By Ana Mireles on | No Comments
Have you ever heard of Forced Perspective? It's a fascinating technique that allows you to create an optical illusion resulting in some amusing and surreal images.
If this sounds interesting, keep reading. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about forced perspective and some cool tricks to help you achieve fun and unique images.
Let’s get started:
Think about when you are looking at a completely straight road in front of you. As the road gets further away, it LOOKS like the edges are converging, even though the edges are, IN ACTUALITY, running entirely and continuously parallel to each other.
This is because when you look at something far away, it will look smaller than it does when you are closer to it. It's a great example of how dramatically perception can change based on our vantage point.
We are so used to seeing the world in this way that we often take it for granted. As it turns out, this concept wasn't explained until c. 300 BC when Euclid presented his idea of how an object’s apparent size, shape, and position can change based on an individual's point of view.
Even more surprising is how this concept wasn't used much in the Arts for MANY MORE centuries. In fact, establishing a vanishing point to more accurately represent a three-dimensional scene on a flat surface wasn’t very common until the Renaissance period. This technique, called perspective, is attributed to Filippo Brunelleschi.
In photography, most things tend to be shot "IN PERSPECTIVE" so that the image represents what we see in a generally accurate way. However, it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS - which is when Forced Perspective comes into play!
Forced perspective is an optical illusion that tricks the eye into thinking something is bigger or smaller than it actually is. It can also be used to change the APPARENT position of a subject or an object.
This technique is widely used in photography and film. Here are some photographers and films that utilize forced perspective that you can review for inspiration.
Photographers who use forced perspective:
Films that use forced perspective:
Taking a photo using forced perspective is not difficult, but there are several tips and tricks that can help you achieve better results:
If you’ve ever taken a group selfie, you’ve probably noticed that the person holding the phone always looks larger than the people behind them.
This is normal, especially using a wide-angle lens. Generally, whatever is closer to the camera will look bigger than objects further away.
As you are experimenting with forced perspective, try moving the subject or subjects in your photo to different positions to change their APPARENT size in your frame.
One of the most classic examples of this type of forced perspective photo is when a person looks like they are holding a famous landmark in their hands. This is accomplished by having the person standing relatively close to the camera and the landmark MUCH further away. The shot is then taken at an angle where the landmark LOOKS like it is resting in the subject's hands. When done correctly, the person will look like a giant, and the landmark looks like a souvenir reproduction.
You can use many creative ideas to change the apparent proportion of things, so let your imagination fly.
If you want to create a forced perspective image in which two objects look closer together than they really are, you need to ensure that both things are in focus. Otherwise, viewers will quickly recognize the illusion.
To do this, you need to use a deep depth of field which means that you should use a "wide-angle lens" and a "wide aperture." Try to keep as much distance as possible between you and the subjects. If you don't know how to keep both elements in focus, try using a depth-of-field calculator or use hyperfocal distance.
On the other hand, if you want to make it look like there is MORE DISTANCE between two objects than there is, use a shallow depth of field. You can also use this technique to make things appear larger, which is why it's often used in miniature photography.
Utilizing light in particular ways is one of the oldest techniques used in forced perspective. For example, when you want to make something appear as if it’s further away from the camera than the other elements in your photo, you can make it darker than the other objects in your image.
I know that composition is essential in all types of photography. How you arrange the elements within your frame can make or break an image.
However, in the case of forced perspective photography, the composition is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT because everything needs to line up in a way that MAKES THE ILLUSION LOOK REAL.
Make sure you have enough space to create your composition for the best results. Working outside can be helpful in this respect, depending on your subject and the scene you are trying to create.
Since forced perspective photography is all about the camera's point of view, it can be pretty tricky and time-consuming to adjust the composition in your frame if you have to keep moving back and forth from behind the camera to make changes.
This is when having an assistant can be very helpful.
If you’re shooting a self-portrait, have your assistant look through the viewfinder to help you get into position and, of course, press the shutter for you.
If YOU are behind the camera, you can direct your assistant to move all the elements until they are in the perfect position for your photo.
This may sound like generic advice, but in forced perspective photography, the changes you make can dramatically affect your outcome. So you have to be VERY PRECISE, which is much easier to do with the help of an assistant.
Another way to experiment with forced perspective is by changing your point of view or shooting from an unusual camera angle.
You’ve probably seen images where a person looks like they are holding off an edge with their fingertips. This illusion is created by having the subject lying on the floor and then rotating the final image from horizontal to vertical or vice versa.
This is just one example. There are all sorts of ways to use to change a subject's apparent size, proportion, shape, or position using different angles.
While many forced perspective effects are done in-camera, you can also create these illusions using editing software like Photoshop.
One of the easiest ways to alter perspective is by flipping or mirroring an image. If there are reflections on the photo, it can get even more interesting. This will challenge how a typical viewer will look at your image and make them want to spend more time contemplating what it is that looks off.
Try experimenting with the Perspective Warp Tool in Photoshop. It is typically used to correct distortion in architectural photography. However, it is also a great way to change the perspective and proportions of any photograph.
Finally, you can try creating a composite photo which usually requires a LOT of skill and editing time but also offers the most flexibility.
Your creativity is the best tool you have at your disposal to create amazing forced perspective images.
Since the goal of forced perspective is to create an alternative way of looking at things, the sky is the limit here. There is no need to follow the rules of "reality," so get creative and have fun!
Forced perspective photography is a fun way to practice your photographic skills using light, focus, proportions, etc. Yet, it can also be considered a style of photography you can use to develop more complex projects.
Whether you use forced perspective for a comic result or a surreal concept, it's a great way to express creativity. Have fun!
Do you have any questions or comments about Forced Perspective in Photography? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Ana Mireles is a Mexican photographer and researcher with a passion for writing and teaching. She’s collaborated in artistic and cultural projects in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.