See how an unconventional perspective can elevate your photos beyond the ordinary...

Intermediate

When everybody has a camera in their pocket it takes dedication to find an unusual angle or a unique perspective. But extraordinary viewpoints can be found even in the most mundane places if you are prepared to seek them out...

1 Place your camera somewhere unusual


Most photos will be taken from a standing position, so getting your camera low to the ground or up high may result in a more original viewpoint. To take it further, there could be more unusual places you can get your camera to, even if you may not be able to get to them yourself. You could, for instance, lower your camera down into a cavern, or fasten it to the top of a boat mast, or suction it to a car bonnet, or half-submerge it in an underwater housing.

A split level photo of reef with Jellyfish underwater with blue sky and rocks above water.
Go the extra mile to find unique camera positions and extraordinary viewpoints. Image by Todor Dimitrov
The Evoluon in Eindhoven, Netherlands, photographed from a low camera angle
Placing the camera on the ground creates an unusual angle and a great sense of depth. Photo by Ilyas Ayub

2 Get playful with foreground details


In many situations there’s little we can do to affect the look of the background. Instead, it’s the foreground where we can stamp our compositional creativity on the scene. So look for details to frame in the foreground that match up or interact with the background shapes in interesting ways. Getting the foreground and background working together in harmony can be a challenge, but it’s also hugely satisfying.

Looking out over Dallas, Texas with foreground interest
Foreground interest can be found everywhere, and you can even manufacture your own. Image from Philip Cherian Alex

3 Make unconventional lens choices


For a different perspective, why not go against lens conventions? Take wildlife photography, where the majority of photos will be captured with a long focal length. Telephoto lenses compress the perspective and emphasise blurred backgrounds, so these kinds of shots will all have a similar feel. Why not try a wide angle lens instead? The broader field of view will reveal more of the scenery around the animal. Of course, it might be a challenge to get the camera up close to timid animals, but this may be surmounted by using a hide or shooting remotely with the camera’s wifi. A similarly contrary approach to focal length could be applied to other photographic subjects - portraits with a fish-eye, landscapes with a telephoto, macro with a wide prime and so on.

Young male wildlife photographer in brown cloths taking pictures of a red deer, cervus elaphus, stag roaring on a green meadow close to him.
Most wildlife photos are taken with a telephoto lens, so why not make a different choice? Image from Wild Media
Marmots photographed with a wide angle lens near Grossglockner in Austria.
These playful marmots have been captured up close with a wide angle lens for a refreshing perspective. Photo by Christopher Broman Tak

4 Restrict your choices


Photography is often about choices- what should you include in the frame? Which lens should you use? What about exposure? But sometimes an abundance of choice can be a hindrance. Overchoice, analysis paralysis, fear of a better option - these are all recognised psychological issues that not only delay decision-making, but also cause anxiety.

"Sometimes restricting choices can lead to greater creative freedom, as it forces us to think outside our comfort zone."

Sometimes restricting choices can lead to greater creative freedom, as it forces us to think outside our comfort zone. So why not try enforcing your own random rules? It could be anything you like - shoot exclusively with a 50mm lens, ask 10 strangers if you can take their photo, turn on double exposure mode for a day, frame all your subjects in the centre, - or whatever else you can think of.

A shadow of a woman at the salt field, Vietnam
Why not impose your own rules by, for example, only allow yourself to shoot shadows for the day... (photo by Wolf)
A woman dressed in a red coat walking down the street holding an red umbrella against a red wall in contrast with the black shadow.
Or embrace underexposure for an afternoon? Image from Liviu Ratiu

5 Get exclusive access


One way to make your photos stand out from the crowd is to get away from the crowds. Sometimes the best angles can only be reached with a press pass or similar exclusive access. If shooting at an event like a music festival or sporting venue then ask ahead whether you can use the press pit. For smaller events this privilege can often be gained in exchange for the promise of a few images.

The crowd enjoying Rita Ora performing at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Talk your way into a press pit for the best angles at events and gigs. Image by Charlie Raven

6 Break free of your defaults


Rules and conventions can be a great help to photographers. For instance, rules of composition like the rule of thirds or the golden spiral give us a reliable guide as to where to place our subjects or other points of interest. However, there’s a risk that rules like this become our default shooting position.

"Rules and conventions can be a great help to photographers... However, there’s a risk that rules like this become our default shooting position."

If, for example, we shoot landscapes with the horizon always on the top third, an object carefully framed in the foreground, our focus point one-third of the way in and the aperture set to f/16, then we’ll probably come away with some very competent photos. But we might miss an opportunity for a more unusual perspective. So instead of trying to arrange the elements in front of us into a conventionally ‘good’ composition, why not start by looking for the details that say most about the landscape, and aim to capture the mood of the place. If this means breaking the rules, then so be it.

An early morning photo of a waste pipe heading out to sea at Hunstanton, England.
Symmetrical compositions can be a bold choice for landscapes. Photo by Mark Kench

7 Shoot straight up or down


Stop reading this for a second and look directly up. You’re very likely to spot a detail or shape that you’ve not seen before, even in your own home. Even in familiar environments we rarely look up, so it’s an unusual angle to direct your camera. Similarly, looking directly down on subjects and scenes from directly above can result in unusual photos. For landscapes this might require use of a drone, but for other subjects you could try hoisting your camera up a tree or holding it up high with a monopod.

Looking up at Stockholm architecture
Point your camera straight upwards for unusual architectural details. Image by Waldemar Błażej
Round lake with island in the middle among forest, aerial view.
Take to the skies with a drone for unique top-down perspectives. Photo by Lucasz Szczepanski