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Photography Composition

What is Vantage Point in Photography?

September 18, 2023 by

You may have heard the term “vantage point” before but have no idea what it means in the realm of photography.

Well fear not! Because in this guide I’ll be diving into everything you need to know about vantage points.

In fact, I also provide 7 ways you can use it based on my years of capturing photographs.

With that being said, let’s dive in!

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Owen Clarke
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What Is A Vantage Point In Photography?

In photography, the term ‘vantage point’ refers to the exact location from where a picture is clicked – like you could be crouching low on the ground to capture a worm’s-eye view of a sunflower towering above, or comfortably sitting in a helicopter getting a clear aerial shot of a pastoral landscape.

Your selection of the vantage point can majorly influence a photo’s aesthetic, emotional presence, its angles, composition, and even the story it tells.

Imagine you’re a bird perched on a tall tree, looking down onto a bustling city market filled with people.

You see the hustle and bustle of people from a different angle than a person walking through the crowd- that’s your vantage point.

It’s your special position or perspective from where you’re viewing the scenario.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to photograph a runner. If you choose an eye level vantage point it will give a very straightforward, truthful representation of the runner in his environment, creating a simple, yet honest story.

Alternatively, switching to a high or low vantage point drastically changes the ambiance, arrangement of elements within the picture, and hence, the story, it could either highlight or downplay specific elements in the frame.

Take, for instance, a low vantage point that might emphasize the runner’s tall and impressive body structure and create a sense of power and determination.

On the other hand, a high-angle shot might downplay the runner’s imposing figure, instead, emphasize a lonely long road ahead, creating a sense of challenge and determination.

high vantage point of city
high vantage point of city

You can imagine the vantage point as a stage director, deciding where and how to place the components in a scene for maximum impact.

It’s like cooking a meal – the same ingredients can make different dishes based on how you choose to combine and present them.

A different vantage point can bring a totally fresh narrative or visual appeal to an otherwise mundane scene.

Another point to consider here – the advent of cutting-edge technology like drones has made achieving high altitude vantage points easier, creating new opportunities to capture stunning aerial shots that were once challenging.

Imagine capturing sweeping lush green landscapes or complex city architecture from above – it feels like opening a new dimension to an otherwise familiar scenery.

But remember, choosing the right vantage point is not all about glory.

It can also represent a metaphorical standpoint, reflecting, how as individuals, we assess situations.

Just like the lens of a camera, we too perceive life from different angles.

Selection of vantage points in photography thus reflects life in a beautiful way, where the stance we take can make the picture (or the situation) either impressive, or lackluster.

How Can A Vantage Point Enhance Your Photography?

You see, the vantage point in photography is analogous to your unique lens on life.

It is your particular perspective or angle from which you capture a shot.

Whether you’re crouched at ground level capturing flowers from a bug’s-eye view or you’re on top of a skyscraper overlooking a cityscape, your vantage points are instrumental in creating an impactful photo.

Vantage points are like the spices in a gourmet meal.

They profoundly influence the aesthetic and emotional feel of your shots much the way seasonings transform a dish’s flavor.

Just like how choosing the right mix of herbs can turn a bland dinner into a culinary masterpiece, various vantage points can turn ordinary snapshots into extraordinary narratives.

Unusual vantage points offer viewers a fresh angle, telling a different story that might otherwise have been overlooked.

Aside from that, your chosen vantage points can also lend a manipulative hand in the perception of scale in your photos, much like how a filmmaker manipulates a scene with lights and shadows.

By choosing a high vantage point, you could make towering skyscrapers seem insignificant compared to the vastness of the surrounding city.

By selecting a low vantage point, you can bring attention to the height and majesty of these structures, making pedestrians appear as minuscule elements within the frame.

low vantage point of bird
low vantage point of bird

What Are The Different Types Of Vantage Points In Photography?

Well, vantage points are pretty much about the specific location from where you’re capturing a shot.

It all boils down to your perspective; think of it as standing at different points on a stage during a concert.

From each spot, you see a different view of the crowd.

