Using Point of View – A short tutorial

Chevy and Che

com·po·si·tion:

a series of short tutorials on different compositional techniques you can use to make images with stronger impact.

Our responsibility as photographers is to show ordinary subjects in extraordinary ways, to point out what the casual or indifferent observer overlooks, that which the vigilant observer sees. Being attentive and alert observers is not even enough. We must show what we see in ways that capture the imagination and attention. We must show the world from an original and novel point of view.

Eye-level is boring.

Showing the world around us in this way means using your position to create a unique perspective or point of view. There are several obvious approaches including getting low, high, very close, using unusual angles, or obscuring your subject in interesting ways.

Get Low, Step Closer.

There are many images taken at eye level, but unless they use other strong compositional elements, they are just repeating the view seen by every other person walking around the face of this earth. One of the easiest methods for adding impact to an image it to get lower and closer.

Boy at Eye Level
Eye-level is boring

Get low, step closer, fill the frame
Get low, step closer, fill the frame

On the left is a simple image of a child playing on the Prado in Havana Cuba. The has a lot of potential with a cute kid, nice expression, and interesting color play, but there is no presence. The eye-level point of view has simply copied a simple scene and, and due to the camera position, there are a lot of details competing with the top of the child’s head.

In contrast, the image on the right was taken after taking a step or two closer and getting in lower. This image has great presence and is very dynamic. There are no distractions around the child’s head. You can use your position to bring your subject’s head and shoulders above the horizon line which not only removes distractions, but also conveys a sense of elevated stature.

Getting low put the head and shoulders above the horizon
Getting low put the head and shoulders above the horizon

Getting low and close also gives you the opportunity to show details and context as seen with this image on the rooster on the farm in Trinidad, Cuba or with these old American Cars in the heart of Havana.

Roster

Get High

By seeking a higher vantage point you can begin to show the relationships between objects and display graphic designs. Notice the use of horizontal lines in this image looking down on a street full of Taxis in San Francisco and the patterns formed by the stars and pedestrians on Hollywood Boulevard.

Late Night Taxi

Stars and Strips

Go Behind Something

Shooting behind something can add mystery, story, and context. Here is a two images taken from the back seat of a pedicab, or BiciTaxi as they are known in Havana Cuba. In each image I made sure to include the context of the taxi driver to ensure the point of view.

Tunnel of Lights

From the BiciTaxi

Don’t be Obvious

In summary here are things you can do to add Point of View to make your images have a stronger impact

  • Explore your subject from different angles
  • Get low, get high
  • Get closer
  • Shoot from under items
  • Use occlusion
  • Use wider angles

I Live in Trinidad, Cuba

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Still a Photoshop Elements User – Free Layer Mask the reason

Spring Growth

All that beautiful light. What is real and what is dodged and burned in PSE and the Free Layer Mask?

Since my start with digital photography I have been a Photoshop Elements (PSE) user and never a full Photoshop Creative Suite (CS) user. When Lightroom came along I finally had what I needed to wrap the capabilities of PSE with a great digital processing workflow.  Now, years later, and with all the excitement of new release of CS5, I figured it was time to re-evaluate my decision. Well, I did and I’m still a PSE user.

When I started using PSE there were extremely good reasons for me not to use CS3 (the version at the time) not the least of which was the complexity of the program. I started with PSE 4 (Mac version), upgraded to 6 (finally! Adobe was woeful in supporting Mac users), and most recently to PSE 8. There haven’t been any real significant changes to the program based on the features that I use, but since I make my living in the software field, I understand the pitfalls of not staying reasonably current.

So how has Lightroom + PSE managed to support my photographic digital desires? The one absolutely cannot live without feature of CS not found in PSE is the ability to add a Layer Mask to any layer. But for as long as I have been a PSE a simple web search for the keywords free layer mask photoshop elements will bring back as the first hit Sue Chastain’s page on About.com for a Free Layer Mask Tool for Photoshop Elements.

I works just like the Layer Mask in CS. It is not some weird work-around. Just someone out there understands how to dig into the PSE API and keep getting this addition to work. (Actually, I don’t understand why Adobe doesn’t just add layer masks to PSE. Come on guys, we know how to get the free one. Maybe they just want to keep giving Sue her due.)

Here is a PDF document tutorial I wrote for the local camera club on how to get, install, and use the Free Layer Mask from Sue Chastain. I hope you find this useful.