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Put your images into perspective: Part 1

Added on Saturday 24th of October 2009 04:23 am EST

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hat you see isn’t always what you photograph, especially when it comes to image perspective. Digital cameras can cause architectural elements to look distorted in the final photos. But with a little foresight and planning you can keep it all in perspective.


To shoot great digital photos that remain in perspective, we’ll:

•     Explore the dynamics of image perspective.

•     Look at the factors that produce perspective problems when shooting with a digital camera.

•     Show you a few easy ways to correct perspective problems while shooting.


Perspective is the representation in an image of the spatial relationship of objects as we view them. Objects of the same size in an image appear proportionately smaller the farther they are from the camera, as shown in Figure A. Unfortunately, because digital cameras are susceptible to perspective problems due to their relatively compact lenses, you may end up with perspective issues in your images. We’ll look at perspective problems and how to correct them before you even take your images into Photoshop.




Coming up: In next month’s issue we’ll explore how to use Photoshop to correct image distortion caused from your digital camera.


Perspective history


Although perspective may seem like an obvious design element today, there was a time when it wasn’t well understood. Because early artists didn’t fully comprehend the visual relationships between foreground and background objects, they had difficulty representing them. So, instead of creating drawings in which objects appeared to naturally recess into the distance, they tended to make drawings in which they placed all of the primary objects in the foreground, and located only a few secondary objects in the background.

As a result, such drawings tend to give the impression of more one-dimensional cuts-outs than three-dimensional natural representations, as shown in Figure B. It wasn’t until about the 15th century, when artists became fixated with the representation of reality in drawings, that they studied and eventually worked out the techniques of how to draw perspective accurately.



The artists who conquered perspective discovered that not only did same-size objects appear to become progressively smaller the farther they are from the viewer, but that they also diminish in size in an orderly and predictable way. This is especially noticeable in objects that contain parallel lines. The farther away from a viewer a point on a set of parallel lines is, the closer the distance between the parallel lines appears.

At infinity, horizontal parallel lines seem to disappear into what’s called a vanishing point on the horizon. A road, for example, has one horizontal vanishing point, whereas a rectangular building, when viewed so two sides are visible, has two horizontal vanishing points. 


Problems in perspective paradise


With the aid of a drawing device known as the camera obscura, artists also discovered at about this time that such objects possess a third vertical vanishing point. This means that the lines on the sides of a building not only vanish into the horizon, but into the azimuth as well, as shown in Figure C.


Note: An azimuth is an arc measured from the horizon to a point in the sky.



But when artists began to incorporate...


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