Often during photo workshops our students get a bit concerned when we suggest shooting at a dynamic angle. Like any member of the OCD club, I find a landscape photo that’s 2° off balance to be hard to look at, because horizons are level and the earth is flat just like the internet told me. That being said angles can be used to really draw out leading lines in photography and place them in more aesthetic places in the frame.
When are Angles Okay?
I think the golden rule here is, it must appear intentional and clearly have a demonstrated purpose. Here is a photo where it is clearly a bug, not a feature.
Sorry for making you have to look at that without proper warning. At least some of the birds are straight! In this example, the slight title of the image clearly has no purpose, other than the purpose of showing it has no purpose. I did that on purpose.
Ah, that’s better—balance is restored to the universe. This shot is fine, but something can be done to enhance the leading lines and make it more dynamic: an effective angle. The leading line drawing your eye into the shot is the railway line, so we should enhance it’s impact on the image.
The railway line is much more effective in the last shot by drawing the eye in from the corner and into the other points of the shot. The fence line also gets tucked into the bottom-left corner, giving it more ‘oomph’ in the image as well. Also, by changing the angle and moving slightly closer I have eliminated the distracting barrier that was on the left side of the previous shot.
Capture skyscrapers, reflections, and people in impressive compositions of Tokyo architecture.
Angle Dos and Don’ts
It seems it would be straight forward enough just to tilt the camera, but there is a little more to it than that. Framing is important and in the above example my goal was to stretch out the the leading line, in this case the rail tracks as much as possible.
But there are some pitfalls to watch out for. Namely, how much angle is too much angle? In the below examples you can see the limits of what is comfortable to look at. You can see in the two photos below the limits of what you can do with greatly angled composition. In the first shot, the building’s right edge lines up with the edge of the frame. Any more, and it would look like it’s about to topple over.
In the second photo, the composition is anchored by leading line created by the sharp black edge running through the middle of the frame. It runs from just right of the top-left corner of the frame, and extends to the bottom-right corner (although it kind of fades into darkness). The photo is angled, but it’s clearly has a ‘portrait orientation.’ If this shot was even more angled, the main leading line went to the left of the top-left corner of the frame, it would not be so clear if this is a portrait of landscape oriented shot. You’d have an odd urge to cock your head, making the picture a source of neck pain. Ouch.
Perceive light and shadow through the eyes of a master of high-contrast black & white street photography in urban heart of Tokyo.
The (Angled) Bottom Line
So from here the key is to experiment and develop an eye for what works and doesn’t work. For more inspiration subscribe to the EYExplore YouTube channel. And remember, many of the EYExplore’s workshops cover the effective use of angles in photographs and our team of photographers are more than happy to help you further your photography goals.