Want to add interest and variety to your photos? Then try working with different camera angles! It’s an easy compositional technique to use – you simply need to move your camera in different directions – and it’ll make a huge difference.
But what photography 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 angle adjustments can do for your photos.
Ready to become a picture angle master? Let’s dive right in.
The five essential photography angles
Technically, there are an infinite number of angles to choose from – but 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.
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
The bird’s-eye view angle is simple in theory, but often difficult to pull off.
You get high above your subject, then shoot downward to achieve a photo like this:
Now, 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 the camera 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.
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 it’s such a popular method of doing food and still-life flat lays (like the one pictured below!).
However, achieving a bird’s-eye angle can be difficult. 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 (eg, they’re expensive, they’re heavy, 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 your other angles, such as:
2. The high angle
A high angle isn’t as extreme as a bird’s-eye view. Instead, you just need to identify your subject, then get a few inches or feet above it.
Fortunately, this angle is generally easy to pull off – you mostly just need to stand up or, at most, raise your camera above your head – and the result is very cool, like the photographer is looming large over a small subject. In fact, a high angle often makes your subject look smaller or more vulnerable, like 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).
Note that a subtly Higher angle is often useful in serious portrait photography, as it adds dynamism and often has a slimming effect.
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.)
The effect is often highly engaging and helps to establish a personal connection between the person in your photo and the person viewing it.
This angle is a great way to help the viewer access the small world of a subject. It works great with children:
And it’s also great for standard portraits.
It’s a popular angle among many nature photographers, too. Wildlife and bird photographers constantly work on a level with their subject, and you’ll often see flower photographers lying in the dirt, attempting to that perfect face-to-face achieve perspective.
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.
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, as is the case with this shark:
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:
One tip: When pursuing a low angle, you’ll get the most noticeable effects if you shoot with a wide-angle lens – so be sure to shoot at around 35mm or wider.
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.
This angle is certainly unusual; viewers rarely experience such a point of view, so it adds an interesting and creative perspective to the resulting photos.
Unfortunately, a bug’s-eye view isn’t so easy to achieve. It’s often impossible to shoot from below a subject (eg, this is rarely an option for landscape photographers) – but when you can use a bug’s eye view, the effect is quite striking.
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.
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 push your creativity, help you explore new perspectives, and provide you with more views to tell the 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 higher angle to show her and the mud puddle behind her:
Then I used a face-to-face angle to show her emotions:
Finally, I got down low to make the moment bigger and to emphasize the excitement she felt while having fun in the mud puddle:
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 find that 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!