Why Using Ant’s View Perspective Can Take Your Photography to the Next Level

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Perspective is one thing that can make or break your image. Finding the right or a unique perspective can help take your photography to the next level.

The problem

Imagine yourself walking down a path or street, camera in hand on a fine sunny day. Suddenly, something peaks your photographic interest ahead. What do you do? If you are a keen photographer, you stop dead in your tracks, stealthily raising the camera to your eye. Your finger depresses the shutter button a few times and you inspect the LCD monitor for exposure. Satisfied, you continue on your way, keeping an eye out for the next photographic opportunity. This same routine makes up the majority of your photographic practice, and it has for quite some time.

Later, while revising your photographs, you have a sudden realization – all your recent images look eerily similar. In fact, flicking through your catalog, you notice the same thing in each photograph – they are all taken from the exact same eye-level perspective. Your camera settings were perfect, true, your exposure was dead on. But viewed across a body of photographs, your work comes off tiresome, repetitive, dispassionate even. And it all comes down to perspective.

Why Using Ant's View Perspective Can Take Your Photography Up a Notch

Getting perspective

Like many things in life, photography can become habitual. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut without realizing it. Our first foray into photography begins with camera operation – focus, shutter speed, aperture and ISO – and once we have a handle on that, we then move on to the ins and outs of photographic composition. Yet, although we retain the basics of operating a camera, it’s the composition theory that often gets left to the wayside. This is why many photographers’ work suffers from repetitivity, even though perspective is one of they easiest and most effective ways of switching up your photographic composition.

Perspective involves training your eye to recognize unique opportunities and to emphasize them by positioning your camera. Climbing up trees, laying on your belly, poking your lens through holes in fences – perspective means getting physical with your photographic practice. Of course, there are circumstances where the average camera angle shot is going to work just fine. But keep in mind that the perspective of a photograph is always a choice – don’t waste the chance to create a unique photograph by deferring to the traditional eye-level shot.

Why Using Ant's View Perspective Can Take Your Photography Up a Notch

Placing my camera on the ground to catch the unusual angel of light that was reflecting off the rain-soaked road yielded some eye-catching results.

Drop it like it’s hot

Often photography is about finding that unique point of view and investigating a subject from a creative angle. Physically altering the positioning of the camera is a great way to get you thinking about perspective, and low angle photography can yield amazing results.  The lower the camera, the more dramatic the effect, so don’t be afraid to experiment with the positioning of your camera. It may seem counterintuitive to place an expensive camera on the ground, but as one of my favorite perspective techniques, sometimes getting a little dirty is worth it.

Why Using Ant's View Perspective Can Take Your Photography Up a Notch

From a low angle at the beach, I was able to pick up the flecks of light coming off the sand. I was also able to add some context to the origin of this large piece of seaweed.

Set your camera to auto or to a suitable manual exposure suitable for the subject. A great advantage of this type of photography is that the ground makes for a lovely, steady tripod, so be sure to experiment with slow shutter speeds. Place the camera down on the ground – remember the lower the camera, the more dramatic the effect. You can use a plastic bag beneath the camera to protect it if you want. To avoid more editing later, placing the camera on a level surface is a good idea too.

Some examples

Why Using Ant's View Perspective Can Take Your Photography Up a Notch

Here is an average shot, with my lens positioned at a mid to high angle over this cute little guy. The image looks unresolved and impersonal.

Why Using Ant's View Perspective Can Take Your Photography Up a Notch

Photographed with my camera resting on the line of stones. This photograph depicts the rabbit from his point of view. It tells more of a story about the life of a small critter in a large world. Although timid, this rabbit was much happier for me to get close to him from a low angle approach.

Why Using Ant's View Perspective Can Take Your Photography Up a Notch

Sometimes you can get away with a bustling streetscape if you find a stoop or rest-stop along the way.

How to see what you’re shooting

One of the tricky aspects of ground-level photography is the awkward angle of the viewfinder. Unless you are laying on the ground, or have a swivel screen, seeing what you are photographing can be difficult. Blind shooting or working without the viewfinder lends a refreshing opportunity to think creatively without holding the reigns too tightly. A trial and error approach is ideal. Check the LCD monitor after every few photographs to make sure you are getting the images you want. Set your aperture, shutter speed and ISO in line with the results yielded by the monitor.

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Photographed at a popular shrine in Japan. I wanted to document this tourist-heavy location by doing something different. The “camera on the ground” approach is an easy but effective way of setting your work apart.

An ant’s eye view

Photographing from such a low point of view isn’t just fun for the photographer. Unusual perspectives impact the experience of the viewer or audience too. From the low perspective, the ground and the horizon either intersect or sandwich the subject material, creating emphasis and guiding the eye around the image. When these planes come together abruptly, they also draw attention to the composition of the environment.

