DEPTH The scene's depth is emphasised by including interesting subjects at varying distances from the camera.
Spatial Depth in Photography – What Is It and why bother about it?
What is Spatial Depth in a Photograph? Emphasis of the presentations is on increasing spatial depth. It is about creating photographs that give an increased feeling of a perceived or illusionary third- dimensionality. [Not 3D] It is also about enticing people to look at and experience your photographs as readers (not justviewers). Just viewing something is a passive activity. Photographs having spatial depth engage people, gently draw them in, allowing them to be active readers of your pictorial story.
Spatial Depth contd Aim to generate within the reader a deeper, fuller, longer experience - you have to create that invitation before you press the shutter button. Such photos express not only a two dimensional space but a cubic space i.e. there is more room to linger longer, to move about the area but more importantly, explore the cubic space of the image.
Spatial Depth contd The more you create an illusion of reality, the deeper the potential experience, the longer the memory of the image, the greater the impact on readers minds and hearts – which is what all photographers wish to occur!
Spatial Depth contd Spatial depth is really about two complimentary aspects: Refining your understanding of what your readers are likely to experience when they look at your photograph Enhancing your own ability to express yourself more fully to deliver that experience. The feeling the reader gets from each of the following two images is different because the perceived depth is different.
Ways to Create Greater Spatial Depth 1. Use Perspective 2. Conceive your photo to be a cube - not just a flat two dimensional area. 3. Use different focal length lenses. 4. Intentionally throw some part of the photo out of focus. 5. Use opposite colours. 6. Use side light – great for B & W photos. 7. Use emotions.
Using Perspective The geometry in your viewfinder will always derive from the position of your camera. Straight lines will either remain parallel or converge into a point on a horizon. Elements in your viewfinder will reduce in size as they recede and follow that vanishing point. Circles become ellipses & squares become trapezoids.
Just changing the location of your camera you can add/remove a sense of spatial depth - gives great creative potential. The stronger the clues you provide with perspective, the more unavoidable it is for the reader not to read spatial depth into your photo. Painters for centuries have used aerial perspective to build in an illusion of spatial depth.
Where is your eye magnetically drawn to? You dont have much choice to refuse the invitation, do you!
Early Ming Dynasty Painting Dai Jing [1370 -1650]
Think of your photo as a Cube Most people describe a photograph spatially as a RECTANGLE or SQUARE. Yet, the same photograph can be conceived as a CUBE – thats how we naturally perceive things.
Think of your photo as a Cube contd We all have been conditioned to think we have only width and height to play with in rectangular, square or panorama photographs. The rule of thirds has been a good friend of photographers for >100 years. What happens if you contemporaneously think of using this concept but apply it to the depth of an image?
Think of your photo as a Cube contd Calling this foreground, midground and background gives you a frame divided depth- wise into three. This helps you think about placing key elements in the photo at somewhere approximating these thirds. This gives the reader key visual clues about the spatial depth you have consciously built into the photograph … same as the early painters did.
Think o your photo as a Cube contd Instead of looking at (viewing) your photograph (a two dimensional experience) the reader is now looking into the image (a three dimensional experience and journey). A few examples.
Use different focal length lenses Your choice of lens greatly influences spatial depth in a photo. Short lenses (say 40 - 50mm) compress foreground & background and reduce the sense of spatial depth. When creating extended spatial depth in a photograph you might find it helpful to think of the angle of view of a lens.
Use different focal length lenses contd Look at the difference in the angle of view built into a 24mm and a 85mm lens.
Use different focal length lenses contd Only reason for picking 24mm & 85mm is because they nicely invert their values and make it easy to remember.
Use different focal length lenses contd Try shooting the same scene, first with a 30mm lens and then with a 16mm lens.
Use different focal length lenses contd Wider angle lenses by virtue of their angle of view, are more inclusive lenses, and that is very much the point of spatial depth to begin with, namely you are trying to create a feeling of inclusion for the reader. Just like a good book makes you feel as if you are there with the author.
Why do you think a fisheye lens is often called a POV (point of view) lens? A POV lens gives the reader a greater feeling of being there, within the scene, instead of just looking at it.
The reader almost feels like kneeling down in the middle of the aisle!
Deliberate use of Out-of-Focus To separate the foreground and background in a photo to increase spatial depth, deliberately set out to use a change of focus. When the quality of focus changes from foreground to background you get an increase in spatial depth - thats how focus work!
Deliberate use of Out-of-Focus contd If you deliberately shoot part of a photo that is close to you out of focus and keep the background in sharp focus, you are suggesting to the reader that the spatial depth of the photograph is greater.
Deliberate use of Out-of-Focus contd The same works in reverse if we throw the background out of focus and keep something in the foreground in focus.
Most readers commence at the nose and are drawn towards the eyes but look at the amount of the animal that is out of focus.
Use Opposite Colours Our eye is naturally drawn to warmer colours before cooler colours – thats the way we are made! When a warmer coloured element is included in a predominantly cool photograph, that element appears to move forward within the image, giving the image an illusion of greater spatial depth. But, will a cooler element in a largely warmer scene have the same effect? Lets see!
The Tribute Money Masaccio 1427 Yellow Blue Red Cyan
Using Opposite Colours contd Would this kind of thinking help create a similar deepening effect in a black and white photograph? Lets see.
The Value of Tonal Contrast In monochrome it is more helpful to think in terms of tonal contrast than in terms of colour. It is the contrast – whether colour or tone, that draws the readers eye and the greater the contrast between foreground and background elements, the greater the appearance or illusion of spatial depth in the photograph.
Using Side Light The early Renaissance painters taught us about using light and shadows to give visual clues about dimensionality and spatial depth. The term chiaroscuro, from two Italian words meaning (chiaro) light and (scuro) dark comes from this early period of art when painters had to duplicate both light and dark (not merely expose correctly for it) to add drama and dimensionality to their work. It became a major compositional tool for them.
Spatial Depth through Light Chiaroscuro is a way of using light to create an illusion of a three- dimensional form within two dimensions. Light and shadow always conform to this given formula.
Light Dark Chiaroscuro at work to create spatial depth Spear - a foreground anchor Textures give spatial depth Varying tonal contrasts and the oblique angle of his head add to the spatial depth in the image
Using Emotions This is both the easiest and hardest way to create spatial depth in photographs. The earlier emphasis on spatial depth should not take the reader on a visual journey through the image, only to find, and feel nothing there! They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel Carl W. Buechner
Using Emotions contd What it takes to touch those deeper emotions in us is not easy to fathom and it is not a technique but an instinct and the product of an inspired eye; its also more difficult to explain. It is easier to master a technique (and move on, to the next proven technique). The expertise needed to create photographs that move us deeply is not as easy to master.
Using Emotions contd The planet doesnt need more photographs. It is crying out for photographs that reveal something, that invoke feelings and that touch readers at some level.