ERIC KIM

Photo Technique: Look Up

To be more creative, and to learn how to have more child-like delight in photography, LOOK UP!


London, NYC, Kyoto, Tokyo:

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See the streets from the perspective of a child

Low angle urban landscape. Uji, Kyoto 2017

The mistake:

We always keep our eyes at street level.

I think all photographers would benefit by looking up more often.


1. What is in the sky?

Airplane silhouette. Sapa, Vietnam 2016. Negative space allowing the airplane to exit the frame.

By looking up, you just see more things you might over-look, like airplanes passing you.

Or, you might miss out on beautiful clouds and sunsets.

Lovely photo by Fujifilm x100 Camera. Bangkok, 2017

2. Unique perspective

Kyoto, 2017. Google Nexus 6P and HDR+. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset. From low-angle, looking up.

Another mistake we make in photography:

We keep hunting for very extraordinary subjects or scenes, and pass up ordinary scenes.

I think photography is more interesting when we identify ordinary scenes, and we make the ordinary scene or subject look more interesting, by transforming it through unique composition or perspective.

Looking up. Kyoto, 2017
Looking up. Kyoto, 2017

For example, getting close to a wall, and making photos just looking up. This is why I like architecture photography — both for the back workout (like doing yoga stretches), but having that child-like sense of wonder, looking up. Because when you are a child, you’re always looking up.

For example, while in Kyoto, I saw this car on a lift:

Green car on lift. Kyoto, 2017

Shot from far-away, it is an OK photo.

But, it gets much more interesting when you get close to it, and shoot from a more unusual perspective — directly beneath. Because we rarely see the underneath of a car (unless you’re a mechanic):

Shot from under the car. Rusty muffler. Kyoto, 2017

Or get at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and photograph your subject, looking up — for a more dynamic perspective:

Diagonal photo of Cindy, in Uji Kyoto 2017. Shot from the bottom of a flight of stairs looking up.

3. Get on the ground, and shoot up

Getting on the ground, and shooting a low angle photograph of kids. Kyoto, 2017

Another idea to make better photos looking up — get on the ground, and shoot looking up with a wide-angle lens, like a 28mm lens.

Or you can put your camera on the ground, and point it upwards, to get a unique low-angle perspective.

Perspective lines in red. Low angle photograph of kids. Kyoto, 2017
Bodies of boys in different colors. Perspective lines in red. Low angle photograph of kids. Kyoto, 2017
Bodies of boys in different colors. Perspective lines in white. Low angle photograph of kids. Kyoto, 2017
Bodies of boys in different colors. Low angle photograph of kids. Kyoto, 2017

4. Crouch down low

Crouching low, and shooting up — which connects the diagonal lines on top to his head, making a more interesting photo. Kyoto, 2017

Or you don’t have to get super low — just crouch down, and shoot up. This will help simplify your background, and make your subject look ‘larger than life’.

Crouching down, shooting a street portrait of this man. Kyoto, 2017 // Ricoh GR II x 28mm

5. Diagonals while looking up

Looking up, diagonal composition. Traffic light. Kyoto, 2017

If you look up, shoot from a diagonal composition, to create a more dynamic composition.

6. What does the ceiling look like?

Yellow tones. Ceiling clouds. New York Public Library. Pentax 645Z

When we go into buildings or admire architecture — unless we are in Rome, we rarely look at the ceilings.

Library of Congress ceiling.

Look at the ceilings– appreciate the decoration of the roof, and study the materials. Also by not looking up, you often over-look beautiful artwork on the ceiling.

7. Do we know what that looks from underneath?

The nice thing about looking up — you find more subjects and objects to photograph, and you get a unique view– because most of us don’t know what ordinary things look like from low angles.

Peeling paint on ceiling. Kyoto, 2017
Blue abstract. Kyoto, 2017

8. Leading lines

Portrait of Cindy, shot from a super-low angle with 28mm on RICOH GR II. Uji, Kyoto 2017. Note the leading lines in the top of the frame.

If you want to make better compositions with leading lines, by looking up, and by getting super low, you can get lines/lights on the ceiling point to your subject.

9. Interesting architectural details

Another tip: If you’re going to shoot while looking up, fill the frame.

Filling the frame when looking up. Bangkok x FUJIFILM GFX

10. Silhouettes

Silhouette of basketball hoop. Shot looking up, -1 exposure compensation. Bangkok, 2017

Shoot with -1 or -2 exposure compensation, for dramatic silhouettes shot from a low-angle perspective.


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Red dot overlapped with man in suit. London tube, by Eric Kim

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