Photo Tip: Change Your Point of View – by Sabrina Henry

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vancouver chinatown chinese new year parade

Here’s a very simple tip to help improve your photography: change your point of view. Sometimes we photographers get used making pictures at eye level. We think about using different lenses and trying various focal lengths, we even move to a different spot but how often do we think of changing our point of view right where we are standing?

This picture was made during the Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver. I was literally fighting the crowds to photograph the parade as it went by and getting very frustrated as people with cameras and phones blocked my view as every float and band went by. Finally I decided to drop to street level and see things from a different perspective. The real gem was when I turned around and looked through the legs of the crowd and saw this scene of people watching the parade.

My favourite camera these days is my Olympus OM-D E-M5. It has many great features but one that I use quite often is its rear screen which tilts 80° upwards and 50° downwards. This allows me to photograph without bringing the camera up to my eye. I can put the camera above my head, tilt the screen downwards and still clearly see what is in my frame. This perspective is the equivalent of either being 7 feet tall or standing on a ladder which I would never get from just shooting at eye level. With the upward tilt, I can put the camera into low, small or tight spaces and still see the screen, like I did with this picture. Even if you don’t have a camera with a tilt screen, you can still shoot overhead or at waist or street level, it’s just that you won’t have a preview so it will take a few more tries before you get what you might be looking for in the frame.

Changing your point is especially useful when photographing certain subject matter. I find when photographing children, it is particularly effective to photograph them at their eye level. Taking pictures from the level of an adult can dwarf children and make them appear less important or worse yet, not quite human. If you are interested in doing food photography, changing your perspective can make a big difference to your photographs. Breeze through the many pictures made of food and you will see novices tend to photograph from the perspective of being seated at the table with a plate of food in front of them. Change your point of view and photograph a plate of food directly from above and instantly the viewer has a different experience.

As with all things photographic, experiment. Try placing your camera in a different place and see what the world looks like from that perspective. Get into a habit of working your perspective and make it part of your process. Like me, you might just be surprised with the results.