In photography, the term angle can be used to describe the viewpoint from which a photograph is taken. A low angle (or up angle) means that the camera was low to the ground and the lens was tilted up at the subject. A high angle (or down angle) means that the camera was pointed down at the subject. Because angles generally give different viewpoints than people experience just walking around, they make images more interesting and can add a wide variety of storytelling effects to your photography!
If you are looking for one fast, easy, who cares what kind of camera you have - foolproof way to put the "OH SNAP!" into your snapshots, this lesson is for you!
One of the most common mistakes people make when taking pictures is that they don't consider the vantage point they are shooting from. It's really a shame because using interesting angles is one of the most powerfully simple ways to improve your photography. Angles are good for all kinds of things - making someone look taller, shorter, skinnier, bigger, you can even use them to isolate your subject and get rid of unsightly backgrounds. That's just the tip of the iceburg!
So from this moment on, get used to the idea that, in order to creat that oh so perfect photo, we will probably find you laying on the ground, kneeling on the gravel, curled up in a corner, or standing on a ladder - any number of uncomfortable places and positions, all in the name of Momtography! Trust us, once you see the results, you'll be doomed to never take a "normal" photograph again!
Chloe is known around her block and on the playground as the stare-down queen! Wanting to see if she had rightfully earned this title and get a taste of what the other two-year-olds were up against, Krista got down on her knees, pointed her lens directly between her eyes and snapped! Boy did Chloe let her have it! Clearly she has earned her title!
Moving to eye level is what you do when you want to capture the world as your little one is experiencing it. It transposrts you directly into their space, giving you a front-row seat to what they might be thinking. In fact, out of all the angles we're about to showcase, you should consider the eye-level angle your "staple" position. It won't always be the most artistic, but it's the most consistently pleasing. It also sets you up to get genuine eye contact when your little one graces you with it! This isn't a tough lesson at all - an eye-level angle is exactly what it sounds like. Do what it takes to line up your lens with your child's direct line of sight and you've got it!
THE UP ANGLE
It's the most magical place on earth. Unless you're trying to get a picture of JUST your child. And then, faster than you can get run over by a stroller, it threatens to be the most frustrating place on earth. Never fear - this momtographer perservered - and it was an angle to the rescue... the UP angle.
Adrienne tried earlier in the day to get pictures in front of the castle, but Cinderella has many admirers, and they ALL showed up for their picture time. Late that afternoon, stunt dad came up with an idea. He hoisted Sydney up on a pillar just off of Main Street U.S.A., careful to keep his hands around her waist and duck down so mommy could set up the shot. Sitting on the ground looking up, Adrienne leaned back and tilted her camera to the sky until all fanny packs and straw hats disappeared.
Distance was key - too close to the pillar and Adrienne would have had a nice shot of her daughter's knees and nostrils. Too far back and she'd get floating tourist heads. So after scooting back and forth on the pavement a few times, she waited for the baloon to clear the castle and SNAP SNAP SNAP SNAP SNAP! She made her own magic!
THE DOWN ANGLE
One of our very favorite things about taking pictures is the different stories that can be told based on the viewpoint they're taken from. Like in this photo of Luca, Krista's youngest.
Krista grabbed her camera after noticing her youngest in a rare moment of contemplation with her signature two-fingers in her mouth (rock and roll baby!). She likes to experiment with angling her camera down, almost standing over her girls to capture them as she, the big tall mommy, sees tiny little them. That angle rewarded her with a picture that says more about the tender and dreamy emotion Krista was having towards her daughter than whatever sweet wonder was going through Luca's tiny little head.
Now if you know Chloe, you know that at two she's already Krista's tomboy diva princess. Here she is lying on the floor giving Krista a chance to stand over her and capture her royal fierceness, complete with temporary tattoo. As you can see from this example, there's so much depth created by her lying on the floor with her arms outstretched! Shooting almost directly down at her is what made this photo so, wel, fierce!
So now that you've witnessed first-hand the power of angles, don't ever just stand up and take a picture. Pause to consider the vantage point from which you'll be telling you little one's story - it will make all the difference in the world!
This part of composition is really quite simple - but very crucial to taking pictures with artistic appeal. If we all spent a day in art school, the concept of positive and negative space would definitely be one we'd spend some time on. Quite simply, your subject is the positive space - everything else is the negative space.
Okay, great, well what does THAT help us do?
It's just a different way of looking at your frame to help you make creative decisions. Have a hard time deciding if the background is cluttered? Pretend that pretty little face isn't there anymore - now what are you left with? Is it clean? Does it tell a story? Does it take away or add to your subject?
This driveway creates a perfect canvas of negative space for Sydney to take her doll for a walk. It's almost as if it transports you into the imaginary world of a two-year-old going into the great beyond. Even more perfect - the subtle ray of light pointing in the direction beyond.
And how's this for negative space? The dark curtains behind leave nothing to focus on but the sweet sensation of getting valentine candy.
Now lets contrast this to a picture with negative spce that's a little more complicated.
While our rocking princess is as cute as can be - there are elements in this picture competing for her crown. It's not so much that the rocking chair is busy - that's really still part of our positive space since it's part of our focal point. Look at the negative space (everything outside of the rocking chair). It's pierced by harsh lighting differences that subtly distract from our subject. Is this a horrible picture? No. But do we wish the negative space wasn't so dappled? Yes.