1. Straight Vantage Point

Some vantage points are as straightforward as eye level/even level.

This is the type you’d get when you’re standing straight and holding up your camera – it’s uncomplicated and conveys a sense of forthrightness, almost like having a face-to-face conversation with your subjects.

It’s the type of shot you take when you want to show a scene as it is, without any added magic or mystery.

You control what’s included or excluded from the story.

eye level vantage point
eye level vantage point

2. Low Vantage Point

Then there comes the low vantage point.

The lower you go with your camera, the more dramatic and monumental your subjects start to look.

It’s like how ants see the world, if you will. Everything above looms large, making the subjects appear more grandiose.

low vantage point
low vantage point

3. High Vantage Point

On the other end of the spectrum, you have high vantage points.

Picture how you view the world from the top of a building or even on a tree. Everything looks small, arranged like tiny toys leading to a diminishing perspective.

It can give your viewers a sense of overview, clarity, or distance.

And thanks to new technology, like drones, we’ve got even greater access to these soaring views that were once reserved for birds and helicopters.

high vantage point
high vantage point

4. Unusual Vantage Point

Besides these, there are also unusual vantage points, ones that let you see your subject in a dramatically new way.

It involves finding that clever, obscure spot, like peeping through a keyhole, or capturing a reflection in a puddle – this adds a layer of intrigue to your photography, tickling the viewer’s curiosity.

unusual vantage point - reflection
unusual vantage point – reflection

5. Metaphorical Vantage Point

Lastly, there is the metaphorical vantage point, which is more about how you see a scene playing out rather than where you’re located physically.

For example, portraying a scene with a lot of shadows might reflect a darker, more cynical perspective of the world.

Remember, vantage points are not just about changing your physical position, they significantly impact your photo’s story, its composition and feel.

They can highlight or downplay elements and they can give your photo a distinctive flavor.

How To Use Vantage Points in Photography?

How to use vantage points to tell a story in your photos?

That’s an excellent question and something that every budding photographer should experiment with.

Let’s delve into the possibilities and the potential impact it has in your photography.

1. Experiment With Angles

The first tip for using vantage points in photography is to experiment with your angles.

Don’t setting for eye-level shots, try shooting from different angles such as high above, low to ground, side angles, diagonal angles, and from reflections!

There are endless possibilities when it comes to angles, experiment with them all and see which ones you like!

Of course, if you are taking professional photos for someone, you may want to stick to the “safer” angles such as the eye-level shots and those slight angle variations.

2. Foreground and Background

The second tip for using vantage point in photography is to use foreground elements.

You’ll want to use foreground elements to add depth and context to your images.

My favorite ways to do this is to find leading line elements or frame within a frame elements as those usually act as foreground elements as well.

For example, a winding path, a row of trees, or a fence running across the frame are great elements to introduce into your image to help better tell a story from your vantage point.

3. Wide vs. Close-Up

The third tip for using vantage point in photography is to consider both wide and close-up shots.

Varying your vantage points between wide shots and close-ups is a powerful storytelling tool.

With wide shots, you can provide a broad view of the environment and these types of shots set the stage and give viewers a sense of the overall context.

Wide shots are great for capturing location settings, atmosphere and mood, and action and interaction.

With close-up shots, you can focus on specific subjects of elements within your scene.

Close-up shots are great for capturing emotion and expression, story highlights, and textures and details.

close-up vantage point
close-up vantage point

4. Embrace Unconventional Vantage Points

The fourth tip for using vantage points in photography is to embrace unconventional vantage points.

You have to remember that sometimes, some of the most captivating shots come from thinking outside the box.

By breaking away from traditional perspectives, you can uncover new ways of seeing the world around you.

Some of my favorite unconventional vantage points include ground-level shots, shooting through objects, reflections, and shooting through different materials!

photographing through window
photographing through window

5. Context and Scale

The fifth tip for using vantage point in photography is to remember your context and scale.

The beauty with vantage points is that they can better help convey scale and context.

For example, placing a smaller subject against a grand backdrop can emphasize its size or importance.

