Picture This: Vanishing Points

Last week we talked about silhouettes, an easy to construct composition for photos with a light source behind the object. This week, we’ll be talking about vanishing points: a compositional design where the object of your photo extends so far into the distance that it just disappears (or comes close to disappearing).

So, what kind of objects can you use for vanishing points? Roads that disappear into the distance are the most obvious and popular choice for vanishing point photos but you might want to try things that extend and disappear in different quadrants of your photo, keeping in mind the intersecting points in the rule of thirds. Try stairs, light posts, kitchen counters, trees, sidewalks, ants marching in a line. For some good photo ideas, check out this Flickr group!

Light illuminates a man resting under a bridge next to a run-off stream.
Can you see the rule of thirds lines? Which quadrant or intersecting point does the vanishing point disappear in?

To simplest way to produce a vanishing point image is to line up your camera with a long horizontal or vertical line and look down it towards the end. If you are really close to your object, you might want to focus on a point close to you (such as in photographing a pencil). If you are going to photograph something large like a road or a tree, you probably need to stand back and try to get as much into focus as possible by focusing on something in the mid-ground of your image. You may also want to look for patterns as they tend to draw the eye more. What do I mean? Try incorporating bricks, pillars, lines, or alternating colors. These will help draw the eye into your photo and make the distances look even bigger than they really are.

A girl climbs some steps up a mountain.
If you're photographing something at a distance, try focusing on something in the middle ground of your photo to get more detail throughout your frame.

Finally, consider that not all vanishing points need to disappear into the distance. It’s perfectly okay for them to disappear at the edge of your frame or to just disappear all together if it creates the illusion that a. it simply disappeared (in the case of rainbows) or b. that it might continue on indefinitely outside of the frame. The vanishing point might even just disappear around a corner! Try things out and get creative! Line up your child’s cars across the living room floor and take a photo of them “disappearing” or look down the long hallway of a school and photograph the rows of doors disappearing into some unknown office at the end. There are lots of great photos to be capture out there if you just put your mind and your creative eye to it!

When you’re finished photographing, come back and post your photo here in the comments. If you missed last week’s challenge because of the server outage and still want to give it a go, feel free to post your photos of silhouettes here, too. Okay, are you ready? On your mark, get set, shoot!

By Thelma

Thelma is a photographer and traveler currently residing in Sydney, Australia. In her free time she can be found with her nose behind a camera or obsessing over koalas.

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