It’s All a Matter of Perspective

Tulips from a low angle

I’m in the process of putting together a couple of presentations about using perspective in photography, both for my class at Illinois Central College and also for presentation to the Peoria Camera Club.

There are four basic photographic controls; exposure, focus, color and perspective. Perspective is the primary and most powerful tool for creating your composition, and it’s the only one that doesn’t have an “auto” mode on your camera. It includes where you place the camera and what focal length lens you choose. Should you get close with a wide angle lens, or stand back and use a telephoto? How do you want the foreground to relate to the background? Perspective also involves decisions about framing the scene in the camera, and cropping the image in post processing.

Simply changing perspective can move a photo from ho-hum to dynamic. Unlike other photographic controls that the camera can manage, the perspective you choose is all up to you.

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The Scream

Nude female kneeling and screaming Fine art photography is always about “pretty pictures.”  Sometimes it’s intended to make you wonder about the image and its story.


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Fine Art or Snapshot? Sometimes the Difference is Timing

Mesa Arch at Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Time of day can be one of the most important factors in determining the success of a photo. Consider the photo of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The photo was taken just after sunrise. The wonderful orange glow is from the sunlight reflecting off of the orange rocks below the arch. The end result is an image that appeals to my desire to use strong forms and colors to create a fine art photograph.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UtahNow consider this photo of the same location. The angle of view is a little different, but the biggest difference is the lighting. This photo was taken in the middle of the afternoon when the face of the arch was fully illuminated by the sun. It’s a “nice” picture, but it sure lacks the impact of the sunrise photo.  It obviously doesn’t have the dramatic color that the arch exhibits at sunrise. The other problem is that the light is very flat and there aren’t many shadows to define the texture. In particular, look at the cliff face and rock formations visible in the distance through the opening of the arch. Without shadows, you can’t see the shapes.

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The Story Behind an Award Winning Fine Art Photograph

Nude female hidden in plain sight in an old corn crib

“Hidden in Plain Sight” has become one of my most popular fine art photos, but it almost never happened. The story behind the photo illustrates the importance of patience, planning, and perseverance.

Writer Lisa Locascio in an old Midwestern corn cribThe story began in October 2012 when I set up a photo shoot of writer Lisa Locascio at a friends farm. The goal was to do an environmental portrait of a writer for my “Playing Peoria” website.

As soon as I walked into the old corn crib I fell in love with the dramatic pattern of light and shadow. We did one of Lisa’s photos inside the corn crib, but I choose to use a different scene on the website. I wanted to make sure the photo was about her and not about my photography.

Soon after that photo shoot, my wife and I hit on idea of using the dramatic lighting pattern inside the corn crib to hide a nude “in plain sight.”  That was the beginning of a year long search for the right combination of clear weather at sunset and a model.

Strike 1: At first, it seemed easy. I found a model, we agreed on a fee, (to be paid after the photo shoot) and set a date and time.  The time came and went but she never showed up. She didn’t answer my phone calls or emails, and I never heard from her again.  Since no money had changed hands, I didn’t lose anything but time, but the time turned out to be a critical factor.

Strike 2: Back to the drawing board and a couple of weeks later I found another model and made arrangements. She was very professional and showed up right on time.  We set up in the corn crib, and just as the light was starting to form its distinct stripes, the sun disappeared. I went outside to check the clouds, and found that the problem was a tall grain silo blocking the sun. The corn crib would be in its shadow the rest of the evening! By then it was into November and getting too cold for comfort.

Obviously I needed to plan better. I used an application called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” to locate the sunset times and angles on a satellite view of the farm and found that there were only two brief times each year when the setting sun was positioned clear of both the grain silo and the farm house.  My first visit just happened to be at one of the right times in the fall. The next opportunity would be in the spring, but probably still to cold here in Central Illinois. That meant I’d have to wait until the following September.

Success: In September 2013 I was finally able to arrange for a model on a clear, cloudless day and we got the shot I’d envisioned. We tried a number of different poses, both clothed and nude. By far, this was the frame I kept coming back to as my favorite.  It just seemed to have everything right.

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Chasing Shadows


Fine art photo of a nude female model with her shadow

Like many photographers, I love playing with light. After all, the word “photography” means “writing with light.”  But light is nothing without shadows. They add depth, dimension and interest to a photo. Shadows are how you know the shape of an object.

This fine art photo is not a Photoshop creation. I was fortunate to be working with an athletic model, so all we needed was a white background and a brightly focused strobe.

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