Dear friend,

I’m currently at a football stadium, and had a small epiphany: there is something integral to us as human beings when it comes to depth-perception.

This is my theory:

  1. The reason why humans have two eyes (side by side) is that it gives us stereoscopic (depth perceiving) vision. If we go long periods of time without exercising our depth perception, some sort of mental dysfunctions may happen. For example, if you’re only in closed quarters all day (your home, office, car), the claustrophobia is damaging to us. We need to regularly see and experience depth (things close and very far away). I think this is why there is nothing as breathtaking as a beautiful landscape on top of a mountain: we can exercise our depth perception of our eyes, and our eyes can focus to (almost) infinity!
  2. Being able to experience and sense depth is what makes photography so fun, interesting, and challenging! As a photographer, we are always playing with depth– with the aperture we use in our cameras, what we decide to frame in the photograph, and where we stand. Changing all of these factors will change the depth of our photos.

The challenge of capturing depth in a photograph/movie/image/video

The problem of capturing depth in a photo, video, picture is this:

“How can you capture 3D reality/depth in a flat image?”

In film, they do this by panning in and out of scenes, and by having objects in the background move (parallax effect). As photographers, we can simulate depth by changing our aperture (shooting for more depth-of-field between f/8-f/16), or by how we frame our subjects (adding certain subjects in the foreground, middle-ground, and background).


Tip 1: Leading lines

One lesson I learned from studying the cinematography/composition of 2001 Space Odyssey is leading lines:


Tip 2: Shoot from corners

Another tip: to get more depth in a photograph, shoot at the edge of a corner, or a physical plane.

For example, here is a shadow selfie I took of myself at the edge of a brick fence. Note how my shadow curves around, and gives this photograph more depth:


Tip 3: Separation between the bottom of your subject’s feet and the ground

To get more depth in your photographs, make a little bit of separation between your subject and the ground. Like in this series of photographs as I was walking at Tokyo in night, I tried to get a little black space between the person’s feet, and the white fence below:


Tip 4: Shoot from inside a car

As a fun experiment: shoot from inside a car looking out. Do this when someone else is driving, and you are sitting in the passenger seat. Ideally you would try to photograph someone really far away whom is framed in the background (using the car doors as a natural frame):

Other examples of good selfies in cars, study the work of Lee Friedlander and also study URBAN LANDSCAPES.


Tip 5: Shoot into crowds!

Go to a festival or some public event, and shoot into the crowd! Fill the frame with your subjects, and integrate more layers into your photos!


Master photographers to study who do layers very well

To study more depth in photography, the master photographers I recommend include:

Color layers:

(Copyright: Alex Webb / Magnum Photos)

Note the 3 primary subjects in the shot, their depth in respect to one another- and the triangle unifying all of them.

Black and white layers:

Study layers in cinema

Also study great cinema. Some articles to get you going:


Composition 101

 

Everything you need to know about photography composition.

Photography Composition Tips

Color Theory

Color wheel theory: Dynamic tension between opposing colors. Image from CREATIVE EVERY DAY

Learn From the Masters of Composition

Sergio Larrain Compositions

Dynamic Photography Composition 101

Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION

Painting Compositions

Vermeer

Dynamic Photography Composition Tips

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Composition Theory

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Take your composition to the next level:


Street Photography Composition 101

DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Woman and door. Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Learn compositional theory:


Compositional lessons from the masters of art


Composition lectures


Composition pictures/grids


Golden Diagonal Composition

Golden Diagonal Composition / Kyoto Station, 2018