The key to effectively conveying context and scale is to strategically position your subject in relation to its surroundings.

Consider the story you want to tell and how you can use scale to enhance that narrative.

6. Consider Lighting

The sixth tip for using vantage point in photography is to consider your lighting.

The vantage point you choose can influence how light falls on your subject.

Light is a fundamental element that can drastically transform the mood, depth, and overall impact of your photographs.

When choosing a vantage point, I like to consider different lighting elements such as time of day (whether it’s Golden Hour or Blue Hour), directional light, soft light vs harsh light, shadows and texture, and silhouettes.

silhouettes during golden hour
silhouettes during golden hour

All of these different lighting elements can help influence the mood and story you are trying to tell within your image, and the vantage point you choose greatly influences how the lighting envelopes the scene.

7. People and Action

The seventh tip for using vantage point in photography is to consider the people and action.

Shooting from a vantage point that is higher or lower than your subject(s) can introduce drama and dynamism to action shots or scenes with people in them.

For example, shooting from a higher vantage point can add drama and make an action scene more compelling because you can capture the full range of movement.

Another example, shooting from a lower vantage point and perspective can make your subject look larger and more powerful. This is especially effective if you want to capture say a portrait that exudes confidence and strength.

Combining these different vantage points along with manipulation of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO can yield some creative effects.

For example, shooting from a lower vantage point and then using a slower shutter speed can create a cool-looking motion blur effect that you can use to convey a sense of speed and action.

All-in-all, with these tips, it’s just important to remember that it’s all about finding the angle that best captures the energy and narrative you want to convey in your photographs.

motion blur low vantage point
motion blur low vantage point

How To Identify A Good Vantage Point For Your Shots?

How to identify a good vantage point for your shots? That’s a great question, my friend.

Identifying a good vantage point involves an in-depth understanding of your scene and how different perspectives can modify its aesthetic and emotional output.

Now, imagine you’re standing in front of your favourite building.

You could stand on ground level and capture the imposing height of the structure. That’s a vantage point.

It would bring out the majesty and magnitude of the building. Imagine you’re a rabbit just looking up at a colossal structure.

That’s the emotion your viewers might experience.

Or, you could go on top of another building across the street and get a bird’s eye view. That’s another vantage point. From this height, the same building appears less imposing, and you get a broader picture of its surroundings.

It’s like being a bird soaring above the cityscape, providing a sense of freedom and expansiveness to your viewers.

Choosing a suitable vantage point is much like setting up the stage for a play.

You place your actors (elements of your image like subjects, foreground, background) on the stage (your frame) from a perspective (vantage point) that best reveals the story you want to narrate.

Another critical aspect to consider while finding a good vantage point is how it can manipulate the perception of scale and details in a photograph.

For example, if you photograph a group of people from a high vantage point, they would appear smaller and emphasize the vastness of a location like a sprawling city park or a picturesque beach.

Technological advancements like drones have made this process a bit easier.

Just like an eagle that sees the whole landscape from a higher viewpoint, drones can get you high altitude views that unveil new patterns like a neatly laid out vineyard or the symmetry of city roads, which is not evident from a ground-level perspective.

But the whole idea is not to latch onto one vantage point.

Instead, it’s to explore the vantage points, to play with them, like re-configuring a jigsaw puzzle to alter the story it tells. You see, the success of a photograph significantly relies on where it is clicked from.

So to figure out the best vantage point, don’t just stay rooted in one spot.

Instead, walk around, climb up, embrace the dirt, test out different angles and positions within the scene.

Be the storyteller who isn’t scared to explore and underline the best narrative your image can tell.

It’s the same as trying on different outfits until you find the perfect one that best defines your style and personality.

How Can Vantage Points Impact The Composition Of Your Photos?

Your vantage point is a pivotal component because everything from the angle, arrangement and the story that your picture tells, revolve around it.

For instance, a full-frontal photograph taken at eye level can lend a feeling of straightforwardness and honesty to your images.

It’s like having a conversation with a friend – it feels direct and honest.

