5 Tips for Creating Excellent Forced Perspective Photographs

Generally speaking, forced perspective photography is when a photographer takes advantage of depth perception and careful placement of a camera to give the viewer the impression that an object is larger, smaller, closer, or farther away than it actually is. While many think this art form is limited to humorous photography, there are plenty of practical applications.

For example, you can give your photographs the impression of being taken in a completely different location. Or you completely change the tone and symbolism of your images. Done well, a forced perspective photograph may be good enough to sell for brochure printing, web design, or as prints. If you would like to try your hand at forced perspective photographs, here are a few tips to ensure you get the most out of your shoot.

Give Yourself Time!

Image by sgoralnick (Steph Goralnick)

You might be able to pull off a piece impromptu, but the best shots take time to both set up and capture. In some cases, you may have to wait for one object to move into position, such as the moon or sun. In other cases, you may have to coach a person into just the right spot. Try different camera angles to see what looks best, but do not forget to take several photographs of each version of your shot. Several photographs in several different positions will better insure that you pull off that perfect shot.

The point is that you need to give yourself time. Don’t rush it. You’ll enjoy the process more and like your final piece better if you don’t have to rush.

Experiment with Depth

Image by elghoul soufedj

When possible and appropriate, experiment with making the field of depth greater or smaller. Move your subject closer to the object and then farther to see how the changes affect the shot. You may find that your original concept was not effective or over-the-top. Often, what you originally thought was "it" turns out later to be a dud, while another shot looks much more like what you had imagined.

Framing and Composition

Image by trixnbooze (Marty Portier)

Framing and composition are critical for making forced perspective images work. A common mistake, however, is to allow one of the subjects to extend beyond the frame. When looking to create an image in which the subject is bigger than the object, use framing to compare the objects with false perspectives. For example: if a person is to be bigger than a building, make sure the building is far enough away so that it doesn’t take over the frame, but also not so large that it’s outside of the frame. This may take some experimentation and possibly even some post-shoot photograph editing to get the frame just right.

Context is King

Image by Tatiannna

Leave objects out of the frame that will break the false perspective. This simply means don’t give viewers a visual excuse to believe the perspective is forced. In the image above, if we could see more flowers that weren’t covering the dancer, it would give us a broader context and weaken the impact of the original image. For best results, be sure that everything within the frame speaks to the forced perspective.

Adding objects into the frame can also be beneficial. By adding selected objects and framing them in different ways, the context of the image can change due to symbolism. Always be aware of what is and is not being communicated in your photographs.

Location, Location, Location

Image Source: V.L.G.

The best place to have full control over a forced perspective photograph is somewhere with lots of wide open space. This will allow you the depth needed to achieve a great image. Fields are great, but are often used. Look for creative places in which much of the horizon is viewable. The horizon has a profound psychological effect on viewers since it gives them a visual reference point. The horizon can be used in powerful ways to create a forced perspective due to its infinite visual symbolism.