creating depth with 3 planes

Picking up your camera, shooting, and challenging yourself is the best way to improve your photography.  The Creativity Exercises within the Clickin Moms photography forum are a great source for finding new ways to challenge yourself.  On the first Monday of every month the wonderful Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to shoot with the exercise in mind.  While the exercises are ongoing, at the end of each month we choose a few images as the ‘Editors’ Choice’ and share them here with you on the blog.  How fun is that?!  Today we are sharing August’s exercise with you below!

creativity exercise | creating depth with 3 planes

creating depth with 3 planes photo
*image courtesy Jennifer Nobriga ‘jennifer123′

This month, let’s focus on creating depth in photographs by shooting images that incorporate a minimum of three distinct planes: foreground, midground, and background. Does it seem simple? It can be, but there are a number of ways you can approach this for particularly captivating results. Consider the following tips (and combinations thereof!):

1) Shoot Wide Open

Set your aperture to a low f/stop. As most photographers know, this very shallow depth of field powerfully separates the subject from the background, but modify this common approach to portraiture by incorporating a third plane: bring a foreground element into the frame. Now, when you focus on your subject in the midground, you’ve separated out at least three layers of depth: the defocused element in the foreground, the primary subject in the midground, and the creamy bokeh of the background.

2) Utilize a wide angle lens

Whereas a telephoto lens appears to compress the planes within the frame, a wide angle lens exaggerates them; this is due to a combination of differences in field of view and the distance from which subjects are captured with each. The perspective distortion of a lens that is 35mm or wider on a full frame camera causes elements in the foreground to appear disproportionately large relative to the elements in the background . This exaggeration of size helps to emphasize the depth and distinction between foreground, midground, and background.

3) Incorporate a vanishing point
A vanishing point is one of the most common illustrations of perspective. It is not only a fantastic depth cue but also a compelling design element. Visually, the space between two parallel lines diminishes as the lines recede, drawing the eye with them as they run towards the horizon and ultimately appear to converge at a vanishing point. By photographing elements situated along these parallel lines, you can define different planes within the image (e.g., foreground where the lines are furthest apart, background where they converge, midground at locations in between).

4) Recognize repetition
Building on the prior tip, incorporating a series of identical elements that progress from foreground to background (or are placed selectively at the foreground, midground, and background) help to distinguish the planes insofar as the size of the elements decreases as the eye is drawn into the frame. Imagine, for example, a series of pews in a church, houses lining a neighborhood street, or posts in a fenced pasture; all of these provide visual cues as to distance and depth — appearing largest in the foreground and smallest in the background.

5) Utilize foreground framing
A common compositional device, framing involves using one or more elements to surround the primary subject and help direct the eye to it. For the purposes of establishing depth, this is really a variation on tip #1 . A standard composition contains a subject and a background; whether or not you shoot wide open, bringing a frame into the foreground (such as shooting through a window or doorway) not only adds that extra layer of depth but also helps to direct and draw the eye in.

6) Seek out atmospheric diffusion
Inclement weather can provide a wonderful setting for images with great depth. Fog, snow, and rain — in addition to smoke, ash, smog, sand, and dust – add particles to the air that scatter the light and obscure the clarity of the atmosphere. As a result, elements in the foreground have the greatest clarity, deepest tonality, most contrast, and highest saturation; as the eye progress towards the midground and into the background, objects become softer, lighter, reduced contrast, and lower saturation. In these situations of wet or dry haze, placing your subject in the foreground can be an effective way to beautifully isolate it as the midground and background gradually fall away, plane by plane, into the haze.

7) Shoot through glass.
A glass surface provides a full physical divide between planes. Let the glass function as your midground, and incorporate elements on either side to represent the foreground (in front of the glass) and background (beyond the glass). Bear in mind that if your primary subject will appear in the background (behind the pane of glass), it may help to focus manually; reflections, smudges, and similar on the surface of the glass can trip up your camera’s autofocus system. Need more tips on shooting through glass or particularly intