The Essential Guide to Camera Angles in Photography

The post The Essential Guide to Camera Angles in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Discover the power of angles in photography

If you want to add interest and variety to your photos, you don’t need to travel to far-flung locations or spend thousands of dollars on fancy new lenses. You can dramatically enhance your images by experimenting with elements that go into each image you take, including the camera angle.

You see, every image must be taken from some angle. Many beginner photographers keep the camera angle conventional by just standing and pointing the camera straight ahead, and the results can get a little…boring. But an easy compositional technique that’ll spice up your shots is to get out of the habit of the straight-ahead angle and instead use creative alternatives that show the world from a completely different perspective.

But what photography angles are available to you? And which angles are best? How do you decide on the right camera angle for each situation? That’s where this article comes in handy.

Below, I share five angles that pretty much always get great results. I explain how to use them, when they look best, and I offer some tips and tricks to take your images to the next level. I conclude with a practical experiment, in which I photograph a scene from a few different angles to show you exactly what each adjustment can do for your photos.

Ready to level up your images by making a simple change to your shooting approach? Let’s dive right in.

The importance of camera angles

I’d like you to try an exercise:

  1. Get out your camera and find a subject to photograph. (The subject doesn’t have to be especially interesting! You can photograph a flower, a cup, a cooperative person, or a toy; just make sure that whatever you choose is relatively stationary and small enough that you can photograph from above its “top” if needed.)
  2. Stand in front of your subject. Hold your camera at eye level, then take one photo.
  3. Now, without moving your feet, photograph the subject from as many different angles as possible (or until you get bored).
  4. Once you’re done, count the number of images you captured, then keep reading below.

How did it go? How many angles did you find?

The exercise might seem a little silly, but here’s the point that I wanted to get across:

There is literally an infinite number of camera angles that are available to you as a photographer. You can always adjust your camera upward, downward, right, or left, and the result will be a new perspective with a slightly (or radically!) different look. As you moved from angle to angle, you could undoubtedly see the image change; different parts of the subject were emphasized, different parts were hidden, and the elements of the background changed, too.

And bear in mind that I asked you to photograph the subject without moving your feet. If you were to walk around the subject while trying the exercise above, the number of angles available to you would increase even further. (For those interested in mathematics, your initial infinite set of angles would multiply into an even larger infinity!)

But while there are technically an infinite number of camera angles for photographers to work with, I recommend you learn just five. They can act as your angle bread and butter, and while you’re free to improvise angles on your own, these are tried-and-tested options that are practically guaranteed to work.

The five essential angles for photographers to know

If you can commit these five angles to memory, then you’ll be ready to handle nearly any situation. And if you use a variety of angles consistently, the quality of your photos will go through the roof.

1. Bird’s-eye view

Camera angles in photography
The bird’s-eye view angle involves photographing from directly above with your camera pointed downward. For larger scenes or subjects, like this winding road, you’ll need a drone, a helicopter, a plane, or some sort of high-elevation vantage point. For smaller scenes or subjects, like a cake on a kitchen counter, you can handhold your camera without much trouble!

The bird’s-eye view angle is simple in theory, though – depending on your subject – it can be difficult to pull off.

Simply get high above your subject, then shoot directly downward! You’ll end up with an image that shows the subject from the top, like this:

Camera angles in photography
A spiral staircase is a classic subject for the bird’s-eye view camera angle.

A bird’s-eye view perspective often looks great. For one, it shows the viewer a completely new angle (after all, most people don’t normally spend their time looking down from high up!). And it features plenty of subject detail, as your camera generally won’t be obstructed by trees, people walking by, and so on.

Plus, a bird’s-eye view angle lets you show your subject in its environment, which can add interest and even narrative to your shots.

This photography angle is also a great way to create graphic compositions, as the overhead perspective often flattens the scene, emphasizing lines, shapes, and (especially) shadows. That’s one of the reasons a bird’s-eye view is such a popular method for food and still-life flat lays (like the one pictured below!).

Camera angles in photography

However, achieving a bird’s-eye view angle can take some work. You can use stairs, balconies, and ladders to get high above your subject, but if you need to capture an entire scene and there are no good vantage points, you’re often out of luck. In landscape photography, for instance, often the only way to get a bird’s-eye perspective is with a drone, and these present problems of their own (e.g., they’re expensive, and battery life is very limited).

So when you’re shooting scenes that easily allow you to capture that high-angle view, go for it! Otherwise, use alternative camera angles, such as:

2. The high angle

Camera angles in photography
This coffee drinker was shot from a high angle; the camera wasn’t positioned directly above, but you can sense the photographer looking down toward the coffee cup.

A high angle isn’t as extreme as a bird’s-eye view angle. Instead, you just need to identify your subject, then get a reasonable distance above it so you’re pointing your lens downward at around 45 degrees.

Fortunately, this angle is generally easy to pull off – you mostly just need to stand up or raise your camera above your head – and the result is very cool. A high angle often makes your subject look smaller or more vulnerable:

High Angle How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles
By raising my camera above my subject, I was able to create the perspective of an adult looking down at a child.

It’s a great way to photograph kids, and I also recommend a high angle when photographing pets (especially dogs).

How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

Note that a subtly higher angle is often useful in serious portrait photography, as it adds dynamism and has a slimming effect. You’ll often see this variation in senior portrait photos, graduation photos, etc., and if you’re photographing people, it’s a great angle to try.

Camera angles in photography
Here, a subtle high angle makes the subject seem both cute and vulnerable.

(I also like to use the high angle when photographing pets. It makes dogs and cats look unbelievably cute, especially if you can get them to look straight at the camera!)

3. Face to face

The face-to-face angle is done at your subject’s eye level. (If you’re photographing a flower, it’s on the level of the flower’s head; if you’re photographing a landscape, it’s generally a few feet off the ground; if you’re photographing a person, it’s right at their eyeline.)

The effect is often highly engaging and helps to establish a connection between the subject in your photo and the person viewing it.

This angle is a wonderful way to help the viewer access the small world of the subject. It works great with children:

Face to Face How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles
Get down on the child’s eye level, and you can show them in their own little world! That’s what I did for this photo, and the result is extremely intimate.

And it’s also great for standard portraits.

It’s a popular angle in nature photography, too. Wildlife and bird photographers generally shoot on a level with their subject – it’s part of the reason why you’ll sometimes see photographers crawling along a beach toward a tiny shorebird! And you’ll often see flower photographers lying in the dirt, attempting to achieve that perfect face-to-face perspective.

If you want to use this angle, my recommendation is to make sure you get as close to eye level as you can, even if it feels uncomfortable. You may need to kneel, or even lie down, to get the best effect.

Face to Face How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

4. The low angle

As you might expect, the low-angle shot is achieved by getting below the subject’s eye level and shooting upward. It’s not a hugely popular angle because of its difficulty – you often need to get down in the dirt – but the results are often worth the effort.

You see, as you get down lower, you make the subject appear larger. This often adds a looming feeling to your photos, and it’s great for emphasizing toughness or confidence:

Camera angles in photography

You can also use a low angle to make a scene look big, vast, and even epic. Landscape photographers love to use a low-angle effect to emphasize small foreground elements that then lead the viewer’s eye toward a stunning background.

And you can use a low angle to make more vulnerable subjects appear bigger. I often use it to photograph kids:

Camera angles in photography

One tip: When pursuing a low angle, you’ll get the most noticeable effects if you shoot with a wide lens – so shoot around 35mm and wider if you can!

5. Bug’s-eye view

The bug’s-eye view angle, also known as the worm’s-eye view angle, works just the way it sounds:

You get down as low as you can and look straight up toward your subject.

Camera angles in photography

This angle is certainly unusual; viewers rarely experience such a point of view in day-to-day living, so it adds an interesting and creative perspective to images.

Unfortunately, a bug’s-eye view isn’t so easy to achieve. It’s often impossible to shoot from below a subject (e.g., this is rarely an option for landscape photographers) – but when you can use a bug’s-eye view, the effect is quite striking.

Camera angles in photography
A bug’s-eye view is basically the opposite of the bird’s-eye view discussed above. It works great for tall architectural subjects, like this building – though shooting small subjects with a bug’s-eye view can be very difficult, or even impossible.

Try capturing your children this way when at the local playground. You can also use the bug’s-eye angle for interesting architectural shots, especially when shooting building interiors.

Bug Eye View How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

How to use photography angles: a practical example

As I mentioned at the start of this article, it’s usually a good idea to capture more than one angle when you photograph a scene. This will expand your creativity, help you explore new perspectives, and provide you with more views to tell a photographic story.

These next photos demonstrate how I captured one scene from three different angles.

I was photographing my daughter on a country road, and in this first photo, I used a high angle to show her and the mud puddle behind her:

How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

Then I used a face-to-face angle to show her emotions:

Camera angles in photography

Finally, I got down low to make the moment bigger and to emphasize the excitement she felt while having fun in the mud puddle:

Three How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

Camera angles in photography: final words

Well, there you have it:

Five camera angles you can use to improve your photos.

Really, as long as you know these five camera angles and practice them occasionally, you’ll be able to get unstuck any time you’re uninspired or feel like your photos are boring or predictable.

So commit them to memory! And have fun.

Now over to you:

Which of these picture angles do you like best? Which do you plan to try first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Note: This article was updated in May 2024 by dPS’s Managing Editor, Jaymes Dempsey.

The post The Essential Guide to Camera Angles in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The post The Essential Guide to Camera Angles in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker. If you want to add interest and variety to your photos, you don’t need to travel to far-flung locations or spend thousands of dollars on fancy new lenses. You can dramatically enhance your…

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