‘Perspective’ in photography is the much talked about topic and technique. This can be understood as how a subject looks like from a particular place. This is a lot about the ‘point of view’ of the camera. Well, when a camera looks at a subject it sees certain parts of the subject and certain parts of the subject is not visible for the camera. To see the parts that were not visible earlier, the camera has to move to another point of view. And now, something that was seen earlier becomes hidden from that particular point of view.
Technically, perspective is about the feel of ‘depth or third dimension’ in the two dimension picture. That is why it is very important in visual communication. It is identified very easily by the relative difference in the size of the subjects or the parts of the subject in the frame. For example, when you look at a building in close from its front, it appears to be very flat like a cinema set. But as you move towards the sides, you see the receding other side also along with the front, to give a feel of depth and three dimension. This angle is also called as ‘perspective angle’ and the shot is referred as ‘perspective shot’.
In the figurative sense, perspective means how you perceive a subject, not just spatially, but aesthetically, emotionally, even morally. This kind of perspective requires that you understand your subject enough to have an opinion or idea about it . . . and that you have the technical skill and creativity to convey that opinion or idea to others.
Well, to me perspective is very powerful element in a photograph. But unfortunately it is not the same when we use lenses with various focal lengths. It is generally understood that the normal lens for a camera (the focal length almost equivalent to the diagonal of the sensor) roughly delivers the perspective of human eye. This may be one of the reasons as why our grand fathers used the normal lens for most of the shots. They wanted their pictures to be natural and true to life!
But, now, the trend is astonishingly different. No one wants the natural perspective of a subject. An exaggerated perspective of a wide angle or fish eye lens is rather very exciting and sometimes the excessively compressed perspective by a long telephoto lens is preferred.In any case, we are always altering the way a subject looks by changing the focal length of lenses. May be, that is one of the techniques of ‘making a picture..!’ The choice of lenses, camera levels, camera angles, distance between the subject and the camera, direction of lighting, lines and curves, geometrical shapes, patterns, selective focus and overlapping forms influence a lot about the appearance of a subject – ‘the perspective’ from a particular point of view.
By all these the photographer alters the feel and idea about a subject. The distance between two subjects in a photograph could be easily be misunderstood by a viewer when it is altered by the change of perspective controls. But for me, this is the ‘power of photography.’ Yes, you tell what you want to tell through your pictures. Let the fact be different. If you want to tell about the fact, you could still do that with the proper controls of perspective in photography.
Enjoy the power of perspective and use it to make your picture meaningful. If you could connect that to the emotions of the people and subject effectively, then that is the purpose of photography!
‘The magic of photography is metaphysical. What you see in the photograph isn’t what you saw at the time. The real skill of photography is organized visual lying’ – Terence Donovan