Using forced perspective through the use of a wide angle lens enhances the drama
and visual impact of the design and magnifies the exotic energy of the design concept.

One technique architectural photographers use to create dramatic images is control of perspective. This is more accurately described a set of techniques because depending on the situation we will either enhance or force the perception of perspective in the image or suppress the perspective.

It is often the case in photographing architecture and interior design that we are photographing spaces with extremely wide angle lenses, wide angle lenses enhance the perspective of an image. This means the wide angle lenses will make spaces look larger because the scale of the space or structure in the image is exaggerated, what is closer to the lens is distorted to appear larger than it really is and what is farther from the lens is distorted to appear smaller. Our minds interpret this visual distortion based on our perception of the relative size of objects in the image.

Long focal length lenses do the opposite. They compress perspective by making distant objects appear closer than they are by increasing their relative size in the image and our perception of their relative size is translated by our minds to understand the objects are nearer to us than they really are.

Architectural photographers learn to control and manipulate this effect through choice of lenses and camera positioning. It is my general practice to use the longest focal length lens I can in any given situation to minimize the amount of spatial distortion, but the composition of the image always takes precedence. I will disregard my own “rule” if the message I want to send requires, because images with strong, enhanced or forced perspective can be remarkably dramatic and memorable.

The image of the table above, part of the 2009 DIFFA show at the San Francisco Design Center, shows excellent use of forced perspective to enhance the drama and visual impact of the design. The message we wanted to be received was that this design is full of excitement and exotic energy, that this was an experience to be remembered, not just a sight to be casually regarded and quickly forgotten. I used the distortion of the strong lines of the display cases to draw the attention of the viewer into the image with great rapidity thereby enhancing the energy and activity of the design concept and the visual impact it has upon the viewer, everything about the image elicits a strong emotional response from the viewer and the forced perspective gained through the use of a moderately wide angle lens enhances this affect.

When used with restraint forced perspective can be used to create remarkably dramatic and memorable images, but you need to compose the image to take advantage of the effect. This requires an investment of time, careful consideration of the design elements, understanding the message you want to send and discipline to control the technique rather let the technique control you. Maintaining control of the perspective in my images is why I generally use the longest lens I can to show the critical design elements and send my message.