- Pros and Cons of Low Angle Portrait Photography
- 3 Don'ts of Low Angle Portrait Photography
- 3 Do’s of Low Angle Portrait Photography
- Helpful Gear for Low Angle Photography
- Other Recommended Photography Gear
- What Is Lifestyle Portrait Photography?
- Headshot Photography Tips
- 4 Simple Ways to Create Emotion in Photos
- Low Angle Photography Tips
- Outdoor Portrait Tips
- How To Use Leading Lines in Photography Composition (with Examples)
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Low angle portrait photography is a style that some photographers may have yet to try. For good reason, too! As a general rule, low angle portrait photography can be somewhat troublesome. Shadows, unflattering points of view, and perceived distortion can cause some issues.
Still, some excellent reasons exist to incorporate low angle photography into our portrait poses and compositions. With that in mind, we’ll examine some do’s and don’ts of low angle portrait photography and see where it takes us.
Table of Contents:
Pros and Cons of Low Angle Portrait Photography
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One truism I’ve come to appreciate over the years about photography advice is that if someone tells me not to do something, that’s a pretty good reason to try my hand at that something.
With regards to low angle portrait photography, a con to consider is that it can be unflattering to people if not done correctly. Shadows can block up, everyone gets a double chin, and forced-looking posing are all legitimate reasons to be careful about low angle portrait photography.
On the other hand, when carefully executed, low angle portrait photography can add importance to the subject, create excitement, and open up all sorts of creative posing and composition ideas.
3 Don'ts of Low Angle Portrait Photography
Don’t Ignore the Background
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Low angle portrait photography is somewhat out of the norm, so it shouldn’t surprise us that we might miss something as we’re taking these pictures that we would have otherwise been right on top of, such as a light pole or tree branch that looks like it’s growing out of the subject’s head.
During any portrait session, we have a lot of things to keep in check. Adding in the non-standard views of low angle photography and it’s not surprising that we could lose track of some of those details.
The fix for this is super simple. Just pay attention. We’re not using Kodak Brownie box cameras, our viewfinders and view screens show us what we’re framing. If that twig eight feet above our subject suddenly appears to sprout from the ear of our subject because we changed the perspective, move the camera a little bit until the problem disappears. It's quicker to do than I just took to type it out!
Don’t Add Distortion
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It’s easy to add unwanted distortion - real or perceived - when shooting a portrait from a low angle camera position. The problem can be doubled with group or environmental portraits if we use a wide-angle lens. Those exaggerated limbs or facial features may not win us any appreciation from the subject.
This fix is simple as well. In fact, it’s pretty much the same advice - watch what we’re doing. In this situation, it could be remedied by changing the camera position or the subject placement. How they turn their head or move their arms or legs also factors in. Offer some posing direction to alleviate this issue - the subject is probably expecting that anyways.
Don’t Be Too Heavy
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The distortion issue detailed above can add some unflattering perspectives to a person’s face and physique. A person will naturally look down as we get low to shoot these angles, giving them a double chin effect that isn’t natural looking regardless of their body weight. Also, the shadows can bunch up under the eyes, under the arms, and so on, adding to the apparent unnatural proportions.
There are two fixes for this: watch those poses and positions. If the subject looks straight down at the camera, direct them to turn slightly to one side or adjust the tilt of their head. Light and shadow issues can be fixed by adding in light from a small portable LED light on a camera mount or a collapsible reflector.
3 Do’s of Low Angle Portrait Photography
Do Emphasize the Subject
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A great advantage of low angle portrait photography, in fact, one of the primary reasons many photographers try it out in the first place, is that the low angle emphasizes the subject, adding importance and interest.
It’s not just the low angle that does this. Creative posing and composition tricks add to the mix and create a mood in the photograph that centers on the subject and raises the implied value of the portrait subject concerning everything else in the image.
Do Add Implied Motion
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The low angle can also exaggerate or emphasize the limbs and torso of the portrait subject, making it appear as though the subject is in motion. This can have the effect of adding even more importance to the portrait subject.
It’s also a great method of signaling to the photograph's viewer that the subject has something more going on beyond the image. Athletes, dancers, business people, artists, and performers of all types will appreciate the flow of power that low angle portrait photography can import.
Do Use Composition Tools
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All of those composition tools used in photography, such as the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Negative Space, and so on, are also open to us when shooting low angle portrait photography. It’s only the camera and subject placement that changes what we do in portrait low angle photography. All the other rules and techniques of photography still matter.
Add in different lighting, exposure, and focus techniques, and we have a recipe for creating awesome images of our friends, family, or clients as we avoid the don’ts and employ the do’s of low angle portrait photography.
Helpful Gear for Low Angle Photography
Earlier, we hinted at some photography gear we can use for our low angle photography. A collapsible reflector is worth its weight in gold for all sorts of professional photography. It doesn’t have to be fancy. As long as it is in our bag, we can use it for lighting and shadow control. Same for that portable compact LED light we may use for lighting control.
A low angle photography camera mount is invaluable for these styles of portraiture. If we’re hand-holding the camera, the mount can hold the LED light properly. Alternatively, we can mount the camera to it and free our hands to aim the reflector. Plus, it can save our knees from hard floors or rocky ground.
Octopad is my number one choice for a low angle photography camera mount, whether shooting portraits or anything else. A weighted disk with a non-slip pad, Octopad can be put on all sorts of surfaces, even if that surface is angled up to 45 degrees.
Low-priced and compact, I often bring 2 or 3 to a location for a photoshoot. They have a dozen or more uses, including holding things like mics for video recording.
Low angle portrait photography is an exciting technique to add to our repertoire of portrait skills. Following these do’s and don’ts will enable you to succeed with this fascinating style of portrait photography.