Photography 411: Orientation and viewpoint

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It might seem obvious, which way up to hold your camera, but there’s a lot more to orientation and viewpoint than simply not taking too many pictures of your feet. Change where you are in relation to your subject or how you frame them and you can get very different images of the same subject.  So, there’s no excuse for taking the same landscape pictures from the exact same distance - let’s look at your options, starting with the obvious: which way are you holding your camera?

Girlfriends Selfshot

© Sandor Kacso -


Also called landscape. This format corresponds to the human vision, which scans the space from left to right and offers better control of the camera. It’s used for landscapes, general scenes, and groups of people.

Holding your camera this way adds a sense of stability, depth and distance to an image.

Sepia portrait of woman with a dog

© Alexey Kuznetsov -


Also called portrait. The eye scans the image from the top to the bottom, and this format is used for images representing people, portrait or actions taking place within situations of height. Hold your camera this way to give a sense of proximity and action to the image.

The viewpoint

The photographer has to choose a particular position for the subject to demonstrate their inspiration for the photo.

The further away the viewpoint, the more a photographer shows a certain distance from the subject, but when the viewpoint is very close to the subject the opposite is the case, and the photographer shows a certain intimacy with the subject.

The three main viewpoints are:

Group of industrial workers.

© Kurhan -


Eye Height

The photographer positions himself at the same height as the subject. This is the most neutral viewpoint.

At this height, the subject is not distorted and perspective is respected.

basketball boys

© jacktheflipper -


High-angle shot

The photographer shoots from above the subject, with the camera aiming down.

The photographer dominates the subject, which gives a sensation of isolation of the subject. This viewpoint stubs the perspectives out and distorts the subject a bit.

Great bargain

© pressmaster -


Low-angle shot

The photographer stays below the subject, camera oriented to the top. It gives the subject a sensation of domination and power.

This viewpoint supplies a bigger importance to the foreground but can distort the image perspectives a little.

Depending on your focus the viewpoint of the photographer will vary as well:

The shorter the focus (high angle) the greater the depth of field - but the perspective will be distorted (known as "fisheye").

The longer the focus the more the perspective is stubbed out and the depth of field will shrink.

Skier in deep powder, extreme freeride

© Vasily Merkushev -


General shot

A general shot shows the subject in its environment, allowing the image to bring out the subject’s connection to that environment. A short focus is advised to achieve maximum depth of field.


© EpicStockMedia -

Whole shot

Tighter than the general shot, the subject can be properly identified in a whole shot. The subject and surroundings are of equal importance in the image. Short focus advised.


beautiful girl with blond hair in blue dress

© slava_14 -

Middle shot

The subject is shown fully and close in, obviously more important than the scenery. Use a short focus when close to the subject or a long focus when staying far away.

Casual Mature Woman

© Rido -

American shot

The subject is framed at half thigh (known as an “American shot” because in the Wild West cowboys would be framed so that their revolvers could be seen). It isolates the subject and reduces the depth of field. A longer focus is best because high angles will often distort the subject.

Laughing young couple during the honeymoon

© konradbak -


Close-up shot

A close-up shot isolates the subject and emphasizes certain parts of the subject. For portraits, there are two types of close-up: waist shot and chest shot, which emphasize the model above the waist or the chest.

beautiful hands on the white towel

© Anatoly Repin -


A close-up concentrates on certain parts of the subject and doesn’t show any scenery.

Closeup beautiful female lips with red lipstick.Very close-up

A very close-up concentrates on a very small area of the subject, allowing for maximum isolation of detail.

With a close up or very close up it’s important to light the subject well if you want to achieve realistic volume and texture for all those precise details.


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