Ever wanted to hold the Pyramid of Giza in your palm? With forced perspective photography, you might just be able to.
From the power to crush a skyscraper with your fingertips, to making an ant appear larger than a dog, forced perspective allows you to capture unique shots.
In fact, there are several ways you can use forced perspective to make your photos more dynamic, impactful, and thought provoking.
In this article, we’ll provide a collection of the effective forced perspective ideas you can try right now. But first...
What is Forced Perspective?
Forced perspective is an optical illusion caused by making objects appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than they actually are. As a form of perspective photography, forced perspective shots have intriguing spatial relationships.
Depending on the composition, this type of shot can evoke several interesting responses, from humor to amazement. Imagine a tiny man drinking from a massive coffee cup, or a pair of shoes appearing to float in thin air.
How is forced perspective photography achieved?
To achieve forced perspective in your photography, you'll need a clever vantage point. The right angle of a building or the proper distance between two people can make or break your shot.
Forced perspective shots need a considerable amount of preparation and timing. The location you choose will be important, as well as the props and people you decide to work with. Make sure you have the right equipment, prepare props and gather a partner or two before you go out to shoot.
There are also several tools at your disposal, including something as simple as the lens type you choose.
With that in mind, gather your camera equipment and be ready to take a few test shots.
With forced perspective, preparation and practice makes perfect.
25 Creative Forced Perspective Ideas
- Get Inspired
- Plan, plan, plan!
- Load up Your Camera Bag
- Work with Others
- Take a Few Tests Shots
- Keep it Simple
- Capture the Light
- Use a Telephoto Lens
- Zoom Lens Illusions
- Try Small Aperture
- Apply a Tilt-Shift Lense
- Compose Your Shots
- Tilt your Shot
- Experiment with Angles
- Implement Props
- Make Some Cut Outs
- Go Abstract
- Play with Gravity
- Interact with Your Environment
- Distort Size
- Find Compelling Locations
- Incorporate Buildings
- Defy Logic
- Unleash Your Inner God
- Keep Experimenting
1. Get Inspired
Don't be afraid to type "forced perspective" in your Google search bar. There are thousands of inspiring forced perspective photography examples out there.
Take some time to examine your favorite images, and use them to give you ideas for your next photoshoot.
You can also take inspiration from other media, as there are several perspective examples out there. For instance, Lord of the Rings, Elf, and many more have used the technique to achieve effective optical illusions.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan!
Getting the perfect forced perspective shot can take a considerable amount of planning. Every visual element needs to harmonize and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Knowing that, you should plan your shot before you go out to take pictures. Consider the time, location, your equipment and your schedule.
Look over your notes and any reference perspective photos you have, and make a list of props or other tools you might need. If you're struggling to find everything you need for your vision, consider revising it.
Once you're at the desired location, consider where you're going to place your camera. Do you need to move props around, or change the environment in some way? Go ahead and arrange things multiple times, so you can see what works best.
3. Load Up Your Camera Bag
Forced perspective photography takes time, so make sure you're prepared. You and I both know you'll be shooting a lot, so pack extra batteries, extra memory cards, and some lens cloths.
You'll be far more organized if you use a quality camera bag. Not only will your equipment stay safe, but you'll also have easy access to everything you need.
4. Work With Others
Working with a partner can help you achieve some amazing forced perspective pictures. Not only can they pose for shots, but they also give you valuable feedback.
Before starting the photoshoot, tell your partner about your concept. As the photographer, you'll need to think about how you want them to pose, as well as where you want them framed in the shot. Express how you want everything to look, and explain how the final image is achievable.
If possible, provide reference forced perspective photos so everyone has a better visual understanding of the concept.
Remember that communication is key. When posing, your partner/s can't see what you see in the camera, so provide them with clear instructions. Have patience and be specific.
5. Take a Few Test Shots
Whether you're working with a partner or not, you'll want to take a few test shots. Set up your scene and then take some sample shots. If something seems off, try moving things around.
If you are working with a partner, show them your test shots. Sometimes having a second opinion can do wonders.
If you're not happy even after a couple different test shots, think about changing up your concept, adding more props, or even moving locations.
6. Keep it Simple
Taking an amazing forced perspective photography shot doesn't require a complicated setup.
