Create a Sense of Depth to Your Shot

One of the fascinating aspects of photographs is that although they are flat, 2-dimensional images, they can still give a strong illusion of depth, almost as if we can step into the frame and join the scene. Depth perception, or our visual ability to perceive objects in terms of distance, can be strengthened to give the photo a 3-dimensional quality.

Listed below are several effective ways to give your image a sense of depth:

Use diminishing perspective – an object that is the same size as that of another, but is farther away, would appear to be smaller in size. You can make use of diminishing perspective as a depth cue in your composition by showing same-sized objects that are distances apart. For example, this photo of a row of electrical posts using diminishing perspective gives a strong impression of depth.

Diminishing Perspective
Photo by Umberto Salvagnin

Converging lines – lines in a photograph can be quite powerful since they can guide the viewer’s attention to a certain area in the frame. You might have noticed that when you stand between parallel lines such as a road, they seem to narrow and meet in the distance. Converging lines are especially effective in implying depth and are commonly found in landscape photography, street scenes, and photos of architecture.

Create a Sense of Depth to Your Shot
Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Selective focus – another technique used in photography is selective focusing, which is impacted by depth of field. Using a shallow depth of field and keeping the subject clear and sharp while blurring the background can make the image appear to have depth. Selective focus in photography imitates our visual sense, where other objects become defocused as we focus on a particular object. You can add context and a stronger sense of distance by keeping the background blurry but still leaving recognizable shapes that suggest the distance.

Create a Sense of Depth to Your Shot
Photo by Jason Bacon

Use levels in the image plane – a photo can have many levels that imply distance: these are commonly the foreground, mid-ground, and background. In this example below, the roll of hay would be at the foreground, the green fields the mid-ground, and the trees and more fields at the background. You can even argue that there’s a fourth level, which would be the cloudy sky at the far distance. If you don’t want your photo to appear flat, try to include points of interest at various levels.

The Fields of Northern France
Photo by Les Haines

Use occlusion/interposition –the overlapping of objects in a photo can be a quick and simple way to depict depth. When our view of an object is blocked by another object, we perceive the one blocking as closer than the other. Using this technique can make key visual elements in your photo appear more prominent. When overlapping objects in your photo, take note of their relation to one other in the composition and what the final outcome looks like. Sometimes, there is the risk of strange looking results if you are not mindful of the details. For instance, a photo of a person standing in front of another can seem to show that the person who is closer appearing to have an extra arm or leg.

Photo by Marieke IJsendoorn-Kuijpers

Next photography lessons:

Photography Intermediate 1: Understanding Camera Metering

Photography Intermediate 2: Photography Tips: How To Choose A Tripod

Photography Intermediate 3: Beginners’ Emotional Photography

Photography Intermediate 4: Easy Double Exposure Photography

Photography Intermediate 6: Maximize the Background in your Composition

About Kristine Hojilla

Kristine is an avid amateur photographer from the tropical Philippine islands. She always tries to capture the extraordinary in mundane objects and scenes. Feel free to visit her profile here to see more of her works

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