Photography Angles

There’s an epidemic among fauxtogs. Some call it “creative” others call it turning your camera on a 30 degree angle. I’ve seen it in professional work too, and when done right, turning your camera in a direction actually does work. So, how can you avoid having your work look unflattering/ridiculous and requiring viewers to tilt their head to look at your poorly exposed, terribly composed crap? Read on.

Consider this: your subject is sitting right in the middle of your frame, in the ideal spot. The ground and sky sit level. You turn your camera some degree in a direction, and immediately, the ground fills a nice corner of your viewfinder, and the sky has magically opened up, and your subject hasn’t moved from the dead center. Compositionally, you’ve ruined the balance of ground and sky, and your subject is magically on a hill!

We’ve all seen it at some event or photoshoot. Here’s why it goes wrong: Cameras go on an angle because the fauxtog doesn’t know how to fit a detail in, or they’re trying to make it look creative. At any rate, it usually doesn’t work because they don’t understand that despite shooting on an angle, it won’t come out like that, because photos must be level. The fauxtog sees it at as level, but when they “edit” the photo, it comes out on a “beautiful” 30 degree turn. If the pop-up flash fired, it’s probably going to look worse.

How can you avoid it? I’ve seen angles work when shooting from top down, or looking up. I can’t say that all angle-shooting is bad. Consider taking a step back, consider not laying down, consider switching lenses. If you’re trying to squeeze a detail in, consider approaching the shot from a different location. Also consider how going on an angle will affect lighting. Another solution is to shoot it level first, try to fit your detail in, get a solid shot, then try a couple on an angle. In post, compare both, and use the best one. I’ve seen too many instances where pho (and faux) togs go with their ‘creative’ gut instinct and scrap shooting level altogether and it just looks unflattering. If you don’t have to put the shot on an angle, my recommendation is to not.

If you’re shooting an event, some themes call for angled shots, some call for angled fisheyes, and some just don’t need it. One trick to making your photos look better is knowing when to use angles to capture the ambiance and the subject.

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  1. NotAPhotog

    That top photo is awful. There is so much garbage in the shot, the sky is blown out, the kids are looking all over with tears and hands in their face, the clothes are more in focus than the subjects…all of it, garbage.

  2. I’m less bothered by the angle than by what’s going on in the photo. What is all that junk behind the kids? Why is the laundry blowing around on the clothesline? And why are the kids crying? It’s just … weird.

    I have seen some photos turn their cameras about 45 degrees so the photo ends up being a diamond shape. That is, at best, awkward, especially if you have anything other than a square. As someone who assigns shoots to photogs, I have had more than once to reject photos that come back like that. They think it’s cute or clever but it does me no good.

  3. BurninBiomass

    See, the second one bothers me more. It looks like her soup (or what ever it is) is going to spill, and its the same if you flip it to horizontal.

  4. itgetsworse

    The first one is awful. This fauxtog is in my town (Midlothian, TX) and that picture is one of her better shots. If you look up her website, or should I say her ‘professional facebook page’ you’ll be horrified that people pay for that service. So, youarentoaphotographer, if you want more pics for your main site, check out her page…’ll never run out of examples of what NOT to do.

  5. Back in my days doing films and video production, my production outfit used dutch tilts (a.k.a. dutch angles, a.k.a. the topic this article is talking about) in a number of places with great results. Usually we used it when someone heard something awful, and we were trying to convey a drastic world changing emotion, or any time we wanted to leave the viewer with a jarred, disturbed feeling. It got a lot of traction in horror and psychological flicks. You can *maybe* pull it off for some dream sequences as well, depending on the topic.

    The one place we would never use it is in cheery segments, or times when everything is going according to plan. It also would never rear its head during commercial shoots, weddings, or special events. It’s just too jarring. In photography, I can never understand people that want these weird angled shots. It always looks goofy to me.

    That said, I did recently publish a photo that I intentionally did a very slight (maybe a couple degrees) dutch tilt on. If you sit looking at the photo long enough you’d realize it, but not right away. The shot looked a little off balance the way it was composed when the camera was level, but with just a hair bit of tilt, it fell beautifully into place. But again, that was maybe a couple degrees, not 45, and the balance of the elements in the exposure keep you from noticing it right off the bat, if at all.

