The art of photography can be considered entirely based on composition. Composition in this sense doesn’t only govern where subjects are placed in a photograph but instead what makes up the photograph and how every single visual element interact and affects our perception of other elements as well as the entire image as a whole. This image that is put together by all these elements can be enough to tell a story, illustrate a phenomenon, or at the very least, trigger curiosity.
What is Forced Perspective Photography
Forced perspectives are created by using juxtaposition of two or more visual elements that create unique, unusual, or exaggerated perspectives depending on scale or context. Forced perspective is a compositional technique or method that can be applied in any genre to create visual impact and show unusual occurrences created by specifically skewed angles of view.
Forced perspective in photography can either happen spontaneously or coincidentally, or on the other hand, can be done in a totally contrived manner through careful planning and execution. In any case, however it happens, the result creates a sort of optical illusion using framing and scale that makes the viewer take a little more time to fully understand the actual depth and dimension of the photograph.
1. Camera with a wide-angle lens
Taking forced perspective images requires playful use of layers of an image. This is often done by having something relatively smaller put close to the camera to distort the scale against a larger object that is farther away from the camera. While this can be done with any camera and lens, the interplay of size and depth can best be achieved using a wide angle lens that will be able to contain the objects within the frame and even possibly distort the perspective of the objects.
Doing forced perspectives requires ultimately precise composition, specifically placement and framing of objects in the photo. While this can be done quickly hand-held, there are some instances where positions have to be held still to create perfect alignment between the involved layers of subjects in the photograph. In some instances, it may also be helpful to shoot long exposures. There are instances wherein one of the objects that create the forced perspective effect may not necessarily show the intended effect with a quick exposure but instead illustrating the path of its motion. For such projects, a tripod is necessary not just to hold the right camera angle but also to precent any unwanted motion blur.
More commonly, forced perspective photographs that involve having yourself as one of the subjects when there isn’t anyone else to take the shot for you, definitely requires a tripod and a way to trigger the camera remotely.
3. Camera Remote Trigger
In almost every kind of photography project, one of the most useful and helpful tools that a photographer can have is a remote trigger. Camera triggers have varying functions from as simple as operating the camera from a certain distance for self portraits, to automating complex time-lapse or HDR functions. In shooting forced perspective photos, there are various ways that remote triggers can be of help. When the photographer is part of the image, a trigger can be used to do it seamlessly. For more complicated projects, smart camera triggers can also make shooting HDR, multiple exposures, focus stacking, or special effects images much simpler.
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The MIOPS Smart+ is the epitome of a smart camera trigger that offers a wide range of automated functions useful for various types of photography. The Smart+ offers simple camera remote and timer functions that can be set using the MIOPS mobile app. At the same time, it can easily automate exposure bracketing for HDR shooting, precise timing through the sound, laser, and lightning sensors, and seamless interval shooting for time-lapse photography.
Fundamentals of Forced Perspective Photography
Creating forced perspective in photography is an interplay of two or more layers. Commonly, this consists of the foreground which is the immediate layer proximal to the camera, the mid-ground, or simply a distinguishable subject that plays a key role in the visual design, and the background which may or may not be part of the perspective being created. By meticulous placement of each element found in each layer as well as with the proper positioning of the camera, you can align them in such a way that they physically or contextually blend with each other to create an almost seamless visual flow.
While composition is what creates the magic of forced perspective images, it is nothing without the context of the image. The proper placement and visual harmony of the image is what creates the context that ultimately makes the photograph interesting and worth taking a closer look into. This pretty much creates the story that the photograph tells or at the very least spark the curiosity in the viewers.
Context is the connection that binds the visual elements in the photo even if they are by nature incompatible. This incompatibility may be in size, nature, or depth and it is the act of making them fit together in a photograph that makes it a forced perspective. These contrived interactions between visual elements may create a mood of wonder, fascination, or humor depending on what the story of the image suggests.
The sense of scale in the juxtaposition of objects in the frame is a factor that you have to deal with and can definitely use to your advantage. With a relatively wide-angle lens, any object closer to the camera will appear much larger in scale compared to another object farther away from the camera. This can make a much smaller object look much bigger in scale which creates an illusion of having giant versions of these small objects.
A common concept that uses scale this way is a humorous approach of making small objects seem as if they are falling on people. These can be coins, keys, or any other small object that you want to virtually create a giant version of. Another approach is to photograph small animals such as puppies, squirrels, or even birds and have them very close to the camera and making them seem much bigger compared to the “regular sized” objects or people in the background. Using living objects as the foreground element may be tricky especially if it is an untrained or wild animal. With the use of a laser trigger function such as the one offered by the MIOPS Smart+, you can automate the shooting process by having the camera automatically shoot when something crosses the path between the camera and the background.
On the other hand, a well executed forced perspective image can create realistic images using miniature objects and a properly lit background. With the use of intricately and meticulously designed scale models, a photographer can recreate an image of a relatively large object such as a car, house, building, etc by proper composition, lighting, and focusing.
Generally, using an upright image of the scale model where the object is set close to the ground or the surface, the correlation of the object and the actual distance or size of the ground behind it is distorted in such a way that scale becomes altered. However, one common challenge with this is the difference in lighting especially when using ambient light. Typically, any small object would have much less luminosity compared to a much larger object in the background especially when the sky is part of the image. This can be solved using either of two approaches. The first one is to use supplementary lighting to simulate how a naturally lit object of the right scale would appear. The second is by using exposure blending techniques such as HDR.
Doing HDR images is made much simpler with the Smart+ that automates and smoothens the process. The camera remote trigger which is operated with the smartphone app can be set to automatically adjust the exposure settings depending on how many images you want to take and the difference in brightness between two consecutive images. By shooting 3, 5, 7, or even 9 exposures covering enough of the range of visible light, you can combine these images through dedicated software to manipulate the lighting and make the image seem as natural as possible.
One common challenge with forced perspectives in photography is managing the details in all involved layers of the image. Commonly when one would shoot with a wide angle lens and the foreground element is in focus, it would mean a certain degree of blurring on the layers behind it. This depth of field, even if using relatively small apertures, can often be the reason why the forced perspective doesn’t look convincing enough. To overcome this challenge, multiple exposures can be done (if subjects can be kept still) to create better detailed image both in the foreground and the background.
Focus stacking is done by taking one exposure with the lens focused on one layer, taking another exposure focusing on another layer, and repeating the process as necessary. Afterwards, by combining all the well-focused parts of each exposure into a single frame, you can create a hyper-detailed image and thereby eliminating that difference in detail between one layer and the other.
Taking forced perspective images is a good showcase of technical skills and visual creativity. The essence of taking forced perspective images is the onset of the idea that comes entirely from the photographer’s imagination which is then translated into a visible and perceivable image. With unique forced perspective photography ideas, the proper tools, and the technical know-how, you can do forced perspective photography at home, in a studio, or even at a tourist spot to create unique travel images. When creativity and technical ability meet, your images create impact and have a unique story to tell.
Blog Credit: Nicco Valenzuela
Nicco started his photographic journey in 2007 practicing the craft as a hobby. Currently, he shoots for various local and international architectural firms and construction companies. Out of his love for sharing his knowledge, Nicco began writing about photography and various pieces of gear.