Last updated on June 29th, 2020

In simple terms, vantage point is the place from which you see things. If you are looking down from a mountain, then it’s a high vantage point giving you a good look of the city or landscape from overhead; while from down below, you will get a view of the mountains. It is the same with photography.

What is Vantage Point in Photography?

Vantage point in photography refers to the position from where you take your photograph. Vantage point isn’t simply a position of being, it is an artistic and technical choice made by photographers who want to improve their photography. The equipment used are there to aid the requirements of a particular vantage point.

Storytelling Take on Vantage Point

Vantage point can be simply the side from which we are looking at a particular scene. For example, you could be zoomed in to a dorm room and looking at a story of a particular student, and how the whole college works around the student. Or you could look at a bird’s eye view of the same college, and see how everything collaborates. Vantage point is a storytelling tool. Making it seem like only a technical skill is a disservice to the art of storytelling in photography, where camera angle and viewpoint convey a lot.

Different Types of Vantage Points in Photography

Basically, there are a total of three vantage points possible: low angle, high angle, and front angle. In reality though, especially with modern technology, we have more than these three, with subtle and not-so-subtle variations. Let’s look at some of the possible vantage points in photography that help make pictures aesthetic.

The Front-Angle Vantage Point

This is often used in portraits and landscapes. Sometimes, we have a spectacular subject and shoot directly from the front and try to do justice. Two kinds of subjects shine through in this: the landscapes that cannot be photographed any other way, and the portraits that require the viewers to understand the subject. The front-angle vantage point is simple, but is aimed at understanding the subject in its honest portrayal.

front-angle vantage point portrait

When to Use the Front-Angle Vantage Point

Use the front angle for landscapes, cityscapes, wide angles, point-of-view angles, etc. It also happens to be the most common angle, so it might seem less of a storytelling tool than a normal way of shooting. However, the power of its storytelling capabilities cannot be undermined.

Pros

  • It’s a simple and straight-forward storytelling.
  • It’s an honest subject portrayal.
  • The distortion is least if the subject is maintained in front of the camera.

Cons

  • It can be boring or stagnant.
  • The camera adds nothing to the picture.
  • It is an easy fallback in case the photographer isn’t able to think it through.

The Low-Angle Vantage Point

The low angle has often been used to portray power of the subject. Even in our lives, when we look up at something, it appears grand. Looking at the mountains is a surreal experience because they are all overpowering. Lower vantage points do exactly the same thing, while also adding a sense of drama. Where is it often used? Some of the landscapes employ this tool of storytelling like the mountains and forts, but mostly in cinematic and themed portraits, and in architectural photography where we are marveling the creation.

low-angle vantage point

When to Use the Lower Vantage Point?

When you are creating a larger than life image, the use of the low-angle vantage point becomes important. It is almost an overused tool now to make someone appear taller. But there needs to be more than making someone taller like telling a story. A character at the lower end is the controlled, and a character at the upper end is the controller. Same goes with majestic forts—you look up to them.

Pros

  • It creates a sense of drama.
  • It creates a personality.
  • It can keep viewers in awe.

Cons

  • It can go wrong unless well-visualized.
  • Distortion can be hard to control.
  • It has been overused for overpowering portraits in cinema, so there’s less scope of adventure.

The High-Angle Vantage Point

The high angle or the higher vantage point makes everything appear smaller. It is some form of a magical tool that can make any subject less daunting. Kids, for example, are seen from a higher vantage point—making them appear friendly and lovable in our normal lives. When we use it for storytelling, we use this angle to make anyone less projecting. In conjunction with another character who appears larger, this can create an even more interesting story perspective, as is the case for cinematic forms of photography and films.

high-angle vantage point

When to Use the Higher Vantage Point?

Wildlife, portraits and landscapes have all gained from a higher vantage point to make subjects appear friendly. In some ways, portraits appear light-hearted and often comical from such an angle. They could also appear endangered or inferior – depending on how you are using other elements of photography to build up your story.

Pros

  • It creates a sense of drama.
  • It creates a story.
  • It can keep viewers feel emotions, especially when shooting portraits.

Cons

  • It can go wrong unless well-visualized.
  • Distortion can be hard to control.
  • It can appear demeaning, especially to portraits.

