Using Point of View

It’s July and once again I am speaking at the Thousand Oaks Photo Group  monthly meeting. Over the past several years, I have been engaged with the club, providing brief tutorials on using different compositional techniques to improve their photography. Tonight’s talk is on using Point of View
Let me start with a definition:

Point of View (noun-phrase)

  • a particular attitude or way of considering a matter
  • (in fictional writing) the narrator’s position in relation to a story being told
  • the position from which something or someone is observed

Synonyms: opinion, view, belief, attitude, feeling, sentiment, way of thinking, way of looking at it, thoughts, ideas

The Literal Interpretation

A photographer can approach this compositional technique literally or conceptually. The third definition, the position from which something or someone is observed,is a literal interpretation. In photography, this can be summarized as “eye-level is boring”. Our job as a photographer is to seek out positions from which to observer something (or someone) that is not ordinary, to show something that most people will never see as they just walk about in the world.

Going low and looking up allows the photographer separate the subject from the scene by simplifying the background and heightening the impact of the subject.

Other perspectives include a high vantage point,

getting close,

from behind,

and looking through.

Conceptual Approach

Looking beyond the literal, a photographer can begin to explore unique perspectives to familiar objects or scenes. Providing a conceptual point of view is a critical to engaging story telling. 

As an example, here are three, what I will call, documentary views of gardeners in a famous garden in Kanazawa Japan, preparing the garden to protect the trees limbs from breaking under the weight of the heavy snowfall seen in this region. These images tell the documentary story of the workers and the approach. They are a factual narrative.

This image, however, presents a unique point of view, focusing on the geometric positioning, color and texture in the scene. It is not the frame that the causal observer would stop at to look and enjoy.

Whether you are making images of flowers, a daily hike, a local parade, or a family portrait, you owe it to your viewers to provide them with a unique perspective and to show them something in a way that they would not, by themselves, see.

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