Using different vantage points is one of the easiest ways you can alter the look and feel of an image.
The subtlest alteration can change the visual story of your image entirely.
Mastering how to use different vantage points is one of the easiest ways you can create interesting compositions out of the simplest scenes.
But, what exactly does vantage point mean in photography?
In this post, we’ll talk about what are the different vantage points in photography and how you can use them to create a variety of unique compositions.
What is Vantage Point in Photography?
The term vantage point refers to the position from which you take a photo.
Changing your position changes the relationship between the background and your subject.
By changing your position multiple times during a shoot, you can ensure you get the best results possible.
One way you can easily adjust your vantage point is using a tripod.
A tripod will allow you to get low to the ground while keeping your camera stable.
Likewise you can raise your tripod as high as possible and shot from a high vantage point.
I highly recommend the Manfrotto Tripod with Horizontal Column, a quality tripod that does not break the bank.
The center column gives it additional height great for capturing a high vantage point.
Likewise, horizontal and downwards capability of the center column are great for capturing a low vantage point.
3 Types of Vantage Point
1. Low Vantage Point
Photographing your subject from a low vantage point allows it to fill more of the composition.
When you alter your vantage point to a lower angle, you can see the object takes up more of the frame as the horizon line moves downward.
You can use a slow vantage point to instill a sense of authority and awe in your image.
Subjects gain a sense of importance, power, and scale when taken from these angles.
2. High Vantage Point
Any position that places you above your subject counts as a high vantage point.
Depending on your subject, you can shoot from a high vantage point in many ways.
You may be able to do this by using a ladder or climbing up a tree or onto a roof.
If you’re taking photos of pets, children, flowers, or other short subjects you may just need to aim down.
Even being slightly higher than your subject can make a distinct change in the feel of your image.
If you intend to deemphasize some element of your image, then elevating the camera is a great way to go.
Everything below your camera will seem smaller as a result.
A high vantage point can also instill a sense of vulnerability and a sense of dominance to your viewers.
3. Aerial View
When photographers refer to a “birds-eye-view” they’re referring to a shot taken from a high altitude above a subject.
This can mean the photo was taken from a building, a plane, or a helicopter.
The aerial point of view detaches your viewer from the world below.
It allows them to view a scene in its entirety, inspiring sensations of awe and the sublime.
At extreme enough distances the scene you’re photographing may be utterly unrecognizable.
Even the largest subjects, such as skyscrapers and buildings, can be reduced to a myriad of patterns, lines, colors, and textures.
Examples of Vantage Point in Landscape Photography
1. Low Vantage Point
Pictures of landscapes taken from a low vantage point evoke feelings of wonder and awe.
This is especially true with tall, vertical subjects such as trees and towering buildings.
To emphasize your subjects grandeur, I recommend using a wide-angle lens.
Using wide lenses in combination with a low vantage point is an excellent way to make skyscraping subjects appear even more massive.
I recommend a 14-24mm lens or a 16-35mm lens. These lenses over a great range that covers both an ultra-wide angle and wide angle focal length.
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Setting your camera at a low angle is also a great way to emphasize small objects in your foreground.
Reflections, rocks, and wildflowers can all take center stage when you place your camera at a low angle.
You’ll often see this technique used in most landscape photography.
Images of majestic landscapes typically consist of an interesting foreground element and a sweeping background such as a waterfall or a mountain range.
To do this, I also recommend using a wide-angle lens. These lenses make closer objects appear more prominent in the scene.
This distortion causes even the smallest foreground elements, such as grass and pebbles to look big.
2. High Vantage Point
A high vantage point provides your viewers with a privileged perspective.
The elevated point of view allows you to see the entirety of a scene.
High vantage points create an awestruck feeling for a viewer.
This is likely due to our ancestors’ tendency to climb to high points to learn about the lands over the next horizon.
Whereas low angle images tend obscure the objects in the middle ground and background, high angles remove obstructions and create a realistic sense of distance between background and foreground.
These shots are perfect for including a visual field larger than that possible on the ground. You can capture entire fields and buildings within a single frame.
Photographers will generally select higher viewpoints when they’re shooting a city skyline or a horizon spanning mountain range.
3. Birds Eye View
Similar to a high viewpoint, aerial photography provides viewers with a privileged point of view.
It enables viewers to observe the entirety of a scene, instilling a sense of transcendence and freedom in them.
As such, the birds-eye view provides viewers a sense of importance or of being in a place of grandeur.
Until recently, the only way to photograph from this vantage point was to rent a small plane or helicopter.
But with the flood of affordable drones available today, the birds-eye view is now more accessible than ever.
If you want to experiment with the birds-eye perspective, buying a drone is a great way to start.
It will enable you to capture entire cities or landscapes without paying a hefty price.
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Just make sure to have a focal point in your frame when creating images from this perspective. It is easy to forget when composing from such an unnaturally high position.
Remember, regardless of vantage point, having a focal point is critical if you are to create an image that will engage your audience.
Also, only use this viewpoint when it’s beneficial to your visual story.
If you cannot find a way to use the distance to your advantage, you should aim for a lower vantage point.
For example, if you want to showcase small details of your subject, this vantage point likely not be the perspective to shoot from.
Examples of Vantage Point In Portrait Photography
1. Low Vantage Point
You can create a sense of importance and power to your subject by taking a picture from a low vantage point.
The viewer will feel diminutive in the face of the seemingly towering subject.
A good way to think about this is when photographing children.
Looking down on them will make them seem small, but looking at them from a low perspective, will make them appear taller.
You can see this technique often used in photographs of actors and politicians to enhance their stature.
In this angle, your subjects backdrop will be the space above you. You can use this to remove unwanted or distracting elements from your surroundings.
With a low vantage point, you can emphasize the subject’s power or distinctiveness.
You can also use this angle to isolate your subject entirely.
2. High Vantage Point
A high vantage point can give portraits a flattering effect.
Photos are taken from a position above the subject’s eyes minimize the chin, nostrils, and nose.
It will also emphasize the eyes of the subject and reduce the apparent size or height of their body.
This can be desirable if you wish to make someone appear shorter or slimmer.
Looking down on your subject can also grant an air of superiority to your viewers.
If you’re trying to produce an impression that the subject is fallen, powerless, submissive, injured, or down high angles will do the trick.
3. Birds-Eye View
The birds-eye view gives the photographer a unique way to create interest in the image.
For example, you can photograph a person from a high angle to make them appear engrossed by the scene.
A birds-eye view is a great way to tell a story using the surrounding landscape rather than the emotions or facial expressions of your subject.
For example, imagine taking a drone photo of a person standing in the middle of the desert.
This image would evoke emotions of loneliness or tranquility, not due to your subjects reactions but rather the solitude that surrounds him.
This high angle of view also gives a distant and objective feel to an image. Rather than being immersed in the scene, the viewer becomes an observer.
Be aware that this type of perspective will not show minor details and facial expressions of your subject.
If you are trying to capture the emotions of your subject, stay away from a birds-eye view.
Keep in mind that shooting at a high vantage can result in overly exaggerated eyes with the legs and body jutting out of the head comically.
Unless you aim to produce this humorous effect, take care not to use a vantage point that is too high.
Vantage point is a powerful tool in photography, creating endless variety out of the simplest of scenes.
As you begin working with vantage points, you’ll discover new ways of looking at your subject and different ways to tell their stories.
Experiment with vantage points every chance you get, and you may be surprised what you find!