    Generally, the rule on dutch angles is the same rule as makeup: if it’s the first thing you notice, you’re doing it wrong.

    • Marley Hunter

      OH JimC one of the worst posters on this site next to browneyedgirljoke both are hack photographers yet act like they get paid when they are the real fauxs among sheep.

  6. I hate Fauxtography

    Both photo ex samples are pretty bad. I think maybe they are supposed to be bad examples? But then the first one seems pretty level, so… Eh.. Another poorly written article. The author seems to have a little understanding of the subject, but it’s not explained very clearly at all. Put that with the examples, and it just doesn’t quite work. Kind of like Dutch angles in family and event photography 😉

    • If I were going to offer a critique to this piece, I will admit that I was a little surprised that the entire article never labelled the name of this egregious photographic sin. If I’m explaining the rule of thirds, labeling it “The Rule of Thirds” makes it easier for the aspiring pro to discuss it later with others. It’s certainly easier than expecting him to talk about “that way you’re supposed to put an imaginary tic-tac-toe board on the viewfinder and try to put things there so they line up with the lines and intersections so it looks nice”.

      That said, the article as a whole isn’t bad. I do like that they point out that it’s not always a photographic wrongdoing to use them. I think they aught to be used sparingly, kind of like writing in all caps and punctuating only with exclamation marks. There are certain rare and select times when it works, but if someone handed you a novel full of that, you’d never make it through the first page.

      • Agreed! I think JimC’s explanation of why dutch tilt is used and when it ought not be used is far clearer than the original article above…and the makeup analogy is a good one.

        I’ve been guilty of using tilt on rare occasion with snapshots when trying to establish a strange point-of-view, such as giving the photo a deliberate “from the hip” look or a “peeking round the corner” look. But I’d never do it for a commercial project or serious portraiture.

  7. ciao_chao

    I think it’s a bit better written than the photoshop article. It’s a pity that it’s a bit brief and fails to explore the reason behind sensible application of angles. There are some great documentary photos which have come out at jaunty angles, sometimes deliberate sometimes simply because the photographer had to grab the shot any way possible. Likewise you can have a photo where the subject is really blurry but still make it into National Geographic. You’re right it’s about knowing how and when, but some good examples and explain why they are good would have made a far more informative article.

    • Because the person who wrote it clearly doesn’t have a clue what they’re writing about, but that’s a theme for this site. Just fire at a bunch of pictures and hope the fauxtography label sticks, then fire off some random articles and hope one of them remotely resembles good advice.

      The real game to play is “where did the site admin steal these images from?” The first was obviously a fauxtography submission, but since the image isn’t discussed, its use doesn’t fall under fair use, surprise surprise.

      The second, well off to hunt and see where it’s taken from.

  8. I like that the article instructs you to shoot a “normal” shot first. Then go with a creative spin.

  9. Dutch angles are perfectly acceptable, but, as with ALL photography, they have to be part of an overall composition. Weird angles are just weird angles, but an unusual angle that lines up elements of the subject might give a you a good balance you couldn’t otherwise achieve shooting straight on. To do it right, you really have to set up the photo. You can’t just snap a diagonal angle and hopes it comes out kewl.

  10. Marley Hunter

    Another joke blog post from a joke site filled with better then you self proclaimed photographers.

  11. “your subject is sitting right in the middle of your frame, in the ideal spot”
    What about this rule of thirds ? 🙂

    • Haha that’s exactly what I was thinking. They have a point with the weird angles, but otherwise, I’m pretty sure they have no idea what they’re talking about

  12. Emily Taylor

    I hate when people waste so much money on like a fucking 1D and L lenses only to waste it on their stupid bullshit like documented on this site. I should start just stealing those cameras

  13. Throughout the great pattern of thgnis you get an A for effort and hard work. Where you misplaced me was on all the specifics. As people say, the devil is in the details And that couldn’t be more correct at this point. Having said that, permit me reveal to you just what did work. The article (parts of it) is certainly incredibly engaging which is possibly the reason why I am making the effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, even though I can see a jumps in reason you come up with, I am definitely not sure of just how you seem to connect your details that help to make the final result. For the moment I shall yield to your point but trust in the future you connect your facts much better.

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