one single idea. Although each picture is composed of
numerous small parts and contributing elements, none
should attract more of the viewer's attention than the
primary object of the picture. The primary object is the
reason the picture is being made in the first place;
therefore, all other elements should merely support and
emphasize the main object. Do not allow the scene to be
cluttered with confusing elements and lines that detract
from the primary point of the picture. Select a viewpoint
that eliminates distractions so the principal subject is
readily recognized. When numerous lines or shapes are
competing for interest with the subject, it is difficult to
recognize the primary object or determine why the
picture was made.
The proper viewpoint or camera angle is an
important factor in good composition. Repositioning
your subject within the viewfinder frame and changing
the camera viewpoint or camera angle are two simple
ways of controlling composition.
Photographing from a different viewpoint or
camera angle can often add drama and excitement or
even bring out an unusual aspect of a subject. Most of
the subjects you photograph are three-dimensional and
should be photographed from an angle (to the right or
left of and/or from higher or lower than the subject) that
allows the viewer to see more than one side of the
subject. The photographer should study the subject from
different sides and angles. Walk around the subject and
look at it from all viewpoints. See it from elevated and
low positions as well as from eye level to find the best
composition. This greatly assists in composing the
subject for the best balance and helps to select a
background that compliments, not distracts from the
The terms viewpoint and camera angle are often
used in conjunction with one another and sometimes
used interchangeably. They can also have different
meanings depending on how they are applied.
Viewpoint" is the camera position in relationship to the
subject. "Camera angle" is the angle in which the camera
lens is tilted; for example, a picture of sailors marching,
made from ground level with the camera held horizontal
with reference to the ground, may be referred to as a
"low viewpoint" (or camera position); however, when
this picture is made, again from ground level, but with
the camera pointed up, it may be referred to as a "low
camera angle."
Likewise, a picture made from an
elevated or high position, with the camera again held
horizontal with reference to the ground, or even pointed
straight down, can be referred to as a "high viewpoint";
however, if the camera is not held horizontal to the
ground or pointed straight down, but pointed at some
angle between horizontal and vertical, the camera
position could be referred to as a "high camera angle."
Eye-Level Shots
With the camera held horizontal, eye-level shots are
usualIy made at a height of about 5 1/2 feet, the height
from which the average adult sees, and with the camera
horizontal. With the camera held at eye level but pointed
up or down, the camera position changes and you have
either a low or high camera angle, respectively.
Low Viewpoint and Low Camera Angle
Low viewpoints and low camera angles can add
emphasis and interest to many ordinary photographs. A
low viewpoint can be used to distort scale or add strength
to a picture or to emphasize certain elements within the
picture. A low camera angle is achieved when the
camera angle is located below the point of primary
interest and pointed upward. Low angles tend to lend
strength and dominance to a subject and dramatize the
subject. Low angle shots are used when dramatic impact
is desired. This type of shot is very useful for separating
the subject from the background, for eliminating
unwanted foreground and background, and for creating
the illusion of greater size and speed (fig. 5-7).
High Viewpoint and High Camera Angle
High viewpoints and high camera angles help orient
the viewer, because they show relationships among all
elements within the picture area and produce a
psychological effect by minimizing the apparent
strength or size of the subject (fig. 5-8).
Balance in photographic composition is a matter of
making pictures look harmonious. Each element in a
picture has a certain amount of value in respect to all the
other elements. Every tone, mass, shape, tree, rock
figure, building, line, or shadow contributes a certain
amount of weight that must be arranged correctly in the
composition to give the impression of balance. The
subject placement within the picture area is the factor
that must be carefully considered.
Composition is kept in balance by two different
methods: symmetrical, or formal, balance and
asymmetrical, or informal, balance.

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