What’s Your Point of View? A Guide for Photographers


In the metaphoric sense, if light is the language of the photographer then the grammar which gives structure to this language is the FRAME (provided by the viewfinder of the camera), TIME (when and for how long the shutter is released), FOCUS (what is clear and what is not) and the POINT OF VIEW (the place from which the photograph is taken). These are the ‘basic formal tools for defining the content and organisation of the picture’ (Shore, 2007). They are the building blocks that provide the structure for all photographs.

This is what we DO as photographers. When we frame our shot from the right perspective, focus on our subject, then wait for the ‘decisive moment’ we know we have a keeper. This is how we connect the mental image to the physical photograph.

I have already covered some aspects of FRAMING in another place and you can find it here in the forum.

I’m sure it will crop up in the conversation again.

In this article I’d like to consider the POINT OF VIEW. You might also know it as the photographer's perspective, vantage point or, simply, where you are standing at the time of taking the photo.

The vantage point

I like to refer to it as POINT OF VIEW because it’s not just a physical place but it also provides content to the image which communicates the photographer's ‘narrative’ or story line. It not only tells us ‘what’ point in space is taken but ‘whose’ perspective we are interpreting. It is as though we are there, holding the camera.

The conversation

A great deal of our images are taken from about 1.5m from the ground, unless you are a 3 year old as we have recently seen with Morgan Victorino. This gives us a point of view with which we are familiar and can quickly relate. It’s a conversational, casual, relaxed place to take photo’s as well as to view them. We are at ease from both sides of the image.

It’s when we change that point of view that the image takes on a new meaning. The story is being told in a different way. We begin to grasp that the photographer wants us to be there with them and feel what they feel as the story unfolds and they capture that moment in time.

And its not just about finding some peculiar position that no-one has ever been in before.

The bunker

Just as you framed purposefully, you need to be thoughtful about how the point of view can help you get your ‘point of view’ across. The physical action of placement of the camera now becomes a mental process of delivering a concept.

It can be a position that allows the viewer to play with the child …….

Child's play

…. or be part of the crowd ………

Caught in the rush

….. or sit with you while you enjoy your morning coffee…..

Coffee time

… or watch over the city as it passes beneath your feet ……..

Pedestrian crossing

…. or wash your feet in the tepid waters of a crocodile infested lagoon …..

…. or lay on the forest floor and smell the fresh decay after a rainy night …….

Forest floor

…. or peer through the opening in a doorway to see what secrets lay beyond.

I have heard some say that looking at a good photograph is like being there. We all know it’s not the same thing. Each of us will take with us our own perspectives on life as we snap away with our cameras. By choosing the ‘right’ place to put our camera when we take the shot we can incorporate some of our self and our thoughts in each and every image.

I think that’s called ‘value adding’.

This is a guest tutorial from Light Stalking community member and professional photographer and teacher, Tom Dinning. Check out Tom’s photography website and his blog for some great photos and tutorials.

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Shore also emphasises that PoV is what creates relationships between things on the flat (2D) surface of the photograph that aren’t there in the 3D real world. Thus a cloud sits on top of a hoarding, or a person is framed by two distant buildings seen through a nearer bridge.

PoV is also what puts the content of our photographs in a relationship with the frame.

When combined, framing and PoV are, in effect, the two practical means for composition.

re: Framing + PoV -> composition, the strongly diagonal compositional geometry of this photo by Berenice Abbott is created by Framing + PoV:

…and here’s an example of how Frame + PoV creates the compositional geometry – in the case of this image by Berenice Abbott, the strong diagonal composition.

Interesting read.

I always thing of the best point of view is one that gives the viewer a sense of what it looked/felt like to be there. Transporting the viewer back to that moment in time.

For me this was a great article that drove home the definition Poverty and followed up with great examples. It has also open the door for me to further explore more on angles and relationships to the subject thank you !

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