Perspective (Compositional ideas)

Perspective helps us to see depth, three dimensions, on a two dimensional page.

Perspective helps us to see depth, three dimensions, on a two dimensional page.

From babyhood we learn to see perspectives. Although today this seems natural to us it has not always been this way. Artists first began to consistently portray three dimensions during the Renaissance period. Before that time symbolism and the relative importance of elements defined art. People might be sized according to rank for example or defined by the clothing colour. In ancient art perspective was almost missing. Many of the worlds cultures had flat pictures depicting people and objects only in two dimensions (2D).

Today pictures are considered representations of the real world. We see this ‘reality’ so strongly that we are astonished if it turns out as an illusion. So what gives something 3D in a picture? It’s a simple trick. We employ elements in a picture that strengthen our view of depth or dimension. We use converging lines or relative sizes to give visual clues to our viewers. They see these clues and they ‘see’ distance and depth.

Successful photographers hunt for elements in a scene to help the viewer see depth. It’s part of composing the shot. Look for those visual clues. Deliberately pick out the lines of perspective, the relative sizes of objects or the position of smaller (distant) objects compared to bigger (near) ones.

In your compositions try to…

  • …pick out lines that convey perspective.
  • …emphasise the relative sizes of things near and far.
  • …use key objects to help viewers judge size/distance of other objects.
  • …use foreground objects as clues for size/distance to background objects.

In your photographs try to find as many things as possible to help the viewer see into your picture. If you give your viewer lots of these clues you will have an interesting and ‘alive’ picture.

The definition in our photographic glossary also provides a lot of information on perspective

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