Which of the two photos above do you like better?
They were both taken of the same flower, with the same camera settings. The only difference between the two shots is the position of the camera.
I’ll take a wild guess that you like the first one more. And, I think this photo is better because it has more of an intimate and friendly feeling to it.
Now, part of the reason the first photo has this intimate feeling is because the flower is more isolated from its background.
But, what’s more important here is the perspective: the first photo was taken from a position looking directly at the flower (which stood just a few inches high). I was lying down on the ground with the camera on the same level as the flower, almost as if I was seeing eye-to-eye with the flower (if the flower had eyes, hehe).
The second photo was taken from a more elevated position: I was kneeling and looking down on the flower with my camera. When we look down on things, we tend to have a slight feeling of superiority or conquer, and this diminishes that friendly feeling.
I’ve talked about this topic before, as it applies to photographing wildlife, but I think it’s just as important for any kind of nature portrait. The position of your camera in relation to your subject (whether it’s above, below, or on the same level), will determine the feeling you portray in your photo.
So, to create that intimate and friendly feeling in your nature portraits, you have to photograph your subject on their level. You have to see them eye-to-eye.
Sometimes this might mean lying down on a bed of sharp rocks and being sore for a couple days, but the rewards are well worth it 🙂
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.