An Easy Guide To Forced Perspective Photography

Are you interested in adding a new photography niche to your repertoire? We've got you covered with this in-depth guide to creating forced perspective photos.


Whether you’re brand new to photography and you’re trying to figure out what niche to focus on or you’re a seasoned professional who wants a new challenge, forced perspective photography is a fun and creative way to play with human perception. If you’re interested in learning to create optical illusions in your photography, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be walking you through exactly what forced perspective photography is and how to use it so that you can level up your photography online portfolio website and stand out from the competition.

What Is Forced Perspective Photography?

Forced perspective is a photography technique that uses the space between your subjects to create an interesting or unusual relationship between them. This photography trick manipulates the viewer’s perception of the space and distance between two objects, creating an optical illusion.

Forced perspective photography is common in both photography and videography, and it is often used to make people or objects appear to be larger, smaller, closer, or farther away than they really are. While photographers can create forced perspective photos by using photo editing software in post-production, forced perspective photos are usually created in camera.

A common example of forced perspective photography is the classic photo of a tourist appearing to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa, where the angle of the shot is what makes it a convincing optical illusion. This photography technique makes it look like a person is large enough to hold up this giant building, when in reality, this perception is created through the distance of each subject from the camera. Forced perspective photography is often used in an attempt to trick the viewer’s eye into perceiving a situation that isn’t exactly what it seems.

Another example of forced perspective that you may recognize can be found in movies where humans fight dinosaurs or giants and hobbits sit at the same table. In these situations, the dinosaur might actually be a small toy model, and the hobbit is simply sitting farther away from the camera to create the illusion of a vast difference in size.

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1. Choose Your Equipment

While you don’t necessarily need a fancy DSLR or advanced photography gear in order to create a forced perspective photo, it’s a good idea to start with figuring out what equipment you’ll be using to capture your composition. When you’re just getting started, there is absolutely no reason for you to spend a ton of money on camera equipment when you have a smartphone, your old digital camera, or even a disposable film camera on hand. As you practice and advance in your forced perspective skills, you can upgrade your camera equipment to match.

2. Plan Your Photo Ahead of Time

As a photographer, you probably already understand the importance of planning out your photoshoots ahead of time. Since even the smallest detail can ruin the illusion, the need to plan is even more important when it comes to forced perspective photography! In order to create a successful illusion using forced perspective, you need to have a good idea of exactly what you are going to do to make it happen. Start by figuring out which of your objects should be larger and which should be smaller. The subject that needs to appear larger should be placed closer to your camera, and the subject that will appear smaller should be placed farther away.

3. Make Adjustments as You Go

While planning your composition is an integral part of forced perspective photography, it’s equally important that you are able to adapt as things change in the moment. You can plan all you want, but sometimes an idea that works perfectly in your mind just doesn’t translate well when you go to photography it. This is why you will probably want to use a digital camera or smartphone where you can instantly review your photos, as opposed to a film camera where you just have to hope for the best and you won’t know if you’ve succeeded until you get your film developed.

4. Make Sure That Both of Your Subjects Are in Focus

The number one thing that immediately differentiates a professional forced perspective photograph from one taken by an amateur is whether both subjects are in focus. This is what will trick the viewer’s eye into believing that both of the subjects are actually on the same plane when in reality they are not. The illusion will probably be ruined if the subject in the foreground is in focus and the background is blurry or vice versa. If you’re using a DSLR camera for your forced perspective photography, you can achieve this by setting your aperture to something narrow, like f/16. Make sure to take some test photos and try out different settings to find that one that creates the most convincing forced perspective illusion. Since a narrow aperture means the camera is letting in less light, make sure that you have sufficient lighting or that you are using a higher ISO to compensate.

5. Try a Wide Angle Lens

While there is no specific camera equipment required to take a convincing forced perspective photo, it can be fun to experiment with different lenses and see what effect they have on your composition. A wide-angle lens can provide you with a wider field of view and allow you to get closer to your foreground subject without cropping out the background. Anything under 35mm is considered a wide-angle lens, but if you’re going to go wider, just keep an eye out for distortion which can occur when you use certain lenses.

6. Use a Large, Open Space as Your Setting

If you have access to one, a bigger space will bring you more options when it comes to creating an optical illusion using the forced perspective technique. The bigger the location, the more you will be able to play around with how near and far your subjects are, enabling you to create some really unique and memorable images. While it’s definitely possible to create forced perspective photography even in a small space or at home, working in a cramped location can limit your options when it comes to realizing your creative concept.

7. Keep Your Photo Simple

Minimalist photography has shown the immense impact that a simplified image can have. When you’re creating a forced perspective photo, make sure that every single thing that is inside the frame contributes to the illusion. If something is distracting from your concept, remove it from the composition. The simpler your setup is, the easier it will be to eliminate elements that could potentially ruin the illusion of your forced perspective photography.

8. Hire a Model

One of the most common techniques for creating a forced perspective image involves using a person’s hand. It may seem easy enough to take a photo with one hand while you use your other hand as a model, but in reality, things can get complicated quickly. It will probably save you a ton of time and frustration if you are able to work with a friend or model, or even partner up with another photographer and take turns being the subject. Plus, you may even end up coming up with some awesome collaborative ideas while you’re at it.

9. Let Your Creativity Run Wild

There are so many great examples of forced perspective photos for you to take inspiration from, and those concepts can be a great place to start when you are first trying to come up with ideas for your forced perspective photography. Just make sure that you don’t let the most common ideas out there stop you from getting really creative and coming up with your own unique and original force perspective concepts. While it’s fun to create a photo based on something you’ve seen, creating your own concept, figuring out how to make it work, and achieving the result you had in mind will be all the more satisfying. You might even come up with an amazing new photo series that you can feature in your online photography portfolio.

As you can see, forced perspective photography is a great way to expand your creativity and showcase your unique point of view as photography. The best forced perspective photos are created using a combination of careful planning and an openness to going with the flow and adjusting as needed along the way.

Now that you know all there is to know about forced perspective photography and how to use it, it’s time to get out there and start taking some awesome photos that you can add to your online portfolio.

Want to learn more amazing techniques to level up your photography?

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