Sunday, November 16, 2014

Angle of Attack

Click to Enlarge
I like to refer to a photographer's shooting position, i.e., whether their camera is pointed up, down, or remains mostly level, as their "angle of attack."  It's a term I first learned while working (for more than a decade) in the aerospace industry as a corporate film-maker and photographer.

In aerodynamics, the angle of attack specifies the angle between the line of the wing of a fixed-wing aircraft and a vector representing the relative motion between the aircraft and the atmosphere... if that makes sense.  In photography, in my mind at least, angle of attack represents the angle (relative to, say, a level floor) which indicates an up or down angle between a photographer's camera and the subject of his or her photo. Hopefully, that makes more sense.

Course, most photographers simply call (what I call) their angles of attack their "shooting angles."  But a shooting angle is a bit vague and can be applied to other positions a photographer might be shooting from when shooting anything. You know, like, "I need to get this angle from over here or that angle from over there."  Saying things like that doesn't refer to an actual angle, i.e., an up or down angle relative to level. It refers to virtually anywhere a photographer might be shooting from, not just angles like high angles pointing the camera down or low angles pointing the camera up or even a lack of an angle when keeping one's camera level in the "X Axis" when shooting. (In aerodynamics, the X Axis is referred to as pitch, that is, it refers to a plane's nose pointing up or down or being level. The two other axises are yaw and roll. Aren't I smart? Who knew?)

Okay. Now that I've spent three paragraphs explaining my use of the term, "angle of attack," I'll get to what I'm writing about today: Using low angles of attack for dramatic or psychological impact and giving more "power" to your models.

I received an email from the good folks at Picture Correct the other day, as did about a hundred thousand or more other photographers. It was all about low angle photography tips. If you're not on Picture Correct's email list you might want to go there and sign up. They regularly send out some terrific info. And it isn't just promotions for stuff to buy even if they do promote a few of my ebooks from time to time, as well as those from other photography authors.  Anyway, this particular email got me to thinking I should write an update about shooting models from low or lower angles versus level angles that are, for the most part, snapped from eye level.

There are a couple of reasons why I shoot the majority of my pretty girl pics from lower shooting angles. Make that I shoot with an angle of attack that has me shooting from low rather than eye-level or higher. While I don't often shoot from dramatically low angles of attack -- unless I'm purposely looking to produce a fairly dramatic image -- I am, for the most part, shooting from below. By below I mean I'm generally shooting from belly-button level. That would be the model's belly button, not mine.

Shooting from a belly button angle of attack means my camera is pitched or pointed up, but not overly or too dramatically angled up. It's just enough of an up-angle to give the model a bit of psychological "power." Leastwise, in terms of how viewers perceive the images. In other words, it awards the model a subtle sense of dominance over the viewers. Conversely, if I want to create a sense of subservience or submissiveness, I'll opt to shoot from higher angles with my camera pointed or pitched down.  Yep. Angles of attack can have a lot to do with how viewers perceive images, and not just in terms of whether it's a generally good or not-so-good image.

The other other good thing about me shooting from an approximate belly button height is it means I'm usually shooting with my ass plopped on an apple box. But that's a more personal thing cuz, personally, I can be a bit lazy when shooting.

My laziness aside, a variety of types of people photography -- include many types of portraits -- aren't the only genres where shooting from low angles, often from dramatically low angles, can make your photography more, well, more dramatic. Many landscape photographers, for instance, capture images from quite low angles of attack, sometimes nearly ground level, even though their overall images are big and wide vistas snapped with wide angle lenses. Shooting models from a very low angle of attack with a very wide angle lens can create a sense of distortion -- an uber-wide angle lens combined with a low angle of attack, that is -- which may produce some very cool and memorable images!

The pretty girl at the top is Charmane. I snapped it and a bunch of others of Charmane from my usual sitting-on-an-apple-box angle of attack. Since making eye contact with the camera is oft-seen element of glamour photography, my shooting position forced Charmane to look down on me. (Physically look down on me, not the other kind of looking down on me that some people sometimes engage in.) She's not overtly or too obviously looking down in the image. Rather, she's doing so in a somewhat subtle and natural way. Again, having models look slightly down to various degrees gives them a perceived sense of power and dominance in the photos.  By the way, that doesn't mean I'm a submissive person in other ways, if you get my drift. We're just talking about photography and angles of attack here, not me personally and/or other types of human relationships... other than your usual and customary photographer/model relationships.

No comments: