Getting a Killer Vanishing Point in Your Photography

Marc Schenker by Marc Schenker on

Photographers always want to treat their audience to new perspectives in their images. That makes things much more interesting for viewers and also ups the photographer’s credibility and reputation.

Showcasing interesting perspectives also shows off the skill set of a photographer, so if you’ve always wanted to add something new to your repertoire, have we got something for you today.

Let’s talk about the vanishing point. From a pure, graphical perspective, few techniques are as captivating and successful at drawing the viewer’s eye than this one is. That’s precisely what makes it such a novel and smart method to incorporate into your pictures.

Getting a vanishing point into your pictures is easier than you may suspect, and you can do it in one of two ways.

Getting a Killer Vanishing Point in Your Photography
Photo by Dirk Sebregts

Defining the Vanishing Point

Before we get into creating the vanishing point in your images, we want to carefully define it, so that there’s no misunderstanding what we’re talking about in this tutorial. Essentially, it’s the point in an image on the horizon line where the receding, parallel lines get smaller.

Here’s how the viewer will appreciate this point as he’s looking at the image: the vanishing point will appear closer together and smaller than any other point in the image. That’s because, when distances get farther and farther away from the viewer, they become smaller and smaller until they just… appear to vanish at a point. Poof! And that’s your vanishing point in a nutshell.

The vanishing point is typically used to display perspective in an epic and sweeping manner, when the photographer feels it’s necessary that the viewer understands the enormity of the area he’s shooting.

Like we said, you can get this spectacular effect in your pictures in two, different ways.

Creating the Vanishing Point Without Technology

Sometimes, you’ll get lucky because the scene you’re shooting just happens to have an obvious vanishing point that’s easy to spot even by the most novice eyes. Examples would be railroad tracks and roads going off into the distance, on the horizon. What about times when the vanishing point is not quite so blatant?

Fortunately for you, there are ways to make the vanishing point more obvious than it is.

The Wide-Angle Lens

One tactic is to break out your old, trusty wide-angle lens. The wide-angle lens has always been perfect for embellishing the scale of any picture, as well as to give it an additional, dramatic look and feel.

If you want, you can even maximize this embellishment effect further still by shooting a scene where the lines start quite near to the foreground. Still want the dramatic effect of the vanishing point, but a little bit less so? No problem – just use more zoom in the shot.

You can also try using that highly regarded technique called the rule of thirds to get the vanishing point into your photograph more noticeably. Remember how the rule of thirds is based on virtually dividing your image into nine, equal-sized areas? Try aligning your vanishing point precisely on one of the intersections of this grid.

Using Your Subject Well

Another approach you can try to manually make the vanishing point in a shot more noticeable is cleverly working with your subject. To do this, change the way that you think about the vanishing point: look at the leading lines as arrows that are literally pointing your audience to look at your subject. That’s why you might want to place your subject right at the spot where the two lines of the vanishing point meet. It’s a brilliant-yet-simple way to use the vanishing point while also highlighting your subject.

You still have to use some discretion while doing this because you don’t want the subject to be directly in front of the vanishing point, so obscuring it. Go for the ideal place, which is a point in front of the vanishing point that’s still characterized by the leading lines that provide depth and perspective, yet that makes it obvious that the audience’s eyes should land on your subject. It takes a bit of thought to hit this sweet spot, but it’s well worth it.

Creating the Vanishing Point with Technology

If you don’t have time or just don’t want to bother with composing the vanishing point yourself in your images, don’t sweat it. Technology can always help you out these days, which is something it does in a lot of situations anyway. The easiest way to take a shortcut to getting the vanishing point you want is… to simply break out your copy of that trusty Adobe Photoshop.

Just open your image in Photoshop, and choose the “create a new layer” feature. From here, you can go straight to applying the filter by choosing the filter menu and selecting the vanishing point option. Click on “create plane,” and then choose four, distinct spots on your image (this is where the vanishing point will be inserted). You can only adjust your plane when the grid turns blue.

Finally, you have the option of selecting “edit plane” to make any adjustments that you want. If you want to change the perspective, just drag the corners of the frame. To adjust the image and the newly created vanishing point, use the brush, stamp and marquee tool.

The Vanishing Point Makes Things More Interesting

As a photographer, you want an audience to stare at, analyze and, yes, admire your art. By including nifty perspectives like the vanishing point, you can elevate your work to give your audience something well worth looking at for a long time to come.

Whether you opt to add the vanishing point manually, by looking for converging lines in scenes, or by using a program like Photoshop, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is getting something unique like this into your images. When you do, you change the graphical perspective of your shot and heighten the sense of interest that your subject obtains while glancing at your work.

Try the vanishing point in your images. Try including it manually, and try using Photoshop, too. Then, settle on what suits you best, and take your photography to the next level.

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