One of the biggest differences between the experienced photographer and the novice is that the novice tends to stand rooted to the spot while the experienced shooter moves around a lot more. They explore different angles, and different heights. This can be something as simple as bending their knees or crouching, or it may involve a much higher vantage point. A lot of novices rarely adjust their tripod height, either. Here are some tips to make sure you are using the best height for your photography....
As any wedding photographer will tell you, one of the best ways to get a good group shot, as well as using a wide-angle lens, is to get higher than the group. This may simply involve standing on some step ladders (many portrait pros keep them in their car) or you may need to climb a wall or flight of stairs. It's much easier to get everyone in if you are shooting from above, and it's often easier to get people to look at you.
Macro, flower and other types of close-up photography often require you to get on the same, low-down level as your subject. This is important to ensure a realistic vantage point, avoid weird angles and get a clean, uncluttered background.
Getting down to a child's level can result in more natural and spontaneous looking images, too. Shooting a person from very low down can make them look big and imposing against the sky, but it also makes them look quite wide (wedding photographers beware)
Camera height and portraits
The height of your camera can have quite a significant effect on portraits, so it's not just about crouching down or standing on a chair. Remember, a high camera angle will reduce body size while accentuating the head – use an extreme wide-angle lens and you can use this for deliberately distorted, creative effect.
Meanwhile a lower camera height gives a fuller face, but the body size is obvious too. Shooting on the same level as the other person's eyes will really accentuate the eyes – useful for 'character' portraits.
Try extending your tripod legs right out and using your tripod low to the ground – low-angle shots, combined with a wide-angle lens, can give you some really striking effects, and make a change from the usual, formulaic way to shoot landscapes. Just make sure the tripod is firmly supported on solid ground (or weighted down) as nobody will forgive you for a soft shot just because it was taken at a funky camera angle.
There may be time that you need to go to the other extreme and raise your tripod to get enough camera height, but try not to extend the central column up as high it will go. Your camera will be teetering on the end and you will lose some stability. If possible, try to keep the central column lower down and get up on higher ground.
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