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.
Filed under Featured Photography
Always love these blogs where I can learn something.
James the lead picture is captivating. Really good information as well. Feel like I am there. Thanks again
OK. It was 4pm and a lovely rainy day in CD. BUT – where was my Londolozi Blog? I laid my copy of ‘How and Where to Photograph Bird in Southern Africa down on my lap and sighed. I’ve read the book 500 times, always in the hope that I’d find some gem of information lurking in a corner that I’d missed before. My phone chirped. YES! My Londolozi Blog! And an article on Photography! Thank-you James – thank-you, thank-you thank-you. And it was an article covering that subject that is MOST difficult to get across; that almost abstract Zen idea that a rookie photographer really has to discover for themselves. But the lines across that photograph of the lionesses demonstrated the concept PERFECTLY. May I make a suggestion? Why don’t you guys start something like National Geographic’s ‘Your Shot’. It would be a Wow I’m sure. Once again, thanks for brightening up my day!
Depth is always a crucial part of composition, thank you for sharing James!
As usual, James, not only a thrill to the eye and the soul, but an education!
You have a true talent for photography. I would love to see that top shot cropped in with the three lions and focusing in on the synchrony of step with those three legs all in unison. Powerful!
Amazing feel of depth and deep depth of field in sunset image!
One of the simplest rules of animal photography is to open the aperture and to hold the focus button so the focus point is not always in the centre.
Well said, James!
James, you are rapidly becoming a very accomplished photographer! Please keep these kind of tips coming as they are really helpful for overall improvement in our photography. By the way, the video at the top was outstanding. Since most newer cameras over the last 5-10 years (even smartphones) have good video capabilities, the choice of still versus short-video should be thought through more often in addition to the depth versus depth-of-field. The only drawback being the ease of showing an image versus emailing a short-video. In any case, your title video was captivating!
If you love Londolozi, sign up and vote for Granite Suites in the World Travel Awards voting (see above & just jump directly to South Africa and then jump to “South Africa’s Leading Safari Lodge” and click on “Private Granite Suites, Londolozi Private Game Reserve” to vote for Vics and the team at Granite Suites. It takes 5 minutes max unless you feel like browsing all the countries & categories which can be daunting!
Excellent article, James! I look forward to learning more on this subject.