Forced Perspective

11th April 2018

We’re all familiar with forced perspective shots. A classic example of this technique is where tourists position themselves to make it look like they’re holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

Forced perspective is basically a photographic optical illusion. Generally it’s used to make two or more objects appear closer or further away, or of a different scale than they really are.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa example is a relatively simple version of forced perspective. With a DSLR and some creativity you can take this technique to the Next Level.

In this tutorial we’ll look at three key areas to get you started with forced perspective photography: types of forced perspective and size of object, equipment and considerations when shooting.

Types of forced perspective shots

There are loads of ways to use your camera to create this optical illusion. The most important part of nailing the shot is deciding between these options.

Do you want to:

  • Make a subject larger?
  • Make a subject smaller ?
  • Merge two subjects?
  • Defy gravity?

When creating these types of photos, the subject you want to appear smaller should be further from the camera than the subject you want to appear larger.

E.g Your cat should be further from the camera than the toy car that you want to appear larger than the cat.

Once you’ve worked this out you can select your subject. Here are some common examples of forced perspective:

  • Holding or propping up a landmark.
  • Holding or eating the sun or moon.
  • Holding another person in one hand.
  • A toy that’s larger than a person or a pet.
  • People hanging from the top of a photo.
  • A person stepping on another person.


Gear

A wide angle lens is useful for capturing forced perspective shots. It is not absolutely necessary but it will really help with composing your shot.

Another key bit of kit that will really help you get the perfect shot is a tripod. This will keep the camera stable and let you keep your shutter open for longer should you choose.

These aren’t hard and fast rules, it really depends on where you are and what your subject matter is.

Considerations when shooting


Focus

It’s important to make sure both your subjects are as much in focus as possible. If one of the subjects is blurry the effect won’t be as convincing. Manually focusing your camera will help to make sure this is as close as possible.

Lighting

If it’s a bright sunny day, you can push your aperture higher (to keep both subjects in focus) without your shutter speed getting too fast (which might lead to an underexposed image). If you’re not shooting in bright daylight, you will need to put your camera on a tripod so you can have a slower shutter speed without getting any camera shake or loss in sharpness.

Aperture

You can either shoot in manual mode to have more control over all aspects of the settings, or you can shoot in Aperture Priority mode. This will mean that you set the aperture and the camera will work out the best shutter speed to achieve a well exposed image. Be aware that if you set your aperture very high in a darker environment, the camera might set the shutter speed to something very slow, which might lead to a blurry image unless you’re using a tripod.

The most important thing with forced perspective is to experiment and have fun. It can be challenging to get the focus and lighting feeling realistic, but the possibilities are endless!

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