Right now thousands if not millions of people are busy taking photos. Among these legions, the professional photographers stick out not just because of the large amount of gear weighing their necks down. A distinct and unusual body language also helps to identify them in a crowd.
Always looking to “get the shot,” they will instinctively flex and contort themselves into strange, awkward-looking positions for just the right perspective. People snapping shots with cell phones don’t do this, generally speaking, and are content to shoot away without all the shifting to and fro. Meanwhile, the public accepts the constant gyrations of the professionals without a second thought.
Take away a photographer’s camera, however, and the public would regard the same actions with slightly raised eyebrows, maybe even alarm. Can you imagine crawling on the ground for a better perspective of, say, a park just to see it differently? Moms would guard their children from you.
As long as you’re holding a camera, however, you can twist, hang, stretch, jump, and writhe any way you want and nobody will mind. Which is good because as a photographer, you’ll be playing an intense game of solo Twister almost every time you shoot.
No photography class or tutorial will teach you the wide variety of stances you’ll need to add to your bag of tricks. It’s quite the opposite. If you open up any camera manual, you’ll likely find a short spiel on how to properly hold the camera, accompanied by shots of a perfectly groomed model that isn’t bending or twisting at all. Instead the model will be standing up nice and straight with the camera balanced perfectly in hand so that everything looks nice and easy.
Liars! Rarely does a photographer get to simply stand up straight and shoot forward without some kind of contorting. Muscles strain, necks crane, and limbs will go every which way.
Finally, here is the manual you need. See the images below for a list of the most powerful go-to moves that the pros use when it’s time to shoot. Once you master these, nothing will stand in the way of those coveted angles which before you could only dream of.
This is a textbook example of the pro stance for a standing-up perspective. By planting both feet and leaning backwards at a steep angle, you’ll have the mobility to perfectly frame your shot to fit every important detail into the frame. People shooting with cell phones wouldn’t use this maneuver, although they might take a step back and stand up straight for the same perspective. Pros prefer to bend instead, because it looks more like a pro move.
Here we have the professional in a quintessential low-angle position where the knee and opposite foot make a solid foundation for shooting. It’s best to check the spot where your knee will be planted first in order to make sure there’s no unpleasant surprise such as a pile of dog waste or an anthill. This position never fails to impress bystanders.
When you’d rather not kneel but still need a low angle, this is an excellent stance to take. Note the well-balanced front and rear, the wide placement of feet to create maximum stability. Hazards include a stiff back and neck if holding this for too long, and bumping anyone who’s standing nearby with your protruding backside.
This is what I call the Sitting Duck. Here’s the stance to take when you want an even lower perspective than what the previous move gives you, also without putting a knee to the ground. Hazards include the lack of front-to-back stability, so a slight nudge from someone could send you falling forwards or backwards.
This stance will earn appreciative looks from your peers every time. It states that you the professional will go to any lengths to be creative. Perhaps you need that ground-up look at a model, or to aim for the sky to catch a bird in flight. The chances of soiling one’s clothing are high, however, and doing this on pavement or dirt will guarantee it. Best to practice this one in bed at home first.
You just can’t get any lower! Note the elbows and how they perfectly support the camera. When you need to capture the perspective of a house cat, this move will give you all that and more. For those with crawling skills, you can use this position to stabilize yourself between shots of that insect or whatever it is you’re chasing on the ground.
Here we have the ultimate expression of a flexible photographer’s body. Sometimes you just don’t want to crawl on the ground or kneel to get low, but you can always bend yourself in half while dipping down. This is an excellent choice for those needing a quick low-perspective shot without wasting time. Vertigo could be an issue however.
Here’s the easiest way to gain that height advantage you never had! Say you’re in the midst of a crowd of people or fellow photographers, such as when you’re shooting athletes at the end of a football game or a politician busy shaking hands with babies. You know you need the shot, but there’s no way to get a clear view. Simply raise up those hands and fire bursts of shots while angling the camera toward your subject. It works!
Again, here we have the pro positively identified. This shooter could easily step sideways for the same perspective but that would not look as professional.
The safari move! When you need to get shots of a herd of gazelles or a grizzly bear, you need the speed and protection that only a vehicle with a sunroof can afford. It’s harder than it looks, however, and you must be at ease shooting without any means to keep steady while the vehicle is moving. This is best left for only the most dedicated professionals who want to look heroic.