Tips + Techniques

Bird’s Eye Photography: Portraits That Play with Perspective

April 21, 2021

By Caroline Tran

© Caroline Tran

*Snap, snap, click*… I wasn’t satisfied with the photo, but I caught myself continuing to click as if the photo would miraculously improve itself. It was that moment that I was reminded of that quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Years later, I noticed a mentee of mine doing the same thing, clicking the same shot over and over again, and when I asked her why, she said she wasn’t satisfied with the shot yet. Unless you actually change something about how you’re seeing—and explore bird’s eye photography, for instance—you’re going to get the same repetitive shot and a culling nightmare.

[Read: Making Portraits Pop—Jen Huang’s Photography Fundamentals]

The next time you catch yourself unsatisfied with a shot, before you click the shutter again ask yourself why you’re not happy with it and make a change. Whether it’s the lighting or posing, oftentimes when you’re not satisfied, you have to change your perspective! This is something I not only practice in photography but in life as well. 

[Watch: Susan Stripling’s On-Demand Webinar on “Creating Portraits that Pop”]

My favorite unexpected change in perspective is to shoot from above. Bird’s eye photography offers an alternate view that many aren’t used to, and it allows you to create portraits that you can’t create otherwise. Here are some tips to alleviate common frustrations about shooting from above.

1. Watch the chin.

Many people will let their chins sink into their necks when they lay down, so remind them to elongate their necks to give definition and separation between the chin and neck.

2. Watch the spacing.

Intentionally fill the frame and compose the shot just as you would normally when you’re shooting from above for bird’s eye photography. Same rules apply.

3. Watch your lighting.

Light behaves the same regardless of where you are shooting from, so you will want your light (whether natural or strobes) to rotate with your new plane.

But most importantly, have fun with bird’s eye photography! This new perspective allows you to play and do things that gravity would typically prevent you from doing, so take advantage of your new “weightless” environment!

Caroline Tran is a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about lighting and flash with her course, All About Light and All About Flash! As a former physics teacher, Caroline’s specialty is breaking down complex ideas into comprehensive bite-sized lessons that are easy to consume and understand. Find her on Instagram and learn more about her mentoring programs here.