The unusual perspective of ground-level photography also makes objects in the foreground appear larger compared to the background, mirroring our own perception. By enhancing the depth of the image, the image appeals to the human eye because it is both familiar and unusual at the same time.

By investigating perspective, the photograph tells a story in greater detail, creating a more resolved photograph.

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Conclusion

Playing with perspective is a really simple way of making your images more dynamic. In fact, it’s a little addictive!

As soon as you get a handle for ground-level photography, you’ll start to notice other unique photographic opportunities around you. There aren’t many people who get the chance to investigate a scene from the ground up. But as photographers, we have the tools and the know-how to photograph unusual perspectives and share them with the world. Don’t be afraid to get physical with the environment around you to get that master shot. And don’t be (too) afraid to put your camera on the ground once in a while.

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The crooked path in this photograph lends itself to the history of the memorial sites in the photograph

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Megan Kennedy

is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. A lifelong fascination with flight has inspired her photographic practice in documenting the intricate form of aircraft. Megan is also interested in travel photography and documenting human interaction with the modern landscape, through both intentional and incidental intervention. She is well versed in both digital and film practice. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications.

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  • Dave

    The problem is/was, none of those pictures were interesting. Especially the Japanese shrine. It looks like it was taken by a high school intro to photography student.

  • Filip Ili?

    The one with the rabbit is interesting thou. 🙂

  • Steve Ramsey

    Dave, can you point me in the direction of your articles on DPS? I thought these photos illustrated the point the article was making really well.

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  • Srilil Sreekumar

    Nice and inspiring article

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks Srilil!

  • It seems to me that the background with which you frame a subject can be an important factor in setting the shot from an ant’s perspective. Just my opinion. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b6eb0abd9b3619f1d4cfa77a2ea41711929256e6da91454af6b2aac9b154fcf0.jpg

  • Ken Kemp

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2621951870de8c3ed46b8616e5ca4d2e910c9ead036a3ed0bf44f70fda7cc8f5.jpg I like this method, as well. The major problem for me is, as I advance in age, getting up and down from such low positions becomes more awkward and difficult. Hard surfaces are painful on the knees and elbows. I’m trying to find some comfortable and convenient way to provide padding for my knees without resorting to bulky and inconvenient knee pads. One of my favorite almost ground level (the camera was actually on a tripod set near ground level) photos is attached.

  • Susan Hurt

    Thanks Dave for your expert and constructive opinion.

  • Paul

    Thank you for the article. When I use this technique I always feel like I have too much “blank” (for lack of a better description) space in the foreground and I sometimes end up cropping it out.

  • Marjorie Allan

    Try putting your camera securely on a monopoly, use a remote trigger and hold the camera upside down on the ground. It works, and saves creaky joints!

  • Ken Kemp

    Thanks, Majorie. I doubt that I would have ever thought of that. I have both a remote and a monopod (which seldom gets used). I’m guessing that getting the desired composition and maybe focus may still be a bit of a problem and rather than carry both a monopod and tripod, one could just hold the tripod upside down.

  • Marjorie Allan

    Ken, certainly a tripod would work just as well. If your screen articulates like the one in my Lumix G7 then you’ve got some chance of getting your desired shot. This screen also saves me having to look up too much which affects my vertigo! At least with digital you can take lots of shots and one is bound to come out the way you want it.

  • Ken Kemp

    Marjorie, I’m not currently using a camera with an articulating screen. So I would probably take many shots, then review them to see if more shots are necessary. While I will be updating my DSLR, probably this year, I am also considering getting a second camera, such as a smaller mirrorless model for special situations, everyday carry and maybe one of these would be better suited to this sort of shot. Thanks so much for your suggestions.

  • Marjorie Allan

    Glad to be of help. I love my mirrorless and find due to its lighter weight, and that of the lenses, I’m more likely to carry it more often. Also less intrusive for street photography. Quality is excellent too. Good luck with the ‘low level shots’. Only drawback I find are the funny looks from others!

  • John Bright

    I am a VERY inexperienced hobby photographer and take a lot of aerial photos from an ultralight (because im an idiot, or so im told)…i got caught in a rain storm late one afternoon and this was the first picture i took from such a low angle…for some reason it has always been a favorite…thanks so much for the great advice! There are some of us that look forward to any pointers! Good day, J https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c0cfb4b250f4d55690da13744f6db26991486b6b7149838aecb551e4e5184fab.jpg

  • Megan Kennedy

    Absolutely! Thanks Ryderwriter

  • Megan Kennedy

    Great photo John, I’m a big fan of aerial and aviation related photography myself!

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks Paul, it is a delicate balance. As a rule of thumb I ask myself if the space ‘adds’ to the photograph visually or conceptually. If it just looks like half the image is empty, maybe look for another shot 🙂

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