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Make it or Fake it? - Perspective Rules OK! - part 2 of 1 2 3 4

by Mike McNamee Published 01/10/2015

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There are three main geometric effects of perspective:
1. Convergence
2. Foreshortening
3. Diminution of scale

Thus railway lines converge as they go into the distance even though they are actually the same distance apart. Telegraph poles that are evenly spaced appear to be closer together as they move into the distance - foreshortening. Things in the distance look smaller - diminution. All these are true geometric effects and can be plotted out on a large piece of paper using the Horizon Line as a point of reference (more on this later).

Apart from geometrical effects there are also others. Objects in the distance tend to be more desaturated and also shift towards blue in the presence of atmospheric haze. Objects in the distance contain less detail, ie a tree in the foreground may show every leaf whereas one on the horizon may simply be a blob of colour. The same applies to texture, so a tweed jacket may show all the cloth detail up close but become a unified single colour in the distance.

Thus one of the classic mistakes made by beginners is to take a detailed tree, scale it and drop it into a scene where it stands out razor sharp against its subdued and soft surroundings.


Another common mistake is to apply perspective correction to a subject that does not even contain the correct detail and structure. Thus if we look at Andrew Dobell's Spiderman image, the building the couple are attached to was originally shot straight on and then distorted to match the required perspective. This works fine but if there had been a windowsill involved it would have lacked the required shape when rotated and remained flat. This is an example of where planning and sketching can assist in the development of a composite - if you know the window-sill has to stick out, then shoot it like that; sketch things out, work out the perspective then target your shooting accordingly. Experience rapidly teaches you that stock sources are invariably not quite right for the task in hand and the message when you find an interesting subject is to shoot it from every angle you can think of - luck favours the prepared!


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1st Published 01/10/2015
last update 06/11/2019 11:02:15

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