Above photo by Damien Demolder

Show the viewer a new angle and make your pictures stand out – by Damien Demolder

There is nothing like showing someone something they haven’t seen before for getting their attention, and photographers travel the world looking for new things to shoot to make their pictures standout from the crowd. The problem with heading out around the globe to find new things is that there are always other photographers who live there who have shot everything already, so the search for the new subject just gets harder and harder.

A better way to achieve the ‘wow, that’s new!’ reaction is to shoot the familiar in an unfamiliar way, then you get the element of surprise as well when the viewer realises what you’ve done. Low angles make the whole world look new, because about 95% of pictures are taken by adults holding a camera at head height. We see the world at eye-level and shoot it that way too, so something as simple as holding the camera at waist level can create a new perspective that makes the viewer stop and look.

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Above photo by Damien Demolder

Bridge

We are all familiar with the unique angles achieved by old TLR cameras with waist-level viewfinders and how that lower angle viewpoint makes their pictures quite distinctive. The same look can be had with any camera – it just depends where you hold it.

Crouching down even lower lets the world take on a completely new look, and shooting from knee-high and from street level can make even the most familiar scene look fresh and exciting. No one stretches out on the pavement in the street so no one gets to see the view from down there except babies in their buggies, so shooting from that height will present people with something they have never seen – even if you are shooting Buckingham Palace, The Arc d’Triomph, Oxford Street or any well-known and well-photographed site.

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Above photo by Damien Demolder

mother and son climbing stairs

A table-top mini-tripod is ideal for this sort of thing, as they will allow you stability as well as the low angle, so you have the flexibility to choose the aperture and shutter speed so suit the qualities you are looking for. Modern cameras that have live view make this sort of work much easier, and those with flip-out screens make it easier again, so you can get the camera right down on the floor without having to lie down on the ground yourself. Even though you are shooting from an extreme position it’s still important to keep the camera level, especially left to right if not front to back. You will find you have a lot of foreground from your low angle, which can be brilliant to lead the viewer into the subject. Make the most of the bottom of the frame by finding something interesting to place there, and remember that including so much floor provides a great chance to enhance the view with a frame, a leading detail or some other item that adds information to the story of the place or the situation.

 

Damien lives and breathes photography, and is a former editor of Amateur Photographer magazine. When he isn’t shooting he’s writing news or testing the latest cameras and lenses for websites, such as www.dpreview.com, and magazines such as AP and British Journal of Photography. He also teaches, showing photographers how to get the best from new or existing equipment and how to shift their photography to the next level. His passion is street photography, but he really loves all areas of photography. Based in the UK he holds regular workshops in London and around the country.