Psychological Impact: In the sections that follow, I ll talk about these different camera angles, their impact on human perception, and the psychological meanings we associate with them. The emotional impact of any particular camera angle might change significantly by how you combine it with another for example a front shot of a subject from a low position versus a front shot from a high position. In this article, I ll focus mostly on the psychological aspects of a particular type of camera angle without describing in detail the numerous ways camera angles could be combined for an almost limitless variety of subtle effects. For a level camera angle with humans and animals, we re shooting at the eye level of the subject. With people, it s the natural way to view the person. It shows people the way we would expect to see them in real life. Psychologically, we re seeing eye-to-eye with the person.
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We feel equal status and power with them, like a peer. When we kneel down to shoot subjects who are sitting, the resulting photo appears as if we re sitting too, rather than standing above them. In fact, with the photo on the right, this was exactly the case. When I took this shot, I too was siting with my friend Bill while enjoying a cigar. The level angle is one type of subjective camera angle because the shot encourages the viewer to identify with the subject. If the subject is a tall or short person, that aspect of their appearance is eliminated as we see eye-to-eye with them. If the subject is a child or animal, we get down to capture them at their level of experience rather than shoot from the higher adult or human point of view. In the case of objects and scenes that exist above our usual position, like a kite caught in a tree, or objects and scenes typically below us, like toys lying on the floor, the level camera angle brings us up or down to experience that scene as if we re part of it. Because the level camera angle typically feels natural, especially in photos of adults and most of the environments we encounter on a daily basis from our usual standing or sitting position, the viewer of the photo might not even consciously perceive it as an angle, unlike the other types of camera angles. Portrait photographers often recommend taking a slightly high camera angle during head shots, usually just above the subject s eye level. The eyes will seem larger and more emphasized because they are closer to the camera and appear above the center of the resulting photo. This type of angle will also cause the nose, lower face, chin, and especially the body, to appear smaller, which might be the desired effect for some subjects for example, if you want to slim down the person s body or make a tall person appear shorter. The person s hair will also be emphasized, and in some cases, as in bald men, the subject might seem more brainy because the top of the head will appear larger.
A higher camera angle, while shooting straight downward onto the subject looking up, might result in the popular caricature portrait where the top of the head and eyes are obviously exaggerated, while the much smaller body and legs seem to jut comically out of the head. A wide angle lens amplifies the quirky and sometimes humorous effect. Generally speaking, if you want to deemphasize something in your shot, raise the camera so that everything underneath the center of the frame will appear smaller. High camera angles can make the subject appear to be in an inferior position relative to your dominant and more powerful point of view. The subject is smaller, less significant, and diminished, while you are the giant. You are literally and figuratively looking down on them. High camera angles work well to enhance the idea that the subject is submissive, humiliated, vulnerable, powerless, fallen, being beaten down, or injured. In the shot on the right, my daughter, exhausted from a long and exhausting walk, crashes on the couch. The high camera angle enhances that feeling of her having dropped down into her withdrawn world of napping. At extremely high heights, as when shooting from an airplane, the scene below might become so unrecognizable that the resulting image transposes into abstract lines, textures, colors, and patterns. Whatever it is you re photographing be it human on not - low shots, as a type of subjective camera angle, create the feeling that the subject is big, high, powerful, dominant, imposing, authoritative, or menacing. In the shot of the young women on the monkey bars, there is a sense of empowerment, freedom, and flight. Standing up, the young man is actually above them, but the fact that he's further away from me in my low camera angle position makes him appear smaller than the young women, which emphasizes their power.
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By contrast, the viewer of low camera angle photos might feel weak, powerless, insecure, helpless, or overwhelmed in relation to the subject. You are in the position of the child, or standing in the land of the giants. You are, literally, looking up to the subject, perhaps out of respect. Low camera angles of a person or object above us tends to isolate the subject from the surroundings. The sky or a ceiling forms the backdrop, against which the subject stands. That can be a convenient camera angle for eliminating an otherwise distracting or irrelevant environment. The minimalist background might take the subject out of context or accentuate the importance, distinctiveness, and power of the subject. In some cases the low angle might be disorienting, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the intent of the shot. In cities or landscapes, the very low camera angle can create feelings of awe, wonder, excitement, or being overwhelmed by the grandeur of one s surroundings. In a garden or room, a very low camera angle will help the viewer appreciate the scene from the perspective of a cat, dog, or insect. Flowers and chairs look huge. Ordinary aspects of the environment not noticed or appreciated from a standing position, especially the underside of things, now take on intensified importance. When shooting from a low camera angle with a wide angle lens, including a nearby subject and a background extending into the distance e.
G. , a foreground flower with a desert landscape reaching towards distant mountains - the resulting image acquires a theatrical story-telling quality. Here, right in front of us, is the subject, but we see it within an expansive scene that provides us the background context of where this subject fits in, where it might have come from, where it is going, and why it might be here. Generally speaking, when you shoot from the front of a subject, you re assuming a straight-on, matter-of-fact, no-nonsense approach. It might even seem like an honest, non-deceptive point of view. If the subject is not looking at the camera, as in the shot on the right, the psychological impression changes quite dramatically. The photographer, as well as the person viewing the photo, now feels more like the objective, unnoticed, and even invisible observer of the subject. Unless subjects appear self-consciously aware of a photo being taken (which is a subtle and fascinating aspect of facial expression in photography), they do not seem aware of our presence. The resulting photo might feel a bit voyeuristic, or like we have some advantage, power, or control over the subject. After all, we see them, but they do not see us. The further you are from the subject, the more these sensations might be enhanced. Being up close tends to create the impression that you re with the person, that your presence might or could easily be sensed. Curiously, the shot taken from behind will be an objective camera angle when we feel physically and emotionally distant from the subject but if we appear physically close to the subject, seeing and moving with them into the scene ahead, the effect can be a very subjective identification with their experience.
If you tilt a camera to one side or another while taking a shot, the resulting photo portrays a scene that appears unnaturally slanted up or down. In cinematography, such effects have been called dutch angles because they originated in German ( Deutsch ) cinema during the 6985s and 6995s. The technique quickly spread throughout the world of cinematography as well as photography, becoming particularly popular during the 6965s as an avante-garde rebuffing of conventional horizontal orientations. Because the tilted angle creates diagonal lines, the composition creates a dynamic feeling of energy and movement. Even subjects that are clearly stationery appear to be rising or falling, or somehow resisting the pull of gravity. Eye movement feels more smooth and natural going from left to right rather than right to left (in cultures where people read left to right), so tilting the camera up on the right side results in an image where the subject and the scene seem to be rising upwards to the right. When you tilt the camera frame down on right, everything seems to be falling to that side. Those sensations can be over-ridden or counterbalanced by the orientation of the subject. So, for example, if a subject is facing left, but the camera frame is tilted up on the right, the subject might seem to be descending to the left even though the tilt creates a pull upward to the right. Those contradictory lines of movement might create an interesting kind of balance or tension. Photographers also use tilted angles as a way to control how negative space interacts with the subject. For example, imagine a shot upwards into a group of trees or buildings. Slanting the viewfinder different degrees to one side or the other will alter how the edges of the frame shape the negative space and the way it flows around the organic form of the trees or the geometric lines of the buildings.