The Vanishing Point
Vanishing Point Artistic Composition Rule
Most prize-winning photographs have one thing in common: the images have depth. Instead of being two-dimensional, a photo with depth has a distinctive set of layers that make it seem as though you can reach in and touch the objects in the image. You’ll notice this in any great landscape photo. The best way to add depth to your pictures is to have a connected series of subjects forming the foreground, middle, and background. You can link these layers by including perspective. Creating perspective is easy when you have a vanishing point leading the eye from the front to the back of the image. This is an effective and artistic composition rule that leads the viewer’s eyes through the photo, adding a ‘wow factor’ along the way.
What is a Vanishing Point?
Looking along a lengthy pier that seems to extend over the ocean forever, a straight road that goes all the way to the horizon, and a dusty path that stretches between a long line of trees — these are all examples of vanishing points. The idea is to show a frame of reference by having the features within the image getting smaller and smaller until they disappear in the distance. This effect helps the photographer to display the vastness of the scene being witnessed. It emphasizes space by having lines converging to a single point. You can use a vanishing point in a horizontal image to show scale and in a vertical format to bring attention to the height of trees and skyscrapers. It’s a trick of the eyes, but it works just as well in a photo as it does in real life.
The vanishing point not only adds depth and perspective to a scene but also incorporates another important aspect of a photo, which is its story. Being a storyteller with your photos makes them more compelling, and the vanishing point composition technique also makes images intriguing because you don’t see what’s at the end of the image. The lines eventually merge, but it’s so far away that you have to imagine what you’ll find there. This sense of mystery gives the viewer something to contemplate while they look at the photo. To add to this story, you can incorporate clues, which act as supporting elements to the story. If you have a pier across the calm water, it would be good to have empty, blue skies to help suggest the continuation of peacefulness. For the straight road, make sure you pick a spot that doesn’t have cars traveling along with it and choose areas that are flat and treeless on each side of the road to suggest a seemingly endless journey. And if a mountain path is lined with green trees, it can indicate a long and pleasant walk into the wilderness.
How to Create a Vanishing Point in Your Photos
As you go about your daily life, you’re bound to see vanishing points everywhere you look. Examples of this single-point perspective are a long corridor in a hotel; a narrow canal in the countryside; and train tracks that vanish at the horizon. The trick is to emphasize this point of view so that it becomes a dynamic feature of the image that grabs the viewer’s attention.
The best way to enhance a vanishing point is to use the wide-angle lens in your iPhone. The iPhone default wide-angle range, also referred to as 1X, and recent models also come with an ultra-wide lens as well, making the vanishing point even more obvious. Wide-angle lenses exaggerate the scale of an image. They include more of the foreground and make distant areas look even further away than usual. iPhones naturally have a large depth-of-field, making the foreground and the area around the vanishing point both focus on this unless there is something too close to the lens. Stepping back a little will help if you don’t automatically have everything on the iPhone screen in focus.
If you want to add even more energy to the image, find other forms of lines that flow in the same direction as your main feature, and make sure you incorporate those in your image. Examples of this include railings on fences, the sides of a bridge, and buildings lining a city street. When using an iPhone, download and open the Wise Camera app, then choose the vanishing point composition option — it shows where to position these receding lines, so you achieve the best result. These extra parallel lines of perspective guide the viewer’s eyes in the direction you want them to look. The Wise Camera app cleverly positions the vanishing point Rule of Thirds composition crossing-points to overlap the best of both artistic techniques.
When you have the shot you want, tap on the screen to reposition the focal point of the image and take a few more shots at different angles. When you arrive home and look at them on your computer or TV, you can more easily choose which photo produced the best effect. At this point, you can also use the Wise Photos app to recompose your photos and experiment with other vanishing point settings.
Just as different angles change the overall image, so does the format of the photo itself. Sometimes keeping the iPhone upright makes for a more dramatic vanishing point since the eye journeys further along the converging lines, and at other times flipping the iPhone sideways to create a horizontal image makes it more interesting. With the Wise Camera app, it’s easy to see that a horizontal photo works well if there is a wide starting point. For example, if you bend down low in the middle of train tracks, the metal rails seem to stretch from one side of the screen to the other, which makes a very eye-catching shot. Vertical shots are more appropriate when there are tall trees or structures nearby because you won’t want to lose the top of them.
The vanishing point option has a big advantage over other forms of composition: its straight, angular lines are more energetic and forceful than wavy lines and meandering curves. It demands attention! When the distant point is aligned with the middle of the frame, the resulting symmetry makes it a commanding image.
Why I Like Vanishing Points
I love a photo that takes me into the image in some way. This artistic composition rule, in particular, does that with ease. There’s no denying what the photographer wants you to see and experience. Your eyes travel from the front of the image all the way to the back without deviation. You can’t help yourself — you follow those directional cues without a second thought, which is what makes this type of image so engaging.
A little about me. I love creating digital products! Making Apple apps has been a fantastic creative outlet and a collaborative experience with many talented people. Helping others with what I love to do inspires me. You can find all my apps at my Digiguys Apps website.