In fact, sometimes the simplicity of a shot can speak volumes.
Before taking your concept to the field, think about which elements are necessary, and which ones are not. Having too many elements in frame can make your photo look busy, which would take away from the illusion.
Minimization in perspective photography also forces you to rely on perfect composition. In the case of forced perspective, extra elements can add unwanted context, which will weaken the impact of the illusion. Try your best to make everything in frame a part of your concept.
7. Compose Your Shots
Once you have a clear concept in mind, you'll need to think about how you're going to compose your shots.
For instance, if you want to take a picture of a giant shoe crushing a pedestrian, you'll have to consider all the elements that go into that scene.
First, you'll need your pedestrian to be far enough in the background so you can accentuate the size of the shoe in the foreground. Consider your location and how that will affect the perspective of your shot.
Next, you'll want to identify ways you can improve your photo's composition. Try moving subjects back and forth, or in and out of the shot.
Overall, composing your shots is all about a commitment to capturing your subjects the way you envisioned.
8. Limit Context
To make your forced perspective photography work, you'll need to assume the role of a photography magician.
Creating an effective illusion requires you to limit the context your viewers receive. Make people question how you could possibly get that shot, while also making the image easy to understand.
Ensure that only your subjects are in frame, so nothing can disrupt the illusion. At the same time, don't make it easy for viewers to figure out your tricks.
9. Capture the Light
Who said all your props have to be man-made?
Time and time again, light can be an exceptional addition to your photography.
Think about ways you can incorporate the sun or street lights into your shot. You can even base your entire concept around a cool light source.
Examples of light in forced perspective photography include: making it look like you're kicking the sun like a soccer ball, holding the moon in your hands, or grabbing a blurry light with a pair of chopsticks.
10. Use a Telephoto Lens
If you're going to incorporate the sun or even a far away building, think about using a telephoto lens.
This lens increases focal length, and has a narrow field of view. Using it, you can capture distant objects with the same level of precision as close-range ones.
Not only will this make your photo sharper, but will also give you more control over the composition of your shot.
Telephoto lenses can also make your subject appear closer to the camera, and emphasize blurred backgrounds, making it easier to create an optical illusion.
11. Distort Size
The size of your subjects is an important part of the illusion. If one person takes up the entire frame, while several others are much smaller, you can create the illusion of a massive giant.
When you're visualizing your concept, think of ways you can shake up the natural order of things. Make dogs the size of mountains, or people the size of mice.
You can do this by placing whatever you want to be larger in the foreground, and whatever you want to be smaller in the background.
12. Use a Zoom Lens
If you're looking to create a distorted perspective, you'll find a lot of value in a zoom lens, over a prime lens. A camera bag like The Voyager would be useful in this instance, as you'll want to keep all your lenses safe during a photoshoot.
This lens will allow you to re-frame your shot without the issue of moving the camera's position. Having the ability to do this during a forced perspective photoshoot will be invaluable.
After all, you're playing around with perspective, so you don't want to lose that perfect angle when zooming in.
Keep in mind that when using a zoom lens, you should try not to go lower than 35mm, as a wide-angle shot could disrupt your illusion.
13. Try Small Aperture
Effective forced perspective photography requires two points of interest.
To create an illusion, the subject in the foreground and the subject in the background need to interact in a compelling way. In many cases, to do so believably, you'll need to use a small aperture.
Small aperture allows you to avoid blurring the foreground or the background. Instead, both will be crisp and clear, making their distance or location unclear. This adds to the forced perspective illusion.
First, set your camera to Aperture Priority and choose an aperture between f/8 to f/16. This will ensure a proper depth of field, as any higher will risk diffraction.
Don't worry about shutter speed, as the camera will manage that for you. However, be wary of your available light, as fading light will cause your shutter speed to dip down below 1/60th per second. If this happens, you'll encounter unwanted motion blur.
If your shot requires low light, the best way to counter this is by slowly opening your aperture more.
14. Use a Tilt-Shift Lens
To get that unique miniature dollhouse or diorama feel, think about using a tilt-shift lens.
A tilt-shift lens allows you to tilt the optics that will hit your image sensor. You can use this to capture huge, panoramic shots that miniaturize your subject.
