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3D: Landscape Photography

Friday, July 20th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

3D: Landscape Photography

Unlike the human eye that can convey depth, a digital camera is limited in technology. So, how do you add depth to your landscape photos that need it the most? Well, here are a few suggestions. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to creating perfect 3D images!

Size Matters

Now, you know objects that are closer to the lens appear larger than those further away from them, right? Well, take this cue and bring some perspective to your landscape shots. Your shot could be clouds nearing the horizon, water ripples close to you and further away, ocean waves, rivers, streams, trees, flowers, roads, etc. The point is to exaggerate what you want and minimize what you don’t want. By doing that, you are also creating a 3D effect by showing the distance between two objects: the one near the camera and the one further away from it.

It’s All in the Angle

Your landscape photos should have a point of view. This is where the lenses come into play. The wide angle lenses increase the perceived distance between elements in the composition and promote a feeling of deep space. Telephoto lenses lend exactly the opposite of this. They compress the distance between elements in the scene. To accentuate these extreme effects, you should position the camera as close as possible to the nearest object in the composition.

Adjusting the Height of Your Camera

This can only come by experimentation. Since you own a digital camera, you can take multiple pictures and still not burn a hole in your pocket, unlike the old days. As a rule, landscape subjects that are closer to you should be positioned lower in your field of view than those more distant. Why? Because your eyes are more than five feet above the ground and if you want to achieve the highest 3D effect, you should focus on the object at about a 45 degree angle above the ground. In other words, the focal length of your lens should be wide enough to include the horizon and a bit of sky. If you place the camera too low, you will lose visual exposure of the spaces between size cues. If you set up too high, you will lose the horizon and the familiar eye-level configuration of the size cue. Either position results in a flattening of the scene.

Maximize Your Size Cues

Position the camera horizontally so that the number of size cues portrayed are maximized and the cues are kept separate and distinct. This step may require you to move the camera forward or backward, as well as, sideways. In most situations, you should set depth of field to include both the closest size cue and features on the horizon (usually infinity).

Add Mood to Your Landscapes

Landscapes on hazy days can be great for photography. Due to particles suspended in the atmosphere, close objects appear more detailed than those further away. Aerial perspective is commonly encountered as fog, mist, snow, dust and haze. When shooting in these moody conditions, you can be assured of opportunities on the periphery of the atmospheric phenomenon, like the edge of storms or cloud banks. You can modulate the effect by changing position or waiting for a change or movement of the weather pattern.

Timing is Everything

The earlier in the day you shoot, the greater the effect. To flatten perspective and achieve an impression that is somewhat surreal, shoot early or late in the day, with the sun directly behind you for better illumination. Landscapes illuminated from the side fall into areas of highlight and shadow. This overlapping of objects or planes is emphasized and clarified, because the shadow portion of one is set against the highlight portion of another.

Give Some Space

If you are trying to include moving subjects into your landscape photos, like a passing cloud, rain drops or a dust storm, give the subject some space in your image to move into. If you do that, your landscapes will look that much more three dimensional.

Framing Does It

Frame your subject. You can emphasize your subject by placing it into a frame of some sort. Things like an open window, tree branches or a doorway work very well.

Shallow Depth of Field

This is a great way to handle a busy background that would otherwise interfere with your subject. To get to a shallow depth of field, use a long focal length, open the aperture as wide as possible and get as close as possible to your subject. This works best with DSLRs. It’s an effect that is hard to achieve with a point and shoot camera. And yes, use a polarizer to bring down the brightness of the skies. This works best with blue skies and when the sun is to your left or right. Polarizers also increase the saturation of the colors in your image.

Some Dos and Don’ts

1.) Use what is called “negative space” to your advantage. It is the part of an image that is not your subject. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of it every now and then.

2.) Keep water lines horizontal. If you take a photo of a lake or the sea, make sure to keep the horizon level. Even a slight skew of half a degree will make the viewer feel uncomfortable with the picture.

3.) Don’t be afraid to cut off certain things. Get closer, only shoot part of a face from a mountain or river or select another detail, like a protruding rock or a patch of grass.

Have fun creating your own 3D landscape masterpieces!

~ Zahid H. Javali

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