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18 Cool Forced Perspective Photography Ideas

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Forced perspective is a type of optical illusion. Objects appear to be a different size or distance due to the angle they have been shot from. You can turn tiny objects into giants, or shrink buildings. A classic example of forced perspective is the tourist shot of a person ‘holding’ the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Forced perspective photography is fun and straightforward. You can try this technique anywhere you go, get creative!

Follow our great tips to start making forced perspective photos.

a cool forced perspective photo of a person holding the silhouette of a Lego figure over the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
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18. Check Out Forced Perspective Poses for Inspiration

If you don’t know where to start, you can find creative photography ideas online.

Search “forced perspective” on Google, Instagram or even Pinterest. You’ll find hundreds of examples to inspire you.

Popular images include people who appear like gnomes or giants. Even small toys can appear large and realistic.

Take your time to look at different pictures, and pick out which ones you like. You can use them as a reference for your project.

Funny shot of a man taken at angle which makes him look like a giant with huge shoes and hands

17. Plan Each Scene Beforehand for a Convincing Illusion

Every visual element in your frame has to work together. Harmony is the key to a convincing forced perspective shot. So before you go out and take pictures, figure out how to execute every single scene you want to create.

Look at some of your reference photos and scout for the best places to do them. If one of your forced perspective ideas involves a bench, choose a location with plenty of them, like a park.

You should also list down the necessary props you need for your project. If you can’t find the right area or object, consider tweaking your concept.

And you need to think of how to set up your photos. You’ll need to know where to place your camera, and where to position your subjects.

Humourous forced perspective photo of a man taken at angle which makes him look like he is sitting upside down on a bench reading a newspaper16. Take Test Shots

After you plan the shoot, you have to take some test shots before doing the real shoot. Take some test shots at home to help you visualize your idea better. See if you might need some more props or what angles work best so that when you are at your location, you are ready to go.

Painting of a boy on a wall with a chair under his feet
Photo by Dave Webb on Unsplash

15. Try a Zoom Lens for Perspective Distortion

You can use just about any lens to create perspective distortion. Your most ideal option would be a zoom lens.

You’re playing around with perspective or false perspective, so expect to adjust your framing and composition a lot.

A zoom lens allows you to re-frame your shot without having to move closer or farther away, unlike a prime lens. When using a zoom lens, try not to go lower than 35mm when possible.

The perspective distortion in the wide-angle range could diminish the outcome of the illusion.

A fun photo of a man in climbing gear on a footpath giving the illusion he is rockclimbing

14. Use Small Aperture for the Best Results

Forced perspective photography involves two points of interest. These work together to create an illusion.

There would be one subject in the foreground, and another in the background. You’ll need to make sure everything is sharp from the front to the back.

Set your camera to Aperture Priority and choose a small aperture between f/8 to f/16 to keep a deep depth of field.

Try not to go any higher, or you’ll encounter diffraction. This issue arises when the opening is too small (such as f/22 or smaller), and light struggles to get in.

The disturbance in the light waves causes your image to lose detail. Meanwhile, there are also situations when you’ll need to blur the background. If so, select your aperture between f/1.2 to f/2.8, instead.

The narrow depth of field will guarantee you a beautiful, soft bokeh. Since you’re using Aperture Priority, you don’t have to worry about shutter speed. The camera chooses it for you.

Check your settings every once in a while, especially when you’re starting to lose available light.

When it’s getting dark, the shutter speed will dip down to less than 1/60th per second. Your image might end up out of focus due to motion blur.

To counter this problem, you can either open your aperture more or bump up your ISO.

A couple on a beach with a yellow van behind them

13. Work With a Partner to Get the Perfect Shot

It can be quite challenging to do forced perspective photography by yourself. In most cases, you’ll need at least one participant to execute an optical illusion.

Apart from taking photos, it’s also your responsibility to tell them how to pose and where to go.

Before you shoot, discuss your concept with your partner beforehand. Describe what the final image is going to look like, and show them what they’ll need to do to make it work.

Feel free to show reference photos to give them a general idea about what you want to create.

Since your partner can’t see what you see on the screen, you’ll need to communicate with each other a lot. Ask them to move forward, back, or sideways until they’re in the right spot.

You should also reposition your camera until everything is aligned. This process requires a lot of trial and error, so patience is vital.

Photo of a guy seemingly jumping with a marble floor background
Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

12. Play with Abstract Concepts

The cool thing with forced perspectives is that you are basically creating an image which can’t exist in real life. This makes the perfect opportunity to play with abstract concepts with a deeper meaning. You can show someone kicking the sunset, or running after time. Play with intangible concepts such as fear, time, love, hope, etc. For example, you can show something fearful like a skeleton with a human. Or you can show a weighing scale towering over a tiny human, representing the fear of gaining weight.

Photo of a girl with the shadow of a skeleton
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

11. Incorporate Light

Light can be used as a cool prop in your image. One way to do this is to create a bokeh. Use the circles that bokeh light creates as objects in your photo, like in the image below.

