Thursday, October 9, 2008

Photography tips: Vanishing point

One of the main challenges in photography is trying to capture three dimensions in a two-dimensional frame. A picture, either on paper, on canvas, or an screen, has no depth. It is up to the photographer to suggest depth. Last week’s article, on shallow depth of field, showed you one way to suggest depth. This week’s article is about a composition technique called vanishing point.

I don’t know about you, but the very first thing I learned when drawing perspective, is to place a point on the horizon. All the horizontal lines in the drawing should the lead to this point. This technique creates the suggestion of perspective and hence depth. Photography is not the same as drawing obviously, but photographers use many tricks that drawers thought of first. This is one of them. The difference is that the photographer does not have to place a point on the horizon. The point is already there, the photographer only has to recognize it. How? By following horizontal lines. All horizontal lines pointing into the photo seem to lead to one point. That point is the vanishing point.

Having multiple lines aiming at a single point gives a picture depth in the exact same way as it is done in drawings. Buildings are always glad to provide horizontal lines leading to a vanishing point. The picture of the Parthenon clearly shows how it works. Similar powerful lines toward the vanishing point may be found in rails and railroads. Note that the point itself does not have to be visible. It doesn’t even have to be in the picture. The mere suggestion of the point is sufficient to give depth to your picture.

More resources
DPChallenge Vanishing point Challenge (lots of examples)

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