Change Your Camera Angle For A Better Photo Composition

As photographers, we are always looking for a unique angle for a subject. You may have heard to avoid shooting at eye level. And that's a good guideline – a photo taken from the same vantage we see day in and day out can have a tendency to fall short of inspiring.

Sometimes shooting at eye level is unavoidable. Last weekend, walking the beaches of Torrey Pines in San Diego, I stopped at a collection of rocks to do some shooting. To keep separation of the foreground and background rocks, I needed to shoot at eye level. I would have liked shoot from an even higher vantage. My growth spurt days are over... add a taller tripod to my holiday shopping list!

Constrained by the height I needed, I changed the angle of my camera for a stronger composition.

Shot 1 / Camera angle head-on to the horizon

Shot 1 / Angle of the camera

Shot 1 / Angle of the camera

Shot 1 is boring, the horizon is dead center, and the sense of distance between foreground and background is lacking.

Shot 2 / Camera angled downward toward foreground rocks

Shot 2 / Angle of the Camera

Shot 2 / Angle of the Camera

Shot 2 is better. The horizon is higher, deemphasizing the boring sky. The sense of distance is better conveyed. And a natural leading line emerges.

My tripod did not move between Shot 1 and Shot 2. The same focal length, the same aperture. The only difference is the camera is pointed downward toward the foreground in Shot 2. That 10-15 degree tilt makes a big difference!

"Zoom with your feet" is another tenet of good photography. A variation on that is "compose with your feet". I took a third photo of this scene after stepping 2 feet to the left.

Shot 3 / Camera angled downward, two steps to the left

This last composition feels more balanced to me. There's less dead space in the lower right quadrant of the frame. (Although I must say I like the flow of the ocean in the first frame the most.)

The next time you're out shooting, vary your camera angle and experiment with a few compositions before moving on to the next scene.