Low-Angle Close-Ups

May 8, 2010

Photo Tips

[Editors Note: This week is Macro week here on DPE with Rob Sheppard. We’ll be having a macro tip every day, make to sure to check them all out!]

Look at a lot of close-up and macro photography. Notice how much of it is looking down on the subject. Nothing wrong with that but it means that a lot of photographers are missing great opportunities for better pictures.

When you start getting lower, getting that camera down to the level of your subjects, magical things start happening to your images. Your photos no longer look like you are looking down at a subject but that you are down at the level of the subject. That’s a very important distinction because it does give you a very different look to your photograph.

Imagine if all portraits of people were taken from a ladder so that you were always looking down on the people. I suspect that not many people would actually like their portraits! And as viewers we would feel that we weren’t really getting to know the people much either. Start shooting from the portraits eye level and all of a sudden the portrait becomes alive and we start to feel that we are really looking at a person.

The same thing happens with close-ups. We get down the level of a flower, an insect, or any other small thing that you are photographing, we create an image that has a very different connection with the viewer. It makes the viewer feel part of the subject and not apart from subject.

Another thing that happens, especially when you shoot with wide-angle lenses up close, is that you really start to see the context and environment of the subject. When you always shoot from above the subject, you generally just see the ground as the background, if even that. Get down low and you can see real parts of the world beyond dirt in the background, including the sky! Just having sky in the background of a close-up can give you a very unique image that most other photographers don’t get because they don’t get that low.

In nature photography, especially, I really enjoy getting down low and close with a wide-angle lens. I love the feeling of setting and environment that this gives. It makes your subject feel like it is part of an environment that it is not some separate entity away from the real world.

This does mean you’re going to have to get down and get your knees dirty. I love being able to use cameras with tilting LCD’s for this. This allows you to put the camera literally on the ground and you don’t have to put your face down there. I use an Olympus E-3 for this purpose as well as a Canon G-11. There are other cameras that will do this as well, and once you start doing this, it is hard to go back.

It is very helpful to have a tripod that allows you to get your camera down very low. Many tripods will allow you to get low if you remove the center column. Some cameras will allow you to reverse the center column she can put the camera upside down and very close to the ground. I also like using small beanbags underneath the camera to get the camera low to the ground as well.


[Editors Note: This article brings “Macro Week” to a conclusion. I hope you enjoyed these articles and that you got something from them. We would love to hear your thoughts on this series and if you’d like to see more like it. You can share your thoughts with us either by leaving it as a comment to this post, or by clicking on the “Contact Us” link on the header on this page.]


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This post was written by:

- who has written 27 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Sheppard is the author/photographer of over 30 books, the editor-at-large for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and a nationally known presenter and workshop leader. His specialities are nature photography and helping photographers with digital technologies from getting the most from small sensors to Lightroom to Photoshop. Check out Rob's websites at http://www.robsheppardphoto.com and http://www.natureandphotography.com

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