Bokeh balls with chopsticks
Photo by Trevor Larson on Flickr

10. Composition Is Key to Creating the Illusion

Perspective is important in composition. It can create a realistic 3D scene with the 2D image that a camera produces.

The composition is the most crucial part of forced perspective shots. You need to place your subject in the exact spot, or else people will notice the illusion right away.

If you want something to look bigger than it is, put it in the foreground. To make it smaller, put it in the background.

Then find the sweet spot where your partner appears to interact with your prop. Feel free to zoom in and out, or move the camera if necessary.

Your goal is to line up the background and the foreground to make them look like they’re parallel to each other.

Also, try some basic composition rules to keep your shots balanced. Turn on your camera’s grid line and use the rule of thirds to frame your image.

Align your subject to one of the sections where the lines intersect. With this method, you will have a well-composed frame.

Classic forced perspective idea of a person 'holding' the Eiffel tower

9. Use Angles to Make Your Image Look 3D

With forced perspective in photography, you’ll need to think beyond eye-level.

You will either need to lay low on the ground or to take pictures from above.

First, consider what type of shot you need to create. Do you want the foreground and the background to merge?

Then shoot at the ground level. If you’re going to add depth perception to your image, then take photos from a higher vantage point. Try to tilt-shift your camera until you get the perspective you want to achieve.

A forced perspective shot of a man looking down on an upside corridor

8. Use a Tilt-Shift Lens

A tilt-shift lens is a lens that tilts the optics that hit your image sensor. Basically, when used it can make everything look miniature. For example, in the image below, a tilt-shift lens is used to make this suburban area look like a miniature model.

Birds eye view of houses
Photo by David McBee from Pexels

7. Create a Flat Image

If you want your image to look two dimensional, then make your subject and prop look as flat as possible. Make sure you line up everything

In other words, don’t position it sideways because it gives away its real height and depth.

Optical illusion photo of a girl on a bike which looks like she is cycling on abstract lines

6. Interact With the Environment to Create Depth

The most common backgrounds for forced perspective include flat surfaces, streets, and buildings.

In most cases, people use each location for specific purposes. Forced perspective photographers often look for flat surfaces for big/small illusions. Or they use streets and sidewalks to create an illusion of depth or height.

As for buildings (e.g., the Leaning Tower of Pisa), pretending to hold or carry them is a common trick. You can also think of other ways of interacting with your surroundings. And you can apply these to almost every architectural feature you find.

You can use anything from boardwalks to corridors to trick people’s senses or point of view.

A photo of a man on train tracks, taken from overhead to give the illusion that he is climbing upwards

5. Use Toys to Add Character to Your Photos

Props are crucial when it comes to turning your ideas into reality. You can use pretty much anything from toys of different sizes to real objects to create such shots.

As mentioned, you can place a small item in the foreground to make it look bigger.

Remember, the smaller the object in the foreground, the farther you have to move your subject.

Photo of a lego figure in the grass

4. Incorporate Buildings or Bigger Objects

Of course, toys aren’t the only props you can use. You can also find ways to incorporate real objects. Try benches, lamp posts, and fire hydrants to add to your illusion.

There are plenty of ways to interact with them, as well. You can hold on to them, lean on them, or place them in the background.

Humourous image of a person holding a picture of a frog against a tower

3. Make Viewers Wonder How You Got That Shot

Context is king when it comes to forced perspective photos. Your image is an illusion, you want people to ask, ‘wow, how did you get that shot?‘ But you should make it easy for viewers to understand what they’re looking at.

Get rid of any unnecessary visual elements in your frame to help them get the point of the picture right away.

At the same time, you should make it difficult for them to figure out what makes the illusion works.

People often recognize a manipulated photo. But what makes forced perspective fun is when you see people puzzle over how you got the shot.

A person holding a pair of shoes by the laces which look like they are floating like a balloon

2. Use Paper Cut-Outs to Transform Objects

These whimsical images were created by Rich McCor, known on Instagram as Paperboyo. He turns everyday objects into cute images using paper cut-outs, forced perspective, and a pinch of imagination. We love how simple, yet entertaining his work his.

The black card works best for these images, you can find black card in any arts and crafts store.

Handy tip: For extra clean lines on your cut-out, use a cutting mat and a scalpel!

Creative forced perspective example using the statue of Liberty
Image by Paperboyo, Instagram

1. Have Fun!

The more fun you have with forced perspective, the more creative you will get. You can use literally anything around you to get started. Use a coffee mug and get a friend to stand behind it. Pose a friend with your dog so it looks like your dog is a giant.

The options are endless, as long as you have fun.

Photo of a guy on a motorcycle with a boy jumping from it
Photo by Nick Wehrli from Pexels

Conclusion

These tips are here to help you start out as a forced perspective photographer. Open your mind and experiment with your surroundings and visual perception. Your imagination is the only limit!

If you look around, you’ll find opportunities to create optical illusions everywhere. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone!

Want to learn more about how to make your photos stand out? Why not check out our course Wow Factory Photography next!

Are you interested in trying some more creative photography ideas?  Here are our posts on spiral light painting or surreal photography.

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