Photography: From a New Perspective

This compilation of tips and observations about photography was created by Erin Bundock when she was a YWP intern in 2016. Erin is now a Burlington, VT, artist and YWP board member. 

Have you ever looked at the world upside down? In your writing, have you ever tried approaching a topic or feeling from a different perspective? The same goes for photography: you can look at the world in a whole new way by using different angles, lighting, and space. Here are some basics along with a few activities to try.

High Angle

  • If you do a little research, you’ll find that photographers use various angles to convey their message, mood, story. Take some time to look for high angle photos, consider what the photographer did to capture the photo, and think about how you would have taken the photo. 
  • Imagine where you, as the photographer, would be in relationship to your subject. Close or far away?
  • Depending on how close you are to your subject, you may have to change the angle of your camera in certain ways. How would you angle your camera in this shot? What about this shot?
  • When taken from a high angle, what happens to the proportions in the photo?
  • What about the negative space (the space surrounding the subject, which is typically empty).
  • Think about what high angle shots communicate. What subject do you want to capture with this angle?
  • And consider that high angles for landscapes don't have to be vast or open. You have the option to involve elements in the foreground as well. A person or an object in a landscape can add interesting contrast and scale to the photo.

Low Angle

  • Once again, take the time to look through the photos and think about camera position.
  • When taken from a low angle, what happens to the proportions in the photo?
  • What happens to the negative space?
  • Start thinking about what low angle shots communicate. How is this different from a high angle shot?
  • What do you rarely see from a low angle? That could be an interesting subject for your own photos.


  • Pick an object and take 5-10 photos of it from both high and low angles. 
  • Or try taking photos of multiple objects or scenes and choose to focus on either high or low angles.
  • Upload your photos to YWP.


Lighting plays a major role in how photos communicate with their audiences. It can affect color and structure of the subject. It also influences mood and meaning. Whether photos are well lit, or leave more to the imagination, lighting is essential to great photography.


Exposure is the amount of light reaching your camera's sensor or film. Underexposure is when there isn't enough light in your photo to give you the "information" you need. In other words, it's hard to see. Think about it this way: If you walk into a dark room after being outside, you can't see anything. Without direction, you'll probably run into something. Overexposure is the opposite problem with a similar effect. By overexposing, you can lose some of your content in the light. Finding a middle ground can be tricky, but if you take your photos on a phone, or if you're able to transfer them from your camera to your phone, there are many user-friendly apps that can help you adjust photos with overexposure or underexposure. If you can, try experimenting with them.

Types of Lighting

Front Lighting: Makes the photo a little flatter as it eliminates shadows and highlights.
Side Lighting: Helps create more depth to subjects through well-defined shadows and highlights.
Back Lighting: Completely or partially flattens a subject. Back lighting places more emphasis on the silhouette of the subject. Consider the intended mood of the photo.


  • Spend some time looking at how natural light interacts with objects around you.
  • Pick a stationary object and place it near a source of natural light (perhaps near a window or outside) and take pictures of it periodically throughout the day. When you're done, try to identify areas of front, side, and back lighting.
  • If you’re inspired by your photos, write a poem or story describing the different types of lighting and how they interact with your object.
  • Post to YWP (always!).


There are two different types of contrast: color and tonal, but here we’ll focus only on tonal contrast – the difference between the brightest highlight and the darkest low-light.

High Contrast: Think about high contrast lighting as a combination of two extremes – the whitest whites and the darkest blacks all contained in one space. 

Low Contrast: Imagine moving the two extreme ends of dark and light along a line. In high contrast, both are on opposite ends of the line. In low contrast photos, the dark and light values move closer together, becoming less extreme. How do you think these shadows and highlights interact differently compared to high contrast lighting?

Low Key Lighting: Lighting changes how the subject of the photo is perceived, and it can set a distinct mood. Low key lighting works with the darkest shadows and creates high contrast with hard shadow lines, but it can also have softer shadow gradients. A softer form of high contrast lighting affects the mood of the photo. Think about what focal points would work well with this type of mood.

High Key Lighting: High key lighting is essentially the opposite of low key lighting as it eliminates most of the darkest shadows. Some shadows are maintained so that the subject still has some depth. 

Tilt: You’ve already taken a look at how changing the angle can have a big difference on how we see the world around us. There's more to perspective than simply looking at a subject from high or low angles. Innovative photos rely on outside-the-box thinking and experimenting. A level camera is helpful in most shots, but what happens if you turn it slightly? How does this change the way we interpret the photo?

Point of View: The concept of point of view is that the camera is the eye of the photographer, and therefore, it’s as if the viewer is looking "through the photo" into another world. Think about the type of feeling this camera angle could communicate. If you could change the lighting or negative space, how would it change the "atmosphere" of the photo?

Rule of Thirds: Try dividing your frame into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. Place your subject a third of the way up, down or across the frame, rather than in the center. It’s a more interesting angle.

Bird’s Eye View: Where do you think the camera is positioned in bird's eye view photos in relation to the subject? Bird's Eye View doesn't have to capture a vast amount of space. It could capture something much smaller. What type of feeling could this angle communicate? What happens if the situation is flipped to look at objects from directly underneath them? How does the mood of the photo change?


Pick one of the views and experiment with it. Take five to 10 photos and upload them to YWP.

Orientation: Placement above, below, or at eye-level communicate differently. Your orientation in relation to your subject is also an incredibly powerful tool. For example, what do you think a shot-from-behind could portray? If the environment changes, how does the mood change? What happens if you have the camera directly in front of the subject? If the background changes, how does the mood shift?

Gazes: The placement of your camera also allows you to access certain tools. If you're generally oriented in front of your subject, one of the tools you have access to is your subject's eyes. There might be direct eye contact or a directional gaze. The subject’s “sight line” might direct attention toward an object or subject within the photo or beyond. What if their gaze doesn't lead us anywhere concrete? This is where the direction in which your subject is looking begins to influence the mood of the photo. 


  • Pick three or four "backgrounds" and take a photo of your subject from behind and in front of them. 
  • Also try experimenting with directional gaze. Consider the mood you’re creating with your photos.
  • Post your photos to YWP.

Final Activity

  • Look at your photos and pick your three favorites. What is it about these photos that makes them stand out for you? Post them!