Barrels of wine and perspective

Create Great Depth In Your Photographs Using Perspective

Text & Photos By Chuck Place

Perspective is magic! Not as in fairy tale magic, but as in a magician’s magic. It’s an illusion. We take the two-dimensional medium of a photograph and create the illusion of a third dimension by applying perspective.

The technique of perspective has been used effectively by painters for centuries and has proven to be equally effective in photography.

Perspective is all about the relationship of similar size subjects and their position relative to each. Rows of wine barrels in a wine cave are a perfect example. Although all the wine barrels are the same size, as they get farther from the camera they appear to shrink in size, producing the illusion of depth. Shooting with a wide-angle lens enhances this effect as a wide lens enlarges close subjects and shrinks distant subjects.

Steam engines, Golden Spike National Historic Site, Promontory, Utah

Placing a camera close to one of two historic steam engines creates an image with great depth using perspective.

The effect can also be created using only two similar objects. A very flat image is produced with the two steam engines at Golden Spike National Historic Site shot from the side with both engines the same distance from the camera. Move the camera close to one of the engine tenders, however, and shoot down its side toward the other engine and suddenly the scene has a great sense of depth.

Swimmers racing in a pool

The swimmers racing in a pool and the floating lane markers create a sense of depth using perspective.

Shooting across lanes of swimmers creates some depth as the competitors decrease in size as they get farther from the camera, but the real force of perspective here is actually created by the floating lane markers. The lines of colorful floats appear to be getting closer together as they get farther from the camera. Because the floats are more noticeable than the slightly blurred swimmers, their convergence in the distance creates the strong feeling of depth. Rows of grape vines photographed from a high angle with a drone produces this same effect.

Rows of vines in a vineyard

An aerial photograph of rows of vines in a vineyard create an exaggerated sense of depth as a result of perspective.

None of this is magic, of course, just optics. You don’t have to be a magician to create the illusion of great depth in your photographs. You merely have to position your camera in the optimum spot to make use of the effect of perspective. Just like magic!

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