The term ‘forced perspective’ was coined by George Méliès, a French filmmaker who used the technique in his 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. This is when an object or person in the foreground appears more prominent than it actually is due to its placement closer to the camera lens.
This type of photography has been around for over 100 years. Yet, many photographers still don’t know how to do it correctly and end up with less-than-stellar results. It requires some forethought and planning on your part. If you can master forced perspective photography, then your images will be unique and memorable.
What Is Forced Perspective Photography?
Think about when you look at those silly photos tourists take at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You know, when they look like they’re leaning up against it, the same size, with a goofy grin? That’s forced perspective photography they just used!
Forced perspective photography is when you deliberately distort the size of an object in the foreground to make it appear larger. This forced enlargement is possible because of something called a ‘focal length multiplier.
How You Create Photography Illusions
In most cases, your digital SLR camera has a focal length multiplier of x1, with some cameras going as high as x3. And with forced perspective photography, you can take advantage of that.
You’re manipulating the size of an object and its apparent depth and distance from the camera lens. In forced perspective images, it’s usually a given that one or more things must be in the foreground while everything else is in the background. This “forced” arrangement causes everything to appear much larger than life.
How Does Forced Perspective Photography Work?
The forced perspective phenomenon occurs due to the focal length multiplier of whatever lens you’re using. The focal length multiplier or FLM is a ratio that determines how close an object must be before it enters your camera’s “field of view.” Or, in other words, how close the object must be before your camera sees it.
Forced perspective photography works with any lens. But forced perspective photographs are easier to create when you use a wide-angle or fisheye type of lens.
What Kind of Camera and Lens Should You Use?
A standard 18 to 55mm zoom is fine for forced perspective. However, if you want to play around with forced perspective, you should get an 8mm fisheye lens.
The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Zoom Lens is suitable for forced perspective photography. It has an ultra-wide convex front lens element that ensures excellent results.
Where Can You Use This Type of Photography?
Forced perspective photography isn’t just for playing tricks. You can also use forced perspective in portrait photography, often referred to as the ‘miniature effect.’ By this, it makes your subject look like a doll or figurine. By placing the subject close to the backdrop, you can create awesome forced perspective images with a surreal, dreamy look.
The Benefits of Using Forced Perspective Photography
There are advantages to using forced perspective as an in-camera photographic technique. When it comes to creativity, you can’t go wrong with this type of photography. It forces you to consider things from a new perspective than normal human vision would suggest.
You can use Photoshop to produce many forced perspective photos, but it’s just not the same. The out-of-the-box creativity with your camera could help you branch out to other forms of photography.
How to Take Forced Perspective Photography
Changing up perspective in your photos is easier said than done. You have to be meticulous when you set up your shot so as nothing disturbs your arrangement. One small thing off, and it throws the result, the photograph, off.
Step One: Keep Everything In Focus
Keeping everything in focus is a part of the trick to convincing the eye that the foreground and background are at the same distance from the camera. This implies using a small aperture. f/16 usually works well in most situations.
There are times when a shallow depth of field is beneficial. But unless you have a specific goal in mind for the background or foreground blurry (bokeh effect), maintaining clarity is the best option. Keep in mind that using a smaller aperture will need more light. To compensate, either make sure your environment is well-lit or increase ISO.
Step Two: Opt for a Wide Angle Lens
Using a wide-angle lens isn’t necessary but will enhance the space room when shooting a forced perspective shot. Not only do wide-angle lenses offer you a greater field of vision, but you can often get much closer to your foreground subject than with a narrower lens.
Anything under 35mm is considered wide-angle. But sometimes, it makes sense to go somewhat wider if possible. Don’t go so wide that your image suffers from distortion, though.
Of course, you can create forced perspective pictures without a wide-angle lens; any lens and camera will suffice. All you need is to think outside the box and compose your shot with a different viewpoint in mind.
Step Three: Utilize Space
The larger the area you have to work with, the easier arranging your themes and items are. You’ll have as much room as you need if you’re using anything in the sky. If you’re aligning subjects and objects in the same focal plane, ensure there’s enough room for everything.
Step Four: Think About Composition
To execute good forced perspective photography, you’ll need to consider your composition. Having elements just a little bit out of alignment can make the optical illusion less believable. It also helps if you know where you’re shooting and whether you’ll need to be close or far away from the different components in your photograph.
Come up with an excellent general concept, at the very least. The more ahead of time you think, the faster your shoot is over.
Step Five: Keep It Simple
Regardless of style or technique, simplicity in the composition is essential. It’s critical with forced perspective. Optical illusions require near-perfect composition. Every additional element you add to the frame adds one more thing that can be awry.
In general, be sure that everything in the frame contributes to the optical illusion. Any other elements in the photograph risk disrupting or contradicting your image’s context. As a result, your pictures won’t pack a punch.
Tips for Making Your Photos Look Like Illusionary
Creating illusions in your photographs works best when you use forced perspective—experiment with putting things in such a way that they appear larger or smaller than they are. Or make them look like they absurdly interact with one another.
Have an Assistant Help
On your own, forced perspective photography might be challenging. The arrangement of objects in a picture requires constant fine-tuning. You might find yourself spending a lot of time walking back and forth to your tripod to keep everything in place.
It’s far simpler to have someone rearrange the goods according to your instructions. Furthermore, you might need an object held, or there must be a human subject in your photo. If you have one more person on hand, you might save time during your photo shoot.
Can’t find friends to help you out? Consider collaborating with other photographers and dividing up the work. Not only will this save time, but you might discover that working together offers you fresh concepts to experiment with.
Conclusion: Get Creative with Forced Perspective Photography
The thing that sets apart truly amazing forced perspective pictures from the rest is imagination. You’ll need to be able to imagine how items would appear from a different viewpoint and reconsider your own opinion on the photo’s story.
The most frequent forced perspective pictures are ones that pretend to support or transport a structure. Use toys or other props to create a psychedelic photo. Optical trickery abounds; all you have to do now is learn how to look at things differently.