The Worm’s Eye View from the Ground

The worm’s eye view is extreme low angle or the lowest vantage point. As the name suggests, it’s photographed from the ground. The camera directly looks at places up above through this view. It makes for an exaggerated point of view—with pronounced impact. It is used in modern architecture plenty of times. It can help highlight forms and shapes, either against the light or in perfectly diffused light. It is also an angle that is used to showcase the vastness. It can be a fun tool for storytelling, but it can also be a daunting task, especially when minding the lines in architecture.

worm's eye view vantage point

When to Use the Worm’s Eye View?

As mentioned, the impact of this view is most pronounced and useful in architecture, especially buildings with parallel lines. It is also useful to use when portraying a subject as playful. It can make the subject appear villainy, but also it can make subjects goofy, especially when they are close to the camera due to camera lens distortion.

Pros

  • It gives novelty to the images.
  • It can evoke playfulness.
  • It is the best way to create some humor in photographic stories.

Cons

  • It can go wrong faster than in the higher vantage point.
  • You are often shooting silhouetted subjects with sun in the back: very hard to control exposure without a Speedlight.

The Bird’s Eye View from the Sky

For starters, it doesn’t have to be taken from the sky. It simply means a shot where the camera is overhead and looking down at the subject. The bird’s eye view has recently become more popular due to the lower cost of drones, image licensing and other aspects. The bird’s eye view provides a complete representation of a subject from above. In terms of cities, seas, forests, forts, palaces, etc., there’s no way to get a more wholesome view unless with a drone or aircraft. Drones have made it possible for us to shoot angles and positions that were once considered impossible to shoot.

bird's eye view

When to Use the Bird’s Eye View?

It is used extensively while shooting nature, be it in forests, or skies, or mountains. It is also used in creative portraits including wedding photography. The bird’s eye view doesn’t always have to be looking towards the ground. One scenario is to use a drone and the bird’s eye view to photograph mountain climbers. And some of the most stunning landscape images are made using this view.

Pros

  • It provides a coverage beyond any other view.
  • It creates pictures that are immediately unique and likeable.
  • There’s a new viewpoint for storytelling almost everywhere, and your options increase manifold.

Cons

  • It is equipment intensive, and most of the times you require a drone.
  • There’s risk associated with the use of drones, and accidents have happened plenty of times.
  • The regulations across the world are tightening and the permits may be an issue for several photographers, making it an elusive genre of photography.

Equipment for the Bird’s Eye View

If it is a top-angle shot, then no special equipment is needed. However, for proper bird’s eye view drones are required. Operating a drone is another challenge and requires the photographer to undertake training to obtain a flying license in many parts of the world.

Vantage Point in Commercial Product Photography

Commercial product photography employs almost all possible angles to showcase products, while at other times, it is a world of minimalism. This creative minimalism is where we will be tapping our brains in to, making the visual immortal. Some of the creative examples of vantage point in the product pictures can be as follows:

Almost Intrusive Angle – Slightly from the Top

Food photography employs a slightly higher vantage point. This makes it a personal and almost intrusive space. Camera is usually close-in on the subject, and in conjunction with light and the setup, the food starts interacting almost seductively with the viewers.

intrusive angle vantage point

A 45% Angle from the Top – A Showcase Image

Products require coverage as well as creativity. A go-to vantage point is the 45% angle from the top of the subject (front-top). There’s enough coverage, and for photographers who play with lights, backdrops, and setups, there’s enough to play with. Food is also shot in a similar way at times.

45 degree angle vantage point

Top Angle – Bird’s Eye View

Top angle in product photography is an additional angle used to provide coverage to the product. It is used especially for the products that have details or textures, or something important on the top. Top angle is also used for covering packaging of the product effectively.

bird's eye view stadium

Low Angle

Low angle in product photography is used for grandeur in a product. Used plenty of times for products to make them larger than life, especially while shooting shoes and jewelry, it is one of the successful photography angles for commercial photography.

low-angle product photography jewelry

How to Use Vantage Points to Tell Your Story

Vantage points have to be one of the most important skills in the arsenal of a photographer. It helps in storytelling stands you apart from the crowd. It helps define a photographer’s vision. Vantage point is also a technical tool. Especially in case of architecture and coverage shots, a photographer needs to be aware of the technical challenges, like distortion, drone-handling, etc., and make the best possible decision to come up with the perfect vantage point. To use it effectively though, you must experiment with angles and not be conservative with photography.