Get Down And Dirty – A Photo Tip That Gives Immediate Results

Korean woman in B&W
Black & white photo of Korean woman against sign

Your back, thighs and knees will hate this photography tip!

Why is it that the majority of people you see taking photos are doing so standing up? It seems that if we have a camera in our hands and then see something we want to shoot, we raise the camera to our eye, compose, and press the shutter release. Even when we use tripods we tend to extend the legs to eye level and then start shooting.

I recently read a great line that said, “Most of our lives are spent well above ground level and by the time… we’re adults… we rarely spend much time down low”. Have we forgotten what the world looked like when we were rolling around on the ground as kids?

Crouching down for the best angle doesn't always look elegant
Crouching down for the best angle doesn’t always look elegant

Honestly, I think when we’re faced with the opportunity to take a photo, it just never occurs to most of us to get down low. Or, if it does, maybe we don’t want to get our knees dirty, or subconsciously avoid getting down as we realize that it’s not as easy as it used to be. (Neither is getting back up)!

Yet by automatically shooting at standing height, we’re condemning our photos to being taken at the same boring perspective that everyone sees everyday. Shooting from a low angle allow us to show a different perspective of the world.

Sample photos of little girls
Samples of photos taken of small children from a low angle

You’ve probably come across articles that suggest getting down low when taking photos of pets and/or children. The objective, we’re told, is to be at least eye-level with them, if not lower.

On the other hand, it’s generally agreed that adults tend to look their best when shot at a camera angle that is either at their eye level, or just slightly above. Shooting from slightly above their eye level makes people’s faces look thinner and is generally more flattering.

But, have you ever considered that shooting from a low angle can also bring a fresh perspective to both your portraits and landscape shots?

Turbaned man
Close-up of turbaned Indian man

The next time you photograph an adult who is sitting down, take a photo of them from a standing position. Then, squat down and get down to their eye level, and take a shot. Compare the two photos. Chances are the photo taken from a lower angle will be more interesting and dynamic.

Photographer Lawrence Ang uses his knees to get the best angle
Photographer Lawrence Ang uses his knees to get the best angle

In landscape photography, by getting really low (dropping to one knee, or even lying on the ground) you can incorporate, and put more emphasis on, interesting foreground elements. This allows you to include objects into the image that can make it more engaging. – a rock, or a path leading to the mountains in the distance. By getting down low, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how this change in perspective will make your photos different than those taken by the majority of the casual snapshot shooters out there.

Low angle shots taken in Asia
Low angle shot of Gateway of India, and low-riders in Japan

Remember, it’s easy to capture engaging new perspectives in your photos without buying any new gear, or mastering specialized techniques. All you have to do is make the effort to crouch or lie down, and be willing to get a bit dirty. The point is, learning to use a low camera angle is a really simple way to create unique and powerful compositions that will make your shots more interesting.

Author: Kana Kukui

Part Asian/part Western, and having lived almost my entire life in Asia, photography, particularly photography in Asia, has been a major interest in both my personal and professional life. Over the years I’ve noticed that there’s a huge pool of talented photographers in Asia that generally goes unnoticed outside their local country. I’ve also found that there is a great interest in Asia by photographers based outside the region. The purpose of this site, and my Twitter (@KanaKukui) is simple: 1) to share some insights about photography in Asia – introducing talented photographers shooting in Asia, and subjects and locations to shoot in the region. And 2) to provide a little inspiration to everyone interested in photography – from the hobbyist to the emerging professional.

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