Moreover, it also allows you the discretion to include or exclude various elements from your photograph to construct, or exclude a part of your story.

Changing the vantage point, such as shooting from ground level or from an elevated position, can significantly modify the overall ambiance of your photographs by rearranging the elements within the frame.

It’s akin to rearranging furniture in a room to create a new look and feel.

What Is The Relation Between Vantage Point And Perspective In Photography?

What is the relation between vantage point and perspective in photography?

Well, the vantage point and perspective are interconnected facets of a photograph which wield the transformative power to elevate a simple snapshot into a storytelling masterpiece.

Imagine this: you’re on top of a skyscraper; below, the city hustles and bustles, people scurry about like ants.

From your vantage point, you capture the photograph.

This high-angle perspective showcases the grandeur of the city, tremendously small figures against a backdrop of towering structures.

In other words, your vantage point – on top of the skyscraper – is essentially shaping your perspective, i.e., how the city is visually represented in your photo.

The vantage point and perspective operate in tandem like a chef and recipe.

The vantage point, your physical location where you position your camera, is the chef.

The perspective, the visual outcome or the ‘flavor’ your photo conveys, is the recipe.

Without the chef’s special touch and creative choice of ingredients, the recipe will lose its charm.

Analogously, the impact of perspective in a photo heavily relies on the choice of vantage point.

The intriguing interplay of vantage point and perspective remind us that in photography, there are no rules set in stone.

Each shot is an experiment, a new narrative.

What Are Some Examples Of Effective Vantage Points In Famous Photographs?

Let’s delve into some examples of effective vantage points in famous photographs.

Recall Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic image, “V-J Day in Times Square”. Eisenstaedt smartly incorporated both low and high vantage points by positioning himself at the eye level of the crowd but also using a stepped up structure nearby. He skillfully used a low vantage point for tight shots and a slightly elevated one for capturing the entirety of the scene. This variety of perspective gave the viewers a sense of being there, a kind of first-hand experience, as would be felt when walking in a crowd and then suddenly rising above the sea of heads.

Remember Ansel Adams’ “Moon and Half Dome“? The stunning portrayal of Yosemite’s Half Dome peak, with the moon floating in a clear sky, is a perfect example of shooting from a high vantage point. Adams trekked to a higher vantage point instead of shooting from the park’s valley floor. This change in perspective made the dome look more grandeur and majestic, as being on top of a building and looking down at an ant-sized city. It illustrates how the alteration in vantage points can drastically transform the perception of scale in a photograph.

Then we have Robert Capa’s “Falling Soldier“. This famous war photograph is a great example of ground level vantage point. By positioning his camera at almost ground level, Capa managed to capture a candid and gut-wrenching portrayal of a soldier at the exact moment of his death. It’s akin to lying on the ground and being able to see ants in more detail. This low viewpoint injected intensity into the image and underlined the dangerous atmosphere of a battlefield. This shows how ground level vantage points can provide thrilling contexts in photographs.

For a more contemporary example, Google the aerial shots of the Hong Kong protests in 2019. These shots, taken from drones, offer high vantage points that capture the sheer magnitude of the protests. It’s like watching an ant colony from a high tree branch, with all the tiny dots creating intricate patterns. This showcases the revolutionary impact of drone technology in accessing high vantage points, revealing new patterns and narratives in photography.

So, you see, the vantage point you choose can significantly impact your photograph, making it either mundane or mesmerizing, akin to topping a pizza with just cheese versus an assortment of colorful and delicious toppings. A unique angle can bring out the unforeseen beauty in what might otherwise seem ordinary.”

Remember, photography isn’t merely about pressing the shutter, it’s your vantage point that spins the narrative.

Always remember to explore different angles and push boundaries in your search for that unique perspective.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between focal point and vantage point?

A focal point is the specific element within a photograph that draws the viewer’s attention, while a vantage point refers to the position or perspective from which the photograph is taken.

What does low vantage point mean in photography?

A low vantage point in photography refers to shooting from a position close to or below ground level, resulting in a perspective that emphasizes subjects from a lower angle.