Home Photography Composition How to Manipulate Perspective and Depth in a Photo

How to Manipulate Perspective and Depth in a Photo

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One of the biggest challenges you face as a photographer is trying to render a three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional photo.

This makes perspective and depth in photo compositions very important.

Depending on how you capture a photo will affect how close objects appear to each other within a scene, which will either strengthening or weakening the perceived depth.

In this tutorial, we’re going to teach you how to manipulate perspective and depth in a photography composition. We’ll show you how to enhance the sense of space and distance with your photos as well as how to make them look flat.

Use Converging Lines

A strong sense of depth in a photo can be created by using converging lines.

Converging lines are parallel lines that move away from the foreground and converge into the background.

An example are the lines on a road or train tracks that merge together as they approach a horizon. Although they’re really equal distance apart from each other they converge as they move further away from us within a photo’s composition.

In order to enhance perceived depth within a photo its best to use a wide angle lens to capture converging lines.

The wide angle lens helps to emphasize the distance within your photo by elongating the converging lines.  If on the other hand you want to reduce the sense of depth within a composition you should use a telephoto lens. This lens will compress the perceived distance between converging lines making the photo look more flat.

perspective and depth in photography converging lines

Photos by awngnasuha and Rob Warde

Overlap Perspective

Another way you can show depth within a photo is by using overlapping perspective.

People instinctively know that if an  object overlaps another object (or partially hides the object) its perceived as being closer to the camera. Also, objects in the foreground appear bigger than objects in the background which also enhances the impression of depth in photography.

A good trick to improve the impression of depth in a photograph is to compose it so that an object is very close in the foreground compared to the background.

For example, you could shoot a wide landscape photo of a mountain range that includes flowers in the lower left corner that are close to the camera. The flowers close in the foreground will enhance the impression of depth as they will appear larger than the mountain in the background.

On the other hand, if you wanted to reduce the sense of depth in the photo you would remove the flowers from the frame. This would eliminate the reference point of depth in the photo and make it appear flat.

perspective and depth in photography overlap
Notice how the photo on the left has deep depth just by including the fence post on the bottom of the frame. Compare that to the photo on the right that appears flat without a foreground element in the frame. Photo by Universal Pops

Lens Choice is Important

Just remember that with either trick you use from above to enhance or reduce perspective and depth in your photographs, lens choice is very important.

With photo compositions, a wide angle lens increases the perceived distance between elements in a photo which results in a deep perspective. A telephoto lens compresses the distance between objects and reduces the sense of depth and perspective.

Its up to you to determine which type of perspective and depth you want in your photography. Both are correct and can produce equally amazing photos. We recommend when on location you try both types of perspectives and then later choose which you think looks best.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on perspective and depth in photography composition. Tell us what you think by leaving a comment below!

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