Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perspective and the power of your point of view.

 First let me congratulate Michelle and Corey, on their marriage this summer and thank them for a great day with every moment worth photographing! For more images of their wedding please visit my Facebook page for Irene Jones Photography.Or if you with to see more of my wedding and portrait work, visit my website, Irene Jones Photography Online.

This image is one of my favorites from this summer (2009) for a lot of reasons. The candid feeling of the image was simply achieved by suggesting the bridesmaids look at the bride instead of me. The flowers and colors are unique yet timeless which will help this image look fresh for a very long time. Plus all of the girls are beautiful, which never hurts. The best thing though is the most obvious; the perspective. In saying that I am employing two different definitions of the word. The visual perspective that illustrates the illusion of space in a two dimensional image, and the point of view from which the image is shot.

For those of you not familiar with every venue in the Seattle Metro Area, this is Blessed Sacrament, an amazingly beautiful house of worship. The shot was photographed on the front steps. At the time I was laying on the ground, flat on my back to achieve the angle I wanted. The girls are all standing above me on the stairs that lead to the sidewalk below. I was six months pregnant at the time and honestly I think I surprised everyone when I sprawled myself on the pavement. I have found though, that when my client's see I'm willing to do just about anything for a good shot, they are more apt to go along with whatever suggestion I may have. I had already posed the group in a very traditional semi-circle shot just the frame before so they didn't have to move much, just lean in a little so I could see everyone's faces from my spot on the ground. First I had everyone look into the lens and smile and then I directed the bridesmaids to look at the bride. By simply commenting on how lovely she looked (in a sincere manner of course) it was easy to get natural smiles filled with adoration for their friend. I feel being a good photographer also means being a friendly and effective communicator. Being friendly does a lot to help break down the barrier between you, the subject and the camera you're wielding.

Because I was so close to my subjects it was necessary (not to mention fun) to shoot this shot at a 16mm focal length. My exposure was 1/60 of a second at F8 and I used two speed-lights positioned behind me several feet to fill in the shadows on their faces. It was a hot but overcast day when we were shooting this image so by balancing my flashes to the exposure of the daylight around me I was able to get an image that has great detail in their faces, flowers, and the building behind them. Without the flash my exposure was down to F4.5 and I would have been forced to spot meter for the shadows to achieve any detail in their expressions. I would have lost most of the Church to over exposure and limited the depth of filed to just the bride's face. I'm sure the two girls on the far sides of the image would have been out of focus.

It was the very act of laying on the ground that created the feeling of height and drama that this image has. The low perspective creates a diminishing effect on the church that is consistent with what we see normally as we look at tall buildings from ground level. It is an optical illusion of course since no top floor of any sky scraper is built specifically for elves. We all know that buildings are built from parallel lines, we just don't think about it as we view them from our lowly position on the sidewalk. In fact this natural phenomenon is what all architectural photographers spend their career fighting to avoid. Since my goal wasn't an accurate representation of the building but instead a creative angle that felt relaxed and intimate, I used the prospective to my advantage. Since I was so close to the girls (and I was literally laying next to their feet) I was able to imply a sense of togetherness within the group. Simultaneously  the church growing out of the background  carries a feeling of importance and presence. It's almost as if it's the 6th member of the wedding party here. The illusion of space then becomes physiological and helps build meaning into the portrait by establishing place.

As for the point of view factor. More then anything I wanted to stress that being a photographer is about sharing how you see the world uniquely. Standing up straight then shooting at eye level is the way we normally see the world and it's pretty boring. It's the job of a photographer to challenge the viewer's way of looking at all the things around them. Often the easiest way to do this is to shoot from the view of anything besides where you would normally stand. Some of my favorites are:
  • The ground as you've seen.
  • Off roof tops
  • Ladders
  • Balconies
  • From on top of any piece of furniture
  • In the ocean (while my clients are dry on the beach)
By simply changing where you stand you change the relationship between you and the subject. It's an easy thing to do, but it is often overlooked.  My suggestion, shoot something this week from a new angle. Photograph a baby who's just learning to crawl from carpet level instead of always looking down at the child. This will instantly create a sense of connection between you and your subject. It will also help the image to establish the child as the most important part of the photograph. Or try shooting a large crowd moving around a busy place from high above the crowd. The perspective will diminish the importance of the individuals and make the place in which they exist the most important feature. When you're done please feel free to add a comment with a link to your image to this blog post. I'd love to see the world as you do!

Up next: Still life wedding photography. Telling the story of an event through the details.

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