Arts & Culture

The Photographer’s Perspective

Imagine we’re taking a stroll with our cameras and pass a construction site. Typically, photographers aren’t interested in construction, but this particular build catches our eye because of a certain photogenic object in the middle of all the silent machines and piles of dirt: a rusty old truck. It’s adorable. Its surroundings are anything but adorable. Weeds and even turkeys have overtaken the field, and a few dumpsters further obstruct the view. Whichever way we shoot, it seems we’ll run into something ugly.

What would you do?

If you said, “Walk away and find something else,” you may have just missed some of the best still life shots of your life. Perspective is everything in photography, and while angle is important in good perspective, this concept goes beyond the height of the camera. It’s embedded deep in the photographer’s mind, probing for the perfect way to bring a unique style to the shoot. In fact, the way you view perspective can even shape your Christian worldview, so it’s a concept we can’t afford to ignore.

Let’s revisit the truck. Because angles are a major part of perspective, we’ll start by examining them. As we walk around the front of the truck, we see why it’s abandoned: it’s stripped bare and utterly ugly. Even with a nice black-and-white edit, it looks rather flat and uninviting.

Shall we walk away yet? Don’t even think about it. We still have some strategies up our sleeves. Objects with dirty surroundings or unfinished parts often look best in close-up shots. If we step a bit nearer, we find priceless bits of art awaiting us:

 

Now let’s try backing up. It requires some shuffling and awkward body positions, but we’re not afraid to be that photographer, you know, the one straddling the ladder or sprawled on the ground all for the sake of a better shot. Remember the weeds we noticed? Well, it turns out that the tallest ones are wild sunflowers. If we stand at just the right angle and find the perfect crop, we can miss the dumpsters, equipment, and most of the random turkeys, giving the viewer a little piece of magic. The photo has a dense foreground, meaning that there are quite a few obstacles between photographer and subject, but it’s the best whole-truck shot so far:

Perspective can transform an entire shoot, but again, it’s more than how high off the ground or how near to the object we place the camera. Photographers with strong perspective skills have a vision, are observant, and seek the best way to communicate their vision using the surroundings they’ve observed. When we first consider shooting any subject, we form a plan of attack–a clear vision for the finished product. It can be as detailed or loose of an idea as we want, anything from a hope for what the subject should look like through the viewfinder to a storyboard of specific shots needed. When we eventually meet the subject, then, we already have some vision in our mind’s eye, an approach to capturing the subject unique to us and our cameras. Whether the subject is inanimate, landscape, human, or other, when we see it, we mentally pause and let the scene fill our mind’s eye, observing each detail in a 360 degree mental panoramic. We now have two pictures in our minds: how we want our images to look, and how the scene actually does look. At this point, we must start at point A–where we are–and find our way to point B–where we want to be. Here the photographer’s creativity comes in as he rises to the challenge of making his vision reality. This is perspective: the determination and style of the photographer encapsulated in the work he produces.

As Christians, we have a uniquely backward strategy in perspective because we have no sufficient vision in our own strength. We’re given the vision and the means to accomplish it at salvation, when the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the Great Commission: go and spread the Word! We simply must observe ways to put the plan into action. The Christian puts perspective into practice by exercising the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) to seek the lost and bring God’s vision to completion by preaching the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). Whether in photography, evangelism, or any other activity, let’s use our perspective to perfect our art and magnify Jesus Christ in all we do.

Romans 10:13-14

For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in
whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher?

10 Comments

  1. Wow great photos and commentary! This is so good! And that golden hour is lit 😀

  2. Annalee, as an amateur photographer (someone with an iPhone and a dream), I am so encouraged by your post! Your perspective on perspective was new and helpful for someone like myself that can appreciate photography. I also loved the way you connected photography and perspective to the Christian faith. Good job 🙂

  3. Lauren Grace Niesent

    great job capturing this. truly spectacular!

  4. wait… your part of TPS too? I have you as TA for AP lit in PA!

  5. Thank you for walking us through the process of finding a perfect shot. Did you take the picture yourself?

  6. this is a very interesting bit! i am looking forward to your column!

  7. Amazing article and pictures! 🙂

  8. Beautiful shot! 🙂 I love your pictures and your commentary!