We photographers are always looking for new perspectives on our images. This is a way of making photos grab more attention and be more appealing to the viewer. Vanishing points allow you to give more force to the image and improve the composition. It is a concept that takes some time to master. But vanishing points are a very effective tool for guiding the viewer’s gaze and for adding interest to your photos. You will find few typesetting tools as powerful as this one.
The vanishing point: what is it?
The vanishing point is a tool used in composition that comes from pictorial art. This is a point in the image where the parallel lines seem to converge in the distance. A good way to visualize it is to imagine a railroad track. If you look at the track in the distance, the feeling is that the rails are on a point on the horizon. This optical illusion occurs because the elements appear smaller and smaller as one moves away from them, until they form a single point. The distance between the two parallel lines that start in the foreground is also getting smaller and smaller. This is what gives the impression of converging lines.
What sensations does the vanishing point cause in a photo?
The vanishing point is a great way to add depth to the scene. In fact, the vanishing point adds a three-dimensional feel to the two-dimensionality of the photo. And it’s also an ideal way to guide the gaze to an important element to detach from the frame.
The vanishing point can add mystery and symbolism to your images. A road that disappears in the distance may refer to a trip to the unknown destination. A tunnel with a light at the end can mean hope and even death.
Vanishing points are also great tools for emphasizing the size of a landscape and cityscape, etc. You can use the vanishing point to add a sense of scale and even to exaggerate the size of objects. You can see that vanishing points are a very powerful compositional tool. They can indeed change the mood and meaning of your image.
How to capture vanishing points in photography?
To use vanishing points effectively, you will need a great depth of field to get everything in focus. Depending on the lens and the scene, with an aperture between f / 11 and f / 16, you should achieve this, in principle.
You should also pay attention to where you are going to locate the focus. To get the most out of a photo with a vanishing point, you’ll want to keep a foreground and background well in focus. The best way to do this is to use the hyperfocal distance. Either the closest focusing distance, where the elements over infinity still have acceptable detail.
1. Look for parallel and leading lines to find the vanishing point
Quite often you may be lucky enough to photograph a location where the vanishing point is quite obvious, but sometimes it is not that easy to spot. To start testing vanishing points, you can start with scenes that have very obvious parallel lines or guidelines. Bridges, railways, tree-lined roads are good examples to get started. This way, you won’t waste too much time looking for the vanishing point and where the lines converge.
The landscape, the architecture and street photography are the best subjects for use vanishing points. Natural scenes such as those produced by human hands usually present places to find vanishing points. Be aware that an image may have more than one vanishing point. If you are photographing at the corner of a building, you may end up having two lines leading to two different vanishing points.
2. Use a wide angle lens to exaggerate the distance
Once you have familiarized yourself with finding vanishing points, you can try exaggerating the distances to add dramatization to your image. By using a wide angle lens, you will make the closest objects appear larger because these lenses magnify the area that is closest to that lens. Conversely, distant objects will appear smaller.
Make sure that the lines that will serve as guides start in the foreground of the image. This will enhance the effect of the wide angle lens. If you don’t like the result, you can always zoom in a bit (if you’re working with a Pictor Zoom lens) to create a more dramatic perspective.
3. Trigger from a point of view close to the ground to increase the level of convergence
You can change the point where the lines converge by triggering from a point of view close to the ground. The closer you are to the ground, the greater the level of convergence. But don’t go too low to the ground, as you risk seeing the most important elements come together and change the perspective.
Experiment with the height of the camera and make sure that the important lenses are separated from each other.
4. Place the vanishing point on the horizon
If you have already started looking for vanishing points, you will have seen that many of them blend into the horizon , especially in landscape photography. In these cases, you must take into account the rules of composition which refer to the horizon.
You will normally be told that you should locate the horizon in the top or bottom third of the photo, but never in the center. This is a basic rule of composition, it is true but it is up to you to break it or not. Indeed, it may be that placing the horizon line with the vanishing point in the center of the photo makes it more interesting. It will depend on each situation, but what you absolutely must respect is a straight horizon. With the horizon tilted, the photo will give a great feeling of instability and even a lack of skill for the photo.
5. Apply the rule of thirds to place the vanishing point
If you’re already ready to take your photos with a vanishing point to the next level, then try composing it using the rule of thirds. Imagine that the frame of your picture is divided into six equal squares, with two lines running horizontally and two more lines running vertically. The intersections of these lines are the points of interest where you should place your subject.
If you want to give more emphasis to the vanishing point, just place it on one of these intersections. Your image will thus attract much more attention.
6. Use the vanishing point to highlight topics.
One option for emphasizing topics is to place them in front of the vanishing point. The lines that will converge are a great tool for making your subject stand out. They will act as arrows that will guide the viewer’s vision, whose eyes will go directly to the main subject of the photograph.
Covering the vanishing point with your subject can also create tension in the image. Instead of looking towards infinity when the vanishing point appears, our eyes go directly to the element to which we want to give more importance to the image.
7. Turn your camera and aim upwards for a vertical vanishing point
You don’t have to limit yourself to horizontal formats when spotting vanishing points in your photo. If the scene allows it, you can aim your device upwards to take a vertical image.
This can work very well in architectural photography, especially when you want to photograph tall buildings, such as skyscrapers with a low-angle perspective. The lines of these buildings will be the converging lines in the vanishing point.
8. Not all vanishing points are marked with straight lines.
Don’t struggle to find vanishing points with straight lines. Many of them can indeed be marked by curved lines. Think of a spiral, the central point may well turn out to be a vanishing point marked by a circular line. Remember that vanishing points can also appear in the most unusual scenes.
9. Look for the vanishing point in the surrounding elements
You also need to learn to spot vanishing points that are not marked by lines but by things you can find nearby.
If you find repeating elements in a space, which get smaller the further you move away from it, you will most likely be observing a vanishing point. Elements like street lamps or vertical blocks in a building can give that feeling of depth that one seeks to create vanishing points.
10. Break the rules
Are you totally familiar with vanishing points and want to take your compositions to the next level? So now is the right time to start playing on the composition. Why not place the vanishing point outside the frame? If you don’t show this point, the viewer will be guided by the lines until they come out of the photo and somehow feel obligated to complete it. This is a way to create a more participatory image where the imagination plays a key role.
11. Display Vanishing Point Pictures Properly
Digital photos are great, but nothing beats high quality prints in a photo book. If you want to display your new photos enhanced by your new skills in applying vanishing point techniques to them then you need to showcase them in the best way. Using quality photo album books will give another dimension to your work. There’s no point going to all that effort and learning how to properly take vanishing point photos only to display them in a way that detracts from how good they actually are. Use a good photo album and your viewers will appreciate it.
As soon as you start using vanishing points, you’ll see how much perspective changes in your photos. He can change the meaning and add dramatization to the image.
It is not the easiest composition tool but you will surely master it pretty quickly with a little patience and practice. Start by looking for parallel lines in nature or architecture. In no time, you will find that the vanishing points are easier to spot than they appear.