How to change perspective when composing landscape photos

It is very important you know how to change perspective when composing landscape photos. By choosing the right perspective you make sure all elements in the frame is positioned in a pleasing way. Use of perspective give images dimension and make them interesting to look at. There are many ways to do this but you have to learn the techniques.

Use the right lens

Factors affecting the linear perspective is the focal length of the lens you use and the distance between the lens and the subjects. If you use a wide angle lens where the distance from the lens to the subject is short, the nearest subjects will look bigger than the more distant objects. This near foreground to background creates depth in the photo and is used a lot in landscape photography.

The opposite is if you want to compress the foreground and background, then you should use a telephoto lens.

change perspective when composing landscape photos

Move the camera (and yourself)

First and foremost you have to move yourself and the camera. Using a zoom lens and zooming in and out will not change the perspective. This is a typical misunderstanding. To change perspective when composing landscape photos you must change vantage point, nothing else will do.

3 important considerations on how to change perspective when composing landscape photos

Where you position your camera is very important and can totally change the feel of the image. A tripod is essential for landscape photography. However, I sometimes find the camera on a tripod have some limitations when composing. For the fine adjustments when you have decided your composition the tripod is fine.

When I arrive at a new spot I want to photograph, I move around hand holding the camera at first. Having the camera off the tripod gives me more flexibility to move around and try out different viewpoints, before I decide my composition.

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Eye view perspective

Is the most common height to shoot from especially for beginners. Eye view is like the word suggest taken from eye level. As you develop as a photographer, you will take less and less of your photos from eye level. Simply because these photos are not as appealing as when you shoot from lower or higher levels. Eye view photos can easily look like unplanned snapshots if the rest of the composition is mediocre.

When I bought my tripod, I looked for one that could be extended as high as possible, to my eye levels. What I have experienced with the type of photography I do, most landscapes, it is very rear I extend the tripod to its maximum height. Rather I find myself using the capability of lowering the tripod so the camera is positioned almost on the ground.

Birds eye view perspective

As the name suggest, this is images shot from above. In most situations it is not natural for us to photograph from height. In landscape photography you often have the possibility of climbing to a higher vantage point to change perspective when composing your photos.

Some are too lazy to go this extra steps but photographers who do often come back with much more pleasing shots. Not are they pleasing but they are different from most other shots from the same “boring” position. In other situations you simply are on flat ground with no possibilities to climb higher.

low perspective composition
high perspective composition

The two images above are photographed from the same spot. The only difference is the image to the right is shot from a higher camera position. The reflections and patterns in the ice were beautiful, but this did not show so well from a low camera position. So I decided to change perspective to a higher vantage point for a different view.

In this situation as there was no other option (I had not brought a ladder with me - unfortunately), I had to use an old trick. By extending the tripod legs to the maximum and lifting the tripod, I was able to raise the camera about a meter and a half above my head. That made a great difference. In this situation, my long tripod legs came out handy.

Worms view perspective

In worms eye view the object is photographed from below. Often landscape photos are shot from this level, as low on the ground as possibly.

Typically flowers can be photographed from a low camera position. Changing perspective and photographing the flower from underneath can be an interesting composition. Despite the interesting look you can get, most flower photos are shot from above.

Shooting from a low level often requires you have to lay flat on the ground. It is quite challenging to compose your photo as it is difficult using the viewfinder.

A tip is to use the Live View function to compose and focus properly if your camera has this option. Or if your camera has an LCD screen that can be flipped out from the camera and tilted this is where this feature comes into use.

Left - right

Another way how to change perspective when composing landscape photos is moving left and right. Just a slight move to either side or up and down for that sake can make dramatic changes in your composition.

So if one object in your frame is overlapping another more important object you can simply move your camera slightly to change the relative position between them.

Our eyes see in 3D simply because we have two of them. Try to look at an object in the distance with your left eye (your right eye closed). While keeping your head in the same position, open the right eye and close the left. When you do this you will see that objects will change how they relate to each other depending on which eye you use.

Considering your eyes are just a few centimeters from each other the difference in perspective can be quite significant. The same happens if you move your camera slightly to one side or another. A very small change can do miracles for your composition.

how to change perspective when composing landscape photos

Camera orientation

You should decide on the camera orientation based on your scene. In landscape photography typically you shoot in vertical aspect (portrait orientation) if you photograph taller subjects likes trees.

There are a lot of situations where vertical camera orientation will work well. Using a wide angle lens shooting foreground to background will in many situations benefit from a vertical camera orientation. Often this can create a more dynamic photo with the foreground leading the eye deeper into the image.

Despite this a majority of landscape photos are taken in landscape mode. Most of my photos are. I have no other explanation than blaming the tripod head (or better myself). With my current ball head it is a little hassle to turn the camera into vertical mode. Just lazy but this is how it is.

The situations I shoot with the camera in vertical position is when there is no way a horizontal composition will work. I am pretty sure I have missed great compositions not having tried a vertical orientation.

An L-bracket for my camera is on my shopping list, but I will probably wait until I invest in a new tripod and ball head.

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