Get Low, Get Close, Get Intimate
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 1, 2009. We present it here to you today as a insight from our past, but of course the subject matter is still very relevant today (at least this much hasn't changed in three years). If you have any thoughts to add, we have once again re-opened the comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts. Enjoy.]
Photography, as an art form, is about showing people things they've never seen before – or at least showing them something from a different perspective. Perspective is a major component that sets one photo away from another. Some perspectives are not afforded to us – we don't always have the opportunity to shoot from a hot air balloon, we can't shoot sculpture from the wrong side without scaffolding. But not all is out of reach.
The average American adult is 5′ 8″ tall. When you're talking human scale, that doesn't seem like much. There is a lot of room between eye level and the ground. If you shoot from below the hip, you are introducing the viewer to a perspective they're not accustomed to. It doesn't even matter which way you aim. Sometimes, just changing your camera position gives you a much more intimate connection with your surroundings. This is especially important with landscape photography where you need that foreground in your shot. A sandy beach or a wheat field looks drastically different at 2′ than it does at eye level.
Get low, get close and get intimate.
Memorize that phrase because if all else fails, and if you have run out of ideas for capturing a subject, that phrase might just come in handy. And I”m not talking just about your camera. I mean you. You need to get low. You need to get close and intimate. You camera can't frame the shot for you, only you can. You may look goofy, bystanders may poke fun, but who's going to end up with a better shot? You are.
And just keep in mind, this doesn't just apply to landscape photography, it applies to everything. Shooting kids or animals? Get to their eye level, or lower. Shooting an object on an industrial site? I want to be able to read serial numbers, even if they are only 2 inches from the ground. In the photography world, being uncomfortable isn't an excuse, an no experienced photographer will feel sympathy. There will be uncomfortable moments – both emotionally and physically. There will be times where you could hurt yourself (not intentionally of course). But the old sports adage applies to photography as well: No pain is no gain. So don't be afraid of discomfort and get low, get close and get intimate.