

    Thanks for the article. Jamie

  • Sumit January 20, 2011 10:00 am

    check this one out.. i remembered this pic i took reading the article above..
    the caption speaks of my perspective for this snap:: 'Prisoners at Birth'


  • JJ January 20, 2011 08:53 am

    Great tips, I'll try this out some time.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer January 20, 2011 08:17 am

    I really like low angle shots and their forced perspectives. This post is a good comprehensive set of tips. I would have liked to have seen more example photos though, and ideally one example for each tip.

    This is a low angle shot example combined with a vanishing point:


    When I am purposefully going out to shoot low angle shots (and I almost always go out shooting with a specific goal)....I will still use my tripod with legs splayed flat to the ground and bring a small towel so I can lay flat down and look through the viewfinder rather than just holding the camera low and hoping I got things sharp, well composed, and level.

  • Steve Tye January 20, 2011 08:13 am

    I agree, I love shooting low to look at things from a whole new perspective! Thanks for the article!

  • Diwad January 20, 2011 08:10 am

    I realy like low level shots, some of them look just awesome, like some other world!

    |'ve taken two shots like this, check it out if you want and please leave a comment;)

  • Sumit January 20, 2011 07:50 am

    i'd clicked this while on a trip to a film city (India)- everything is real in the pic though! u cn also see the proud parents in the bg- purposely out of focus.. the cam was almost on the ground- used 'LiveView' to get it right!
    the caption defines my perspective of this pic- 'Prisoners at Birth'

  • Sumit January 20, 2011 07:45 am

    this is one i took at a film city in India.. everything is real in the pic though! the caption defines my perspective of the shot -

    p.s u cn see the proud parents in the back- purposely out of focus..

  • Kiran January 20, 2011 05:17 am

    Low level shots? Gotta try this. Another reason why I love my swivel viewfinder on my Nikon D5000 to test low level angle shots ;)

  • v January 20, 2011 04:57 am

    another reason i love my olympus camera. the swivel screen. i've used this screen for a number of self portraits when i did my 365. great tips for a photo to-do list.

  • david January 20, 2011 04:45 am

    what do you guys think...?


  • THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com January 20, 2011 04:13 am

    Usually for Car Photography, low angle shots give you great results, as seen on the Photos I take for my website! :)

  • Victoria January 20, 2011 04:10 am

    I just did this a couple of days ago. I was driving out in a rural area and saw some round hay bales. I dropped the camera down low for a shot through the center of them. Turned out pretty cool.

  • Allen Mowery January 20, 2011 03:46 am

    Great points! Unfortunately, I do not have a flip-out screen on my camera, and after getting tired of scraping my face, standing on my head, and shooting-and-praying, I found a workaround using a small cosmetic mirror and the Live View feature on my Canon. Read about it HERE.

  • ScottC January 20, 2011 03:23 am

    All good tips, and a style I'd like to try more often. This one actually placed in a local photo contest.


  • Carolyn January 20, 2011 02:59 am

    I love low angle. I'm doing a Project 365 and have a few in there. This is my favorite. The face that it's my son bowling has nothing to do with it :)


  • Andrew January 20, 2011 02:55 am


  • Andrew January 20, 2011 02:55 am

    Thanks - awesome advice!

    I've taken low many shots using live view and my flip-out screen - check out this one (comments welcome).


  • Jason January 20, 2011 02:23 am

    An intermediate method for a not-so-low angle, but still forced perspective that I love to use is "shooting from the hip". It's an excellent way to get the perspective of my 3 kids, aged 1-5 that provide ample opportunities for it. If it weren't for shooting this way, I would miss a lot given how fast they can move! Turns out it's handy for weddings and family portrait candids as well. I think the concept is obvious; use a wide angle and shutter-release, center weight focus, and just point the camera as it hangs from your shoulder. This adds the element of subtlety for you street photogs, too. And as it relates more specifically and practically to the article, it is a great way to develop "getting the feel" of shooting without looking in the finder.

  • Marvin January 20, 2011 01:55 am

    I can't believe you didn't mention Live View on your first tip "Ignore your viewfinder".

    Good tips nonetheless.

  • Chuck Leamon January 20, 2011 01:50 am

    Hmm, my link didn't show up. I'll try again. http://www.flickr.com/photos/46425436@N08/5216012403/

  • Chuck Leamon January 20, 2011 01:27 am

    Great tips. I've recently "discovered" low angle shooting.

  • Fred January 20, 2011 01:21 am

    Great advice. I just experimented with this over the weekend. It's hard to do, especially without as flip out LCD, but the results are quite fun. Trying to light the scene with a flash complicates things exponentially.

  • Neil January 20, 2011 01:10 am

    i have always been a fan of low angle shots, check this one out from japan!


  • Ed January 20, 2011 01:03 am

    Bloomin' mind reader, I was only thinking about trying out a few ideas like this the other day! Thanks for the handy tips, I'll be sure to try them out.

    (If I may be allowed one very tiny nit-pick, the phrase "...take an extra second to insure you rcamera is level" could do with a couple of corrections)