Make images with great depth of feeling and no one will care what lens you used. – Michael Frye
Not a long post today, but I wanted to discuss some photos from a recent sighting and look at how the difference in angle between the two affects the impact they have.
The great challenge in photography is giving a two-dimensional image a three-dimensional feel. This immediately draws you into an image. To do this you often need depth, but it isn’t always easy to emphasise.
We often talk about the value of shooting from eye-level with your subject. This isn’t always possible when it comes to wildlife – especially dangerous game – as far more often than not you’re photographing from the safety of a vehicle.
Whether possible or not, it’s still one of the most effective techniques to make one feel part of the action. Being at eye-level immerses the viewer in what’s happening. A photograph of a snail from ground level shows you life from the snail’s perspective, whereas one taken while standing above it, looking down, doesn’t.
Eye-level shots are all well and good, but ideally what you need at the same time is a sense of depth.
Depth helps you formulate the image of the environment in your mind. It is far more engaging.
Compare the top lion photo above to the one below:
Look, this was never going to be a great shot. I was hoping to get all six lionesses in frame (the fifth was dawdling further back with one of the Birmingham males), and only had a 100mm-400mm lens with me. It was more of a point-and-shoot-capture-the-moment scenario. I’m sure we can all agree that apart from lions walking along a road, it is lacking in impact.
You can see how the feel of depth in particular is lacking, or at least not there to the same extent as in the first photo. The road might be a leading line, but there’s not a great change in the size of the lionesses between the front one and the back one, so you don’t feel as much of a change in depth from the foreground to the background. This is largely due to the fact that I was fully zoomed out in the second photo, whereas in the first I was shooting with a fixed 600mm.
Going from fore- to background needs to be – in some respects – a journey. This is where the 2D vs 3D side to photographs is critical. Shifting your eyes while looking at a photo, you actually need to feel like you are going somewhere else in a scene and not just to another point on a flat photograph.
Bear in mind that DEPTH and DEPTH OF FIELD aren’t necessarily the same thing. The first refers to how the components of a scene fit together to create a sense of space, and the second refers to how much of the image is in focus.
I’ll go into detail in a post next week about depth and how best to create it, but I just wanted to introduce the concept today.
I’ll be honest and admit that when I started writing this I had a whole different idea in my head about what to put down, mainly brought on by the marked difference in effectiveness between the front-on lion shot and the one in which they are further away across the dip in the road. Then I started getting into depth vs. depth of field and tying myself in knots, so had to reverse a bit and then re-engineer, and before I knew it I was all confused and trying to get across different points at the same time.
I’ll bail out now before I confuse everyone else, but next week I’ll properly go into DEPTH and how to help create it, mainly in wide-angle photography. For now just know that depth-of-field can be a way to emphasise depth.