14. Tilt your Shot
To get that perfect shot you might want to consider tilting the perspective. Doing so can allow you to distort your subject, and create amazing optical illusions.
For example, the simple act of turning your camera horizontally or vertically can turn a casual swim into a walk-on-water.
When taking test shots, try to tilt your camera in different directions. You might just capture a unique perspective you didn't think about before.
15. Experiment with Angles
Don't be afraid to get down and dirty, as unique angles can completely change the perspective of a shot.
Some illusions require you to lay down on the ground or to take drone-like pictures from above. These interesting perspectives can allow you to merge your foreground and background, or create new depth.
Try applying different angles to your shots so you can see how it affects the perspective. You might find that your illusion becomes stronger when you apply them.
16. Use Props
Props can be a great way to tell a story and create wonderful optical illusions.
Try to choose props that will either relate to, or stand out in your environment. This will strengthen the connection between the foreground and background of the shot.
Props also give you the chance to really mess with scale. You can make an action figure the size of a building, or make it seem like a teddy bear could grab the Eiffel Tower.
With props, creativity knows no bounds.
17. Make Some Cut Outs
Apply endless creativity to your forced perspective shots buy using custom cut-outs.
Cut-outs allow you to shape your shot in whatever way you want, instead of conforming to the natural world around you.
See a tall skyscraper? Great, you can apply your very own King-Kong cut-out to create a cool forced perspective shot.
Cut-outs can also give your shot an interesting story, as well as provide a touch of humor to your photography. But, remember to create appropriate cut-outs that match your setting, as you don't want things to get too goofy.
18. Go Abstract
People like forced perspective because it captures the impossible.
With that in mind, don't be afraid to experiment with abstract concepts, or apply a deeper meaning to your shots.
Use emotions or emotional concepts to guide your photograph. Show someone crushed by the word love, or running from their giant Ex.
The more you can play with intangible concepts, the better.
19. Play with Gravity
We all have to follow the laws of physics on a regular day, so why not shake things up in your forced perspective photography.
When you position your subjects, think about how they'll look when you tilt your camera or change the angle. The right perspective can easily turn gravity on its head.
20. Interact with Your Environment
Props can be fun, but you can also achieve a lot through messing around with your environment.
Walk around your chosen location and try to find interesting perspectives. A tree can look different from every angle, and a building can occupy the foreground or background depending on where you're standing.
Find unique ways to change the depth of your shot by interacting with your environment.
21. Find Compelling Locations
Location can serve an important purpose in forced perspective photography.
You can use flat surfaces to create massive illusions, due to your ability to apply a greater distance between subjects. On the other hand, streets, sidewalks, or any other narrow location can create the illusion of depth or height.
Often, forced perspective photographers also run into problems when dealing with crowded areas. Other people or animals can throw off your illusion, causing you to rush what needs to be a patient shot. With that in mind, try to find places that are free of crowds, or shoot during times when there is less traffic.
23. Incorporate Buildings
It's impressive to take your surroundings and bend them to your will, especially if you can't move them. When you choose a location, analyze any buildings you see. This can include anything from small buildings to skyscrapers.
Move around and find interesting angles you can use to add the building to your shot. Place them in the foreground or background, and see how it affects the perspective.
For instance, think of the classic shot where people hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
24. Unleash Your Inner God
Part of the fun of forced perspective photography is changing the rules of a world we already understand.
No human can lift a thousand ton boulder, but forced perspective can allow you to capture that illusion on camera.
When you're mulling over your concept, think of those god-like acts that no ordinary human could achieve. From holding a building like a soda to painting the sky, these ideas make for great forced perspective photos.
25. Keep Experimenting
When you're out in the field working to get that perfect forced perspective shot, never give up.
Experimentation can lead to amazing shots you never expected. Even after you get a picture you wanted, don't be afraid to try something new.
Keep moving your subjects around, try shots from different angles, or add a new element. You might even find that a spontaneous concept can be just as interesting as your original one.
The Best Flash Photography Tips and Techniques
So there you have it, these are our tips for creating interesting forced perspective shots. We hope these can inspire you to take stunning photographs of your own. Let us know in the comments which idea you’re planning on trying next!
Now that you've got a handle on forced perspective photography, check out our tips for flash photography!