Guide to Composition - Creating a Sense of Depth in a Photograph

Composition | 4 Ways to Add a Sense of Depth to your Photographs

Creating a Sense of Depth with Foreground Interest

Including some foreground interest in the frame is a great way of adding a sense of depth to the scene. Photographs are 2D by nature. Including foreground interest in the frame is one of a number of techniques that can help give the scene a more 3D feel.

Creating a Sense of Depth with Foreground Interest
Sonsbeek Waterfall – Arnhem

In this photograph of a waterfall in The Netherlands, the rocks in the river provided a perfect source of foreground interest. Adding foreground interest works particularly well with wide-angle lenses.

Adding a Sense of Depth with Foreground Interest
Dublin Docklands

The dock cleats along the quay provided the foreground interest in this shot. I think it adds a real sense of depth to the composition. The dock cleat in this scene was only a few metres in front of me when I took this photo. Including it in the frame portrays a sense of depth by incorporating an element that I was quite close to as well as the bridge and buildings in the distance and everything in between them.

A friend who was with me that evening tripped over one of the cleats and almost ended up getting a very close up view of the river. That’s one way of adding depth to the scene I guess.

Creating a Sense of Depth by Using Layers in the Frame

Foreground interest can be used as one as the layers in a scene. These layers lead the eye from the foreground through the middle distance and through to the background.

Creating a Sense of Depth by Using Layers in the Frame
Groenerei Canal – Bruges

In this photograph of a canal in Bruges (which featured in the aperture tutorial), the bridge acts as foreground interest. The buildings along the canal provide the next layer in the middle distance. These buildings then lead the viewer through the image towards the more distant elements. Finally, the bell tower from a distant church rises from behind the other buildings in the background.

Creating a Sense of Depth by Including a Frame within the Frame

The “frame within a frame” is one of my personal favourite composition techniques. I enjoy looking for opportunities to put it into practice. Including a “frame within the frame” is another effective way of portraying depth in a scene. Look for elements such as windows, arches or overhanging branches to frame the scene with. The next two images are examples of times I used arches to frame my subject.

Creating a Sense of Depth by Including a Frame within the Frame
St. Mark’s Square – Venice
Adding a Sense of Depth by Including a Frame within the Frame
St Anne’s church – Belfast

The next two images are examples of times I used arches to frame my subject. The first was taken on St Mark’s Square in Venice. I used the archway to frame St Marks Basilica and the Campanile at the far end of the piazza. The use of scenery viewed through arches was a common feature of Renaissance painting as way of portraying depth. In the second photo, I used a rectangular arch to frame St. Anne’s Church in Belfast.

Frames don’t have to be man-made objects such as arches or windows. Trees and branches make excellent framing devices. The “frame” does not even have to surround the entire scene to be effective.

Creating a Sense of Depth by Using Elements in the Scene to Create a  Frame within the Frame
Rye Water Bridge – County Kildare

In this scene, the autumn trees create a frame either side of the stone bridge over the Rye Water River in Maynooth, County Kildare. The frame in this case does not completely surround the subject. Framing a subject with two objects either side can be a very effective framing technique.

Creating a Sense of Depth with Leading Lines

Leading lines help lead the viewer through the image and focus attention on important elements. Anything from paths, walls, shadows, or patterns can be used as leading lines. They also help to create a sense of depth in the scene.

Creating a Sense of Depth with Leading Lines
Eiffel Tower from Palais Chaillot, Paris

In this photo of the Eiffel Tower, I used the patterns on the paving stones as leading lines. The lines on the ground all lead the viewer to the Eiffel Tower in the distance. You’ll also notice that I used a centred composition for this scene.

Adding a Sense of Depth with Leading Lines
Park and Band Stand in Tavira, Portugal

Once again, I have used the lines on the ground to lead the eye towards the bandstand in this little park in the Algarve town of Tavira.

Creating a Sense of Depth with Leading Lines in the Frame
St, Mark’s Square, Venice

In this case, the pattern on the ground again leads us into the frame. The buildings lining the square also act as leading lines. They all lead the eye towards St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile at the end of the square.

These three examples show us that centred compositions are often very effective when combined with leading lines.

Photos featuring leading lines do not have to be symmetrical of course. The leading lines do not even have to be straight.

Creating a Sense of Depth with Curving Leading Lines
County Kildare – Ireland

In fact curved lines can be very attractive composition features especially “S” shapes. In this case, the path leads the viewer to the right of the frame before swinging in to the left towards the tree. I also made use of the rule of thirds and negative space when composing the shot.

In the next tutorial we will see how changing our point of view can make for interesting compositions.

Subscribe to the Blog

If you have enjoyed this post, you can subscribe by entering your email below. You will receive notifications when new posts are published. No spam.
 


Outdoor Photography Essentials - Kindle E-book by Barry O'Carroll

Improve your Photography Skills

The full collection of my photography tutorials covering exposure, camera settings, composition and light can be found in my Kindle e-book: Outdoor Photography Essentials. This e-book can be read on most Kindles or any tablet or smart phone with the Kindle app installed (€7.06 / $7.00 / £6.34).

Purchase from Amazon UK | Purchase from Amazon US

Barry

I am a travel photographer from Dublin, Ireland. I specialise in urban, street, architecture and landscape photography. One of my favourite activities is wandering around a new and unfamiliar location with my camera at the ready. In the blog section, I share photography tutorials and tips as well as some of the stories behind my photographs and travels.

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *