Change Perspective and Improve Your Photographic Vision

1938 Ford Truck
1938 Ford Truck

One good way to reinvigorate your photography is to change perspective; doing so will improve your photographic vision. I love cars and have been photographing them since I was a kid. Over the years, for the most part, I had fallen into a predictable method of framing them: I would pick a three quarter angle and fire away. While this method produced many interesting photos it wasn’t that different from the way 99% of photographers approached the subject.

1956 Ford
1956 Ford

This past summer when the annual Street Rod Nationals came to Louisville I decided to use two distinct approaches that I hadn’t used much over the past several years. The first approach was to shoot symmetrical compositions, something I usually avoid due to their static nature. Symmetric compositions don’t usually have a lot of movement and can be rather bland but once I started shooting these images I realized that it was far more challenging than I initially thought it would be.

1955 Ford
1955 Ford

The first challenge was to frame perfectly symmetrical images; shifting the angle of the camera away from a pure 90 degrees from the subject would introduce a subtle asymmetry. It wasn’t as simple as standing in front of the subject and trying to center the details. I discovered that if I was even a fraction off center the distortion of the sensor plane to the plane of the car would result in missing the mark. I compensated for that by making certain to use the grid lines in the viewfinder to accurately bisect the image but even at that there was still the problem of getting the edges of the other elements equally framed. That was when I realized that it was also important to think about the sensor plane too. I would first align the vertical lines in the viewfinder and then shift slightly left or right to center the elements along the edge of the frame a perfectly as possible. I started using a monopod to stabilize my camera while still having the flexibility to move freely among the crowds that surround the cars.

1946 Ford
1946 Ford

The second challenge was to come up with a different viewpoint. I opted for coming in over the front of the car above the hood so that I was shooting almost straight down. As soon as I started doing that I saw how the shapes of the cars were so different than I was used to seeing. The photos that follow were a refreshing change for me and the act of shooting them added another aspect to my way of seeing familiar subject matter with a fresh eye.

5 thoughts on “Change Perspective and Improve Your Photographic Vision

  1. Thank you for a very inspired tutorial. Great subjects—just think, in 50 years or less people will not know what these are—”A car? Classic car? What did they do with them? Oh, yes, I saw one in a museum once when I was a kid . . .” As they will be traveling via an advanced form of hovercraft, or skyrail system—I hope—it would be exciting to see.
    Thank you for your work, and inspiration.

  2. Thanks for this interesting post Nick! I sometimes like to shoot cars, and it’s indeed a challenge to come up with a new perspective. This symmetrical approach is an extreme challenge of its own, I can see. Great images here.

    1. Thanks Willa your comment is very kind. As I said in the post my goal was a new way of seeing that also took advantage of the intrinsic beauty of the subject matter. I also like that you realize that symmetrical doesn’t equate with easy.

  3. Nick, not only is your love for cars apparent but your consummate effort to image the best you can shows through these wonderful photographs. Simple a change as it might be, that view from over the top, above the hood…makes for auto photos of art and is not at all the standard car shot. These make the standard car shot lacking..curves of metal, trim, all intriguing and not seen in any “normal car shots.”
    You are off normal just enough to be a true artist here. Inspiring!

    1. Thanks Thomas your comment is very insightful and welcome. As I said in the post my goal was a new way of seeing that still took advantage of the intrinsic beauty of the subject matter.

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