Today in our ABCs of Photography series, we’re going to learn about perspective! As always, I’ll be using simplified explanations that kids can understand (hooray!).
Perspective is how you look at things. We see the world in three dimensions, but a photograph captures life and compresses it down into two dimensions. I like this definition I found on B&H Photo (read more about their explanation of perspective):
Perspective has several different meanings—several applicable in some way to photography. For the photographer, perspective is a summation of the relationship between objects in a photograph.
This definition from School of Digital photography is nice too (what is perspective and how can we use it to improve the composition of our photographs):
Perspective refers to the relationships between objects in a photograph, the relative distance, size and space etc. perspective could be used to define a subject’s shape and form and also to convey to the viewer a sense of volume, space, depth and distance.
Okay, so let’s try and simplify that further. Because simpler is better, right?
For photographers, perspective is how the different things in a picture appear, where they are in the photo compared to each other. Because you can’t walk into a photo (it’s flat, after all), your perspective is chosen by the photographer — they decide how things will look, where to get you to look, by how they take the picture.
Perspective Photo Experiment
Now, here’s an easy way to experiment with perspective! (This one is really a fun activity, if your kids like taking pictures, like mine do).
Put some objects on your kitchen table, or a surface of any sort, really. Maybe some legos, or some fruit, it doesn’t matter what, so long as they are similar in size. Try to put an object at each end of the table, and one in the middle too. Maybe you put an toy truck in the middle, a toy car at one end, and a toy train at the other end.
Then, try walking around the table, looking at it from different angles. When you take a picture from one side, the toy car will look bigger than the toy train. When you walk around to the other end, the photo will show the toy train as being bigger. When you take a picture from above, all three vehicles will look equally large.
Talk about these differences in perspective with your child, maybe prompting them to experiment with different angles of view as needed. You can discuss the change in perspective during the photo taking part of the activity, or if you’d rather wait until it’s time to look at the pictures, that’s ok too.
Smartphone Panorama Perspective Experiment
Another way to see the the concept of perspective is to create a panorama with your phone — and have your kids run from one spot in the image to another while you are panning your camera phone across the room.
Yours might turn out a little mashed together, like my first attempt at this did, but your kids will undoubtedly have fun running back and forth across the room multiple times while you figure things out!
Your kids will be able to see how they look bigger or smaller, depending on how close to the camera they were!
You can make something look really really big by getting up close and below it when you take the picture.
You can make something look very small by taking the picture from above, or from far away.
Now, some people think photography isn’t an art.
But it is… photography is all about finding the right perspective, choosing the way to have the image look the way you want. Obviously perspective is a much more complex topic than this, but you get the idea.
And by trying this exercise on perspective, I bet you’ll see it too.
Join Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography! We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids
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