Sense of Depth in Photography

A photographer should know how perspective works and how to exploit it to render reality as he or she desires.

Simply stated, perspective relies on two fundamental rules:

  • The nearer the object, the bigger it appears.
  • Parallel lines seem to converge toward a point.

Our brain relies on these two tenets to perceive depth and distance. So, getting down to the nitty-gritty, if a photographer wants to create a conspicuous sense of depth, he should make the above-mentioned rules evident. On the contrary, if his aim is to make a picture look flat, he should minimize these two perspective effects.

Let us assume we want to produce a strong sense of depth. We can achieve our goal by inserting in our picture a few converging lines. The more converging, the more intense the sensation of depth. Alternatively, or together with it, we can put an object in the near foreground and a far background behind. The object in the foreground will appear bigger compared to the background and, again, this will improve our impression of depth. The nearer the object in the foreground, the higher the perception of depth. For instance, when shooting a landscape picture, have some flowers in the foreground and the panorama behind. On the other hand, if a photographer would like to make a picture look flat, he should remove any object in the foreground or step back from it so as to render it less conspicuous.

Be careful when getting closer to an object in the foreground, however, as it may get out of focus. Always keep an eye on the depth of focus of your camera and lens system when taking a picture. Both the foreground and the background should be in focus, unless a blur effect is intentional. So choose the aperture of your camera accordingly.