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Shoot Low to Give a More Spacious Feeling

Published: 04/04/2007
By: larry
Click photo to see examples

I want to highlight an important tip raised recently in comments by Cherie Irwin and Scott Hargis. Last week Cherie sent me some examples of the same image shot from different heights above the floor (see Cherie's examples above). Cherie pointed out that she'd been viewing some interior images shot by a tall person standing up straight and that she thought her images (shot lower because she was short) worked better.

About the same time Cherie and I were discussing this issue Scott Hargis commented that:

"Almost every room will benefit from shooting from a kneeling or squatting position - putting the camera about 30? to 45? off the floor. This emphasizes the floor more than the ceiling (making the room appear more spacious), and in my opinion, more readily mimics the human eye’s perception of the room."

I think Cherie and Scott have raised an important observation. Too much ceiling can be distracting and having more floor in an interior image does give a feeling of spaciousness. Of course, in kitchens counter tops force you to have the camera at least counter-top level (usually bout 37") so the images shows the top of the counter.

Thanks Cherie and Scott for pointing this out. Many times I've found myself shooting low but I've never given much thought to why it worked better than standing up straight.

9 comments on “Shoot Low to Give a More Spacious Feeling”

  1. My belief is that the best vertical position is in the middle of the ceiling-floor distance, this give no more emphasis on one or the other. Further: the spacious feeling is caused by the distance with the structure; ceilings, floors, walls, furniture. To emphasize space, you have to compose your shot with this in mind.

  2. I take the contents of the room into account as well. You can see how the couch against the wall is more blocked in the lower photo. The middle one or even the higher one would be my choice in this case. Hardwood floors are always important to emphasize.

  3. IMHO...Ceiling space should not be the determining factor in how high you position the camera. Like Mark said, the contents of the room are more important. I crop out the ceilings after the fact. And though my photos are rarely the 4:3 MLS ratio, I am willing to sacrifice some image quality, via MLS compression, for better composition.

    That said, I've noticed that I usually shoot from about 40" or so.

  4. Composition is important, and that is why I chose this room to use for my experiment. You see, those are my little dogs in my little family room. I've always had issues with this room...it's a long & narrow room, at 24' x 12', and is difficult to photograph due to the furniture arrangement & floorplan.

    After examining photos taken by one of my competitors...from his "tall" point of view. I started questioning what was "wrong" with his photos. It seemed strange to me that I was looking down into the room. I'm not very tall, so I never see furniture from such a high perspective. That brings me to the room used for my experiment. When I walk into this room, I see exactly what you see in Example 2 (at 60"). But, I thought that Example 1 (shot at 48") was the best of the three because it showed the room in perfect balance, and it didn't give the feeling that one was looking down into the room. The comment was made, however, that the sofa against the wall was blocked in that particular photo. That begs the question, how important is it to highlight or show off the furniture, and will it skew the view/composition of the room to do so?

  5. I don't think you are comparing apples with apples in the three examples presented.

    The camera should have been titlted down in the 60" shot, and even more so in the 72" shot, so that the same relative proportions of floor and ceiling are shown.

    The lower 48" shot does have potential (and benefit?) of exagerating perspective, especially with foreground detail, but you need to be mindful of distant objects that may become obscured by the foreground objects.

  6. Cute dogs 🙂

    I tend to mostly shoot from about my lower chest level, camera leveled out.

    I guess if were me, I would have moved in a little and not gotten the stair well wall in the shot... but the lower shot does look better, IMO

  7. Personally, I like the composition of the 60" shot based on the rule of thirds, the placement of the picture frame to the right setting the vanishing point and the banister settling into the bottom left corner.
    But that's my novice opinion, I'm here to learn from the pros.

  8. I would have moved that chair and come forward from the banister but I suspect that Cherie would have done that if she were actually shooting for a client rather than as examples for us. (her work and website are beautiful) I agree about keeping the camera low. I shoot on a tripod at all times because I find it easier to keep the camera low enough without totally frying my knees (yes I am over 45)and also to keep it level. (For those of you who have read Larry's other posts about furniture moving pro/con...I carry a lot of business liability insurance so if the worst happens when I move a piece of furniture, I am covered.)

  9. Thank you...I also would have moved the dogs out of the shot, too...if I were getting paid for the shoot, rather than just firing off experimental shots.

    I shoot on a tripod too, as a girl who wears dresses often, I'd rather not have crusty callused knees. Ewww... Besides, shooting on a tripod, you rarely have to fix verticals.

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