The Vanishing Point

Show depth and perspective

Let me give you my perspective on perspective.

Specifically I want to tell you about how single-point perspective, also known and vanishing point perspective, works in photographs.


The classic example of single-point perspective is a railroad track going into the distance, the two lines seemingly getting closer together as they are receed in the background.

The classic example: Railroad tracks heading into the distance is an example of single-point perspective. If the tracks were extended straight they would meet at a point slightly above the top edge. Photo © istockphoto/ gocosmonaut

Single-point perspective adds depth to an image. The effect can be subtle or obvious, depending on how you shoot the picture and what else is going on in the scene.

To get the lines-coming-together effect, position your camera at a 90 degree angle to two (or more) straight lines. While most straight lines end at some point before they would appear to merge, if you were to draw lines continuing them, the lines would merge. Hence, the "single point."

You can exaggerate single-point perspective by using a wide-angle lens, and lessen the effect by shooting with a telephoto lens. Single-point perspective is one of many elements you can throw into the mix to make an image succeed.

Many lines, one perspective: There are other elements in this scene, but there are several parallel lines at 90 degree angles to the camera, creating many single-point perspectives. Photo: Mason Resnick

 

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