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For me shooting from above is a very unique image making experience. It almost feels as painting a design on a flat surface. Everything evolves around a two dimensional composition. There is no prominent perspective, no depth of field (unless shooting aerial images), the photographer is automatically directed to pay complete attention to the subject , style and design aspect of the composition with respect to the edges of the frame, negative space, and color.
I was in NYC and looking for my second studio when a fellow photographer had heard of a great space on 17th and 5th avenue. At the time it was in the heart of the photo district. That was a terrific location so I went straight over. Walking into the space I was overwhelmed with excitement. You stepped into a full kitchen with lots of natural light. Then there was a great office and storage, plus a dressing room, bath and full darkroom. But the real surprise was the studio shooting space. I walked through double doors into a large shooting area with a 24ft. ceiling. I realized that I could build a high camera platform and shoot from directly overhead onto just about anything! Well I did take that space and build the shooting platform. Then I got one of my art directors to come over to show him how I could shoot directly overhead on products.
The next project he had we did just that. It was a domestics catalog of bedding. We shot most of the catalog from that platform. It gave a whole new perspective to my photography and it was a fun way to shoot. Below are pages from a catalog we did at that studio shooting from overhead.
Allow some working space: Place your subject on the floor level or on a low table.
Use Tripod: To free your hands and maintain consistent frame use a tripod.
If your tripod legs get in the frame you can use a Tripod Side Arm. Arm is attached to the column of the tripod and the tripod head can be attached to the side arm.Some tripod brands offer rapid column design, where the central column can be positioned horizontally. If you are looking to buy a new tripod choose the one that has rapid horizontal column, it will come in handy in many situations. (macro, food, still life etc..)
We often get emails asking to recommend a tripod so I’d like take this opportunity to recommend one which is suitable for advanced photographers and offers rapid column design: Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod Legs or a more beefier version of the same tripod Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod Legs Please note that these tripod legs will also need a tripod head (to mount the camera). Here are a few appropriate heads for tripods listed above Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head Short or Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head. In general when choosing the tripod consider the weight, extended height and supported camera weight to suit your needs.
The common problem when shooting overhead is that the camera is high above the surface so looking through the viewfinder is not an easy task here are some basic solutions:
Here is our final Shot from this tutorial:
Assignment for you: Create an image photographing from above. Use any subject: People, Architecture, Still Life. Pay attention to the composition. Use “Share your shot” feature in comment box to post it here.