Optical illusions

 camera angle


IN LORD of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland, moviemakers used it to transform humans into hobbits and miniatures into giants; tourists use it to prop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa and, thanks to its water fountains, provide bouts of entertainment - optical illusions are nothing new. but they never seem to get old either. Forced perspective is a type of optical illusion whereby carefully considering the placement of your camera and subject can distort the perception of size, perspective and distance to make objects appear larger, closer, smaller or farther away than they actually are. Done well, it can create inspiring and mind-boggling pictures even without the help of Photoshop! A bit of camera

trickery, a creative eye and change in viewpoint can yield fantastic illusionary results.

It s a great way to train your mind to think laterally and to see new photo opportunities, as you need to visualise, adopt extreme camera angles and experiment with depth Read on here for a few tips to bear in mind when shooting your own forced perspective shots...


While you don t need Photoshop to create illusions, a bit of editing can improve results.

It could simply be to rotate a picture for an anti -gravity effect or as complicated as removing objects a subject is sat or, like Ed Livesey s done (below right).

In the image on the left, Darren Woolridge went to great lengths to build a room on its side out of brushed metaland plastic, held together with clamps. He attached a chair on its back, superglued a bin to the wall and hung paper balls from fishing line. He is forgiven for using a little Photoshop to erase the wire for a seamless finish.


Take your time

Planning your shoot before you set up can really help you to select the right location, time of day and the position of your subjects for the best illusion. Think it through and expect to take your time experimenting and refining your angle and distance. For this image, Ed Livesey waited until midday so that the sun was directly above the wood to minimise shadows. To create the  forced perspective , he took twc shots: one with the subject laying on a stool at the bottom of the tree and another just of the tree, which he then merged in Elements 10.

 Express yourself

Part of making your illusion convincing comes from your subject s expression and pose. Take this image by Steph Goralnick, for instance. If her subject didn t have a look of pain or appear to clench the rock face, would the image be as effective? He s actually just lying on a cobbled street and Steph s flipped the image. Turn the magazine upside down to see for yourself.

Keep it simple...

You don t need to think of elaborate illusions for forced perspective to work. By standing her subject a foot or so behind a water patch, Steph has created the illusion of a shadow so her subject appears to be levitating. Notice how the pose adds to the effect too. It s super simple to do, but you do need to consider lighting and depth-of-field. Pick an aperture that blurs the foreground and an overcast day to avoid telltale shadows.

Use props for added impact

ncluding props in a scene can help make the images more creative or convincing. By placing the rose in the centre of the frame, focusing on it and aligning the model in the distance, June Kanamea was able to create this effective portrait. For other examples, notice the bike in the left picture and the use of the shoe in the right.

 Don t forget to have fun!

Dimitri Bogachuk got a lot of laughs from Dassengers while shooting this portrait of his friend dressed as Superman in a metro station in Kiev, Ukraine. A slow exposure (0.5 seconds) to capture the speed of the moving escalator, and a simple flip of the image in post-production, made all the funny looks worthwhile - he had a good time doing it too!

Choreograph your image

Posing for pictures like this can be physically challenging to maintain, so keep it simple by using ambient light. Ideally, pick an overcast day, or a shaded area, as hard shadows can spoil the illusion. To achieve this effect, turn the field of view 90° and have your friends sprawl out, using the wall as the ground. Your subjects need to lift themselves off the pavement to make the pose convincing. Avoid loose clothing, too, as it gives away gravity s true direction.


When choosing your location, you need to think about how you v/ant the final image to look. Do you need a large, flat space to give distance between your subjects? Do you need an area with high and low ground, like a hill or building, to enhance scale? Forced perspective pictures like this one are quite common, but as your foreground subject and background subject/s are far apart, you do need to use a small aperture to ensure both are in focus (this image was shot at f/29!). When trying to align the subjects, you ll find it easier to adjust the camera angle and the foreground subject than the background subjects.


Adopt extreme angles

Once you ve got your subject/s in place, move yourself to find the right camera angle for the illusion. Try lying on the floor, putting distance between you and your subjects or a high vantage point. Trial different formats too (portrait v landscape), and lenses (wide-angles stretch perspective while telephotos compress it).

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