Viewpoint height in photo refs

By now every photographer and painter should be aware that the modern standard in portraits is enlarged nose and other distortions, as set by masses and wide angle lenses of phone cameras. ;) So my question is not about that.

Even if I use normal angle of view lens to take photos I intend to use later as a reference, I have some doubts. I am very tall, so I have different view perspective than average viewers, and the same is reflected in the photos I take, be it a phone or a camera. Unless I use the hinged screen and hold the camera at breast level, or bend or sit down, I get much more view of the ground. I realized that when doing one painting, and when I modified the view by compressing the ground, like if I was lower and looking a bit up higher, I liked the result much better. (I hope that you understand what I mean...)

I tried to search but found no discussions or recommendations on that, in terms of classical art teaching.

I know though that Ansel Adams took many photos from a platform on his car's roof, to achieve the special perspective, and even make it more profound. It went into different direction of course, he wanted it to look like that.

Do you think that all makes a bit of sense and I need to take care of viewpoint height to have more pleasing perspective? (While still being pleased by Adams' work.)


  • @outremer
    Eye level or just below. Use a tripod. Upgrade your phone or use a drills with a good 85mm equivalent lens. Lighting is more important in my mind. A strongish softened main light with a fill card or light. Lighting and environment. 

    Learning to draw the face and figure from life are more important in the long run. Attending formal figure drawing sessions is a great thing where possible. There are many online resources
  • @outremer

    Depending upon context, you could use relative height of the sitter and the viewer in a psychological way.  

    There is IMHO some psychological association of height with authority probably because as children we all had to literally look up to adults and as adults we all literally look down on the innocent wee ones.  

    Put someone on a pedestal by lowering the camera to lend them mystery or power.  

    Raise the camera above them to lend a sense of innocence or vulnerability.
  • CBG, all valid points, you confirmed what I was thinking of intuitively.

    Kingston, my question was less about portraits but rather about landscapes. However, having "eye level" view is obviously essential for portraits too, because one rarely wants to show face as seen from below (will look like a hamster)

    So, if there are no humans shown in a painting to establish the ideal level, I assume that the standard "eye level" viewpoint height must be roughly 150-160 cm from the ground.
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