Really - understanding positive and negative space is just another way to make sure that your subject is the center of attention. It's the more studied version of Brand Spankin' New's Lose The Clutter lesson. Plus, it makes you sound really smart around all the art people (*wink*)
The Rule of Thirds is a term you may or may not have heard thrown around? It's actually pretty straight forward. The Rule of Thirds is a photography imperative that basically says in order to bring balance and interest to an image points of interest should happen in the thirds sections of an image.Imagine a grid over your image that divides it into thirds both horizontally and vertically where the lines meet should be your guides. You never want points of interest (for us this usually means your subjects eyes, directly in the center). Here let us show you.
It's a good idea to try and get in the habit of doing this when composing your shot versus doing it in post via cropping. You lose pixels and often times important information. It can be a bit challenging at first just like everything else, bit once you get it, you got it!
One thing we found that helps with this in the beginning is to move your focal point on your camera from the middle to one of the outer options. This way you don't have to think about recomposing your image once you have locked focus.
See this diagram most focus points on DSLRs look similar to this. Avoid the middle point which is generally the default and instead try using one of the ones we have highlighted in pink and see if that doesn't help you get the hang of ROT!
In the early stages of "learning" photography second only to nutso crazy post processing is the urge to go prop happy! And while props can be fun for sure, most times they end up just looking silly OR worse steal the glory from the star of the show!So a word of caution, before you go out and invest little joey or jill's college savings on that chair, couch, background paper, miniature castle, crystal tiara, chickens, rabbits, birds or the like, DON'T! :) You will end up using them much less then you think or wish you had!
BUT, if you insist on using props, please take note of a few suggestions we hope will help offer a more rewarding experience!
1. Before hanging up that gorgeous new sheet or swatch of cool fabric as your very first background, grab an iron or a steamer and get rid of the wrinkles. Yes we know it seems obvious but, in all your excitement, we promise it's easy to forget or just not "see" the wrinkle s. We can't tell you how hard it is to get rid of the wrinkles later, so save yourself some heartache and either skip the fabric or grab the iron!
2. Resist the urge to use props that have more "wow factor" than your subject! The last thing you want to do is have a sofa or baby chic upstaging your cutie patootie! Props should be subtle aids to help tell a bigger story, they shouldn't BE the story!
3. Don't underestimate the "novelty factor"! Some of the best moments happen when your little one sees something for the first time, so don't spoil that by letting them play with the prop ahead of time. The element of surprise is one of your best tools as a momtographer!
4. Before spending countless hours and dollars setting the scene ask yourself one question, "will I still think this was a good idea in 6 months?" If the answer is yes then by all means keep truckin'! But if the answer is "hmmm I'm not sure" then drop the glue gun and run!
(What is it about holidays that wrecks our judgement?!?!?)
Finally, PLEASE always keep safety in mind! Sometimes we get caught up in the cute factor and overlook things that have potential to be hazardous. We KNOW no one would ever intentionally put their precious little munchkins in harm's way, it's just so easy to do without realizing!
If you made it this far then feel free to be on your prop happy way! Snap to it!
Before you think we suffer from short-term memory loss, we know that we say this often, but we can't say it enough. Everything that you choose to include or not include in the frame of your picture has the power to turn your picture from just ho-hum to wow wow super wow. And the background you choose sets the scene for not just visual impact (or lack thereof), but storytelling as well.
Backgrounds - we're not talking the painted kind that you stood in front of for prom - (though bonus points if you can make something like that work). We mean a living background. Everything that sets the stage behind your child as he or she zooms through their great big world.
It's hard to lay out definitive rules when choosing a background because the options are endless and ever-changing - but here are some things that we find helpful to look for when setting the scene for our little one.
LOOK FOR CONTRAST
Here we see Sydney with her blonde hair and bright white outfit practically jumping off of the screen in front of a wall of dark green shrubbery.
The same thing goes for Chloe - only in reverse. Her raven curls and cafe-au lait complexion command your eye against the blown-out path ahead. It's also worth mentioning that the brigade practically leads your eye smack to this incredible moment between daddy and daughter.
LOOK FOR FRAMING
Under the Camelias and dreaming, the canopy of brush around, overhead and the petals leading to Sydney frames her naturally. Don't see what we mean? Squint your eyes and look how everything around her is dark while she alone glows.
LOOK FOR STORY
Sure, at first glance this graffiti's wall may look too busy to be a good backdrop, but it's the perfect setting for this super dope daddy and his cutie-attitudie.
Bottom line - we can't tell you the rules, because you'll find limitless scenarios when it comes to backdrops. But look for opportunities to practice the examples we've given, and your eye will begin to instinctively see what will put your little star on center stage.
We said it before in Brand Spankin' New, but we will say it again, because it is worth repeating! Learning to master composition is one of the single most powerful ways to transform your photographs! Learning how to tell a story, by what you do or don't put into a frame is an art form! And one that can be mastered no matter what kind of equipment you have, seriously, even an iphone! In the coming sections we will go in detail into some areas of composition that well make a big difference fast! But like everything in photography the best way to master it is PRACTICE, so snap to it!
In this section we will explore:
Angles- A look at how your vantage point can completely change your story
Rule of Thirds- A tried and true photography imperative
Backgrounds- Learning what to do, not to do, and what to watch for
Positive and Negative Space- Understanding the story that perspective tells
What NOT to do with props!- Come laugh with us on the do's and don'ts