Sunday, 21 October 2012

The third dimension

Here are a couple of recent pictures. Yes. Autumn leaves I'm afraid.

Anyway, I found myself somewhat disappointed with the results:

Why so? you may ask.. Well it seems to me that much of the photographer's efforts are expended in creating the third dimension on a two dimensional medium. The tree concerned is very three dimensional. As I walked towards it I was impressed by the colours and the shape of the foliage and also by the depth of the subject.

Now we come to the heart of the problem: How do we portray the third dimension in a flat picture?

I have a selection of methods I call on to show a sense of depth: 

The first method is to get in close and use restricted depth of field to pull the subject away from the background. The two shots above are an example.

I like to use receding tones to imply distance. A foggy day is ideal for this, you can't beat mist or fog for creating a sense of place. Here are two pictures that use a foggy day to make a point about distance.

I think mist almost always adds to an image and is well worth seeking out, even if you need to get up before dawn, as was the case with this next picture. 

When the sun comes up mist like this will have gone in half an hour.

These final examples use two tricks at once. 

The extreme wide angle lens is well known for emphasising foreground while pushing the distant parts of the image further away.

You can make this effect even more pronounced by including shadows in the composition. The straight lines formed by shadows are excellent depth cues and help to establish that tricky third dimension in the viewer's mind.

So, why not get out there and try to create that third dimension...


  1. A great observational blog entry, very thought-provoking with great practical examples.


  2. Very many thanks, I am glad it hit the spot...