Using myself as scale to show the size of the rock beside me.
One of the most difficult things for new photographers to grasp is how to record a three-dimensional (3d) scene using a two-dimensional (2d) medium – photography. However, to show depth, which is the third dimension, it is important to use perspective and scale.
The human eye automatically relates the size of something in relation to its distance from the camera. If we look at a row of trees, we know they are all basically the same size. However, the ones farthest away look smaller than the ones closest to us. A photographer can use this diminishing effect of spatial relationship to enhance the 3d effect.
The tools in a photographer’s toolbox used to create the 3d effect, are lenses. Wide-angle lenses appear to stretch a scene by showing near objects larger than distant objects. Telephoto lenses compress objects so they appear stacked or closer together than they really are. According to the diminishing scale concept, you imply depth in a photo by showing objects of similar size getting smaller as they get farther away from the camera.
To emphasize this effect, use a wide-angle lens and move up close to the first object of a line of repeated objects. With a wide-angle lens, the depth of field will be great and the whole scene will be in focus. The objects farthest away will appear to be touching due to diminishing scale.
With a telephoto lens, the effect is much different. The first object will have to be further away from the camera because a telephoto lens doesn’t have the close depth-of-field like the wide-angle lens. The diminishing scale look is somewhat different due to the compression of the elements in the scene caused by the telephoto lens.
The last object in the photo won’t be much smaller than the first, but the objects will appear closer together. If you don’t have a foreground object, but do have middle and background objects, consider using the telephoto lens.
If you are photographing parallel lines, such as a road, railroad tracks, or a windrow of grain, then linear perspective will work for you. This is the effect when parallel lines appear to come together in the distance. For a wild effect, try shooting straight up the side of a tall building or stand between two tall buildings and shoot straight up. You can maximize this effect by having the camera closer to the ground than eye level. Lying on your back works great!
SCALE (Size Recognition)
We will discuss scale in terms of foreground, middle ground and background. The challenge is to identify something, which will reveal or show the expanse that lies before the lens.
Humans are all basically the same size, so we instantly recognize that if someone appears small in a photo, they must be far away from the camera. You can use this effect of distance and scale to show the 3rd dimension depth.
Animals, cars, buildings, rocks, crops, flowers, trees, huts, and houses can all be used to show scale. To balance out a scene, try to place your foreground object one-third of the way into the scene. In bad weather, concentrate on showing the foreground. Little else besides the foreground and middle ground will be visible.
Including a human, or one of the other objects used to show scale, can show the size of the main subject in a scene. If you see a person in the distance hiking on a mountain trail, the person will appear small. The viewer of that photo will instantly know two things. One, the person was a great distance from the camera and two, the mountains were enormous.
If you have that same person closer to the camera in the foreground, the effect will be the mountains are a long distance from the camera.
Without the person in the foreground to show scale, it would be harder to ascertain both the distance the mountains are from the camera and the size of the mountains.
Lastly, place yourself in the middle of the scene. It gives the viewers the effect that they were really there with you. This effect works really well if your scene happens to include a stream, creek or small river flowing toward your camera. The water comes at the camera and just keeps on flowing. Use a slow shutter speed of at least 1/8 of a second or less. You’ll have to experiment with the shutter speed in order to get the “cottony” effect as the effect is directly related to the speed of the flowing water. Of course at these slow shutter speeds, the use of a tripod is a must.
By using perspective, scale and the proper lens for the scene, your two-dimensional photo will have that three dimensional look deep look.