How To Tuesday: Photography Composition Part III.
Some subjects cry out for certain camera angles. Not listening to their pleas can result in awkward ill-composed shots that make the viewer feel uneasy.
Today I'm going to talk to you about camera angles specifically popular among food photographers and how they can work for you. I'll start with the safest or easiest angle and move up to the more dynamic or fun angles.
The head on or eye level camera angle is perhaps the most straight forward and basic approach to photographing your subject. I would choose this angle when shooting a scene that is rather plain or simple with very little depth or detail. It creates drama and an undeniable focal point. With the photo of the Cherry Almond White Chocolate Ice Cream I wanted to accentuate the drips and texture of the ice cream. The head on angle makes the viewer feel like the cone is being handed right to them. In the photo of the Focaccia I used this camera angle to emphasize the uniformity as well as the natural flaws in each piece of bread. I also force the viewer to analyze the angles created by the brown paper and the slices.
The three quarters angle is possibly the most used camera angle among food photographers because it can give depth and perspective to an otherwise two dimensional image. At this angle it is best to fill the space with props and textures to take up all that vertical space. A three quarters shot can look very welcoming and appetizing when it comes to photographing food because this is the angle that people often view food as if they're sitting at the dinner table. With my photo of the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies I wanted to focus on the different levels created by the cookie jar, stack of cookies and lemon. Comparatively I kept the composition of the Banana Cinnamon Bread Pudding relatively sparse because I wanted the emphasis to stay on the dessert itself in the foreground which was simply garnished with the ground cinnamon seen in the background.
The bird's eye view or overhead angle can be a very dynamic position to experiment with. This angle is not meant to emphasize height or depth but detail and texture. I would suggest shooting from this perspective when you're subject is rather flat and doesn't photograph well from the other lower angles. My Chocolate Hazelnut Tart is quite a flat dessert and I found that much of the beautiful detail was lost at a lower angle so I decided an overhead shot was appropriate to show you all the lovely plump cherries juxtaposed by the jagged chopped hazelnuts. Another reason to utilize the bird's eye view is to accentuate shallow depth of field. In my photo of the rose only the petals are in focus while the rest of the rose fades away into fuzzy colour and form. The leaves and stem become merely a suggestion to the viewer because your real focus is on the bloom itself.
The close up, beauty shot or macro shot isn't necessarily considered a camera angle but is still a fun technique to play with. It is a position that can be easily overdone so you have to treat it with respect. I would suggest not getting carried away with macro shots because it can be frustrating when the viewer never gets a full view of the subject. Instead close ups should be used sparingly and only to show extreme detail when it's necessary. A lot of subject matter can't be fully enjoyed without getting up close and personal like my photo of the raspberries. I wanted to encourage the viewer to enjoy the shape and texture of the raspberries. You don't often get to see the tiny hairs on each piece of the whimsical fruit. The same goes for the buttercup. I wanted to focus on the flower from a perspective that most don't employ. Normally we appreciate flowers in their entirety in bouquets or a garden. Not very often do we study not just one flower, but the centers specifically.
The tilt angle is definitely one of my personal favourites. It adds drama and interest to an otherwise plain and straight forward subject. Just like with the macro shoot, the tilt angle presents a normal scene in an abnormal way. This photo of the Chocolate Covered Almond Cake is, in my opinion, one of the most appetizing photos I've ever taken. The cake leans towards you as though it's begging you to give in and eat it. The tilt angle implies action and movement like with my photo of the Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies. You get the distinct feeling that you're going to have to reach out and catch them before they fall.
After shooting a variety of subject matter you begin to understand what camera angles would best suit the situation. I encourage you to move around your subject and feel free to play with angles. Don't be afraid experiment. You might be surprised which angle you like the best. And if you ever get stuck just bend an ear to your subject and it'll give you some pointers.