One of the biggest “rules” out there in photography is to shoot level, shoot above, but never shoot someone from below. It’s unflattering, distorting, and people will hate the photo you take of them from a low angle. Well, that’s just plain horsepuckey.
Photos at a low angle are often some of my favorite images. It’s an instant way for me to minimize a chaotic (or ugly!) background. Stuck on a boring golf course? Get low! In a tourist trap (::cough, cough:: D.C. Monuments ::cough::) Get low! In a generic field with no real character? Get low! I can isolate my clients in the frame and make them appear as if they are the most important people in the world (and hey, who doesn’t like feeling important?) even if it’s just for the moment.
Getting low is also good for adding intimacy into the shot. It’s a view rarely seen and often allows cause for pause, which is afterall, what we want when people look at our images, right? We want them to linger, to look, to really see. Switching up the angle can have a large impact on that. This shot on the right was taken at a traditional Indian wedding where the only chance I had of getting a photo was to sit smack dab in front, on the floor, (with a videographer literally on my head and a small child standing on me). I was anxious at first as this is totally unorthodox to ME, but I put on my trusty 17-40 and let it do it’s magic. By lowering the camera body but still keeping the angle of my lens still fairly perpendicular to the ground, it minimizes the distortion on the people while simultaneously allowing my clients in the foreground to really feel as if they are featured in this photo. Had I taken this even from a kneeling level, there wouldn’t be nearly the focal point and impact.
In this next shot, I was at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. Literature has long made the Mason’s a mysterious group and being in their memorial, I wanted to capture that feeling, even if it was just in a boring, kind of sterile, old stairwell. Getting low allowed me to create an environment that appears more mysterious and engaging than it really is. It’s just stairs. Big whoop. Get low and suddenly they’re interesting.
So next time you’re in a location and you’re stuck, get low! You may be surprised at how you can break the “rules” and come out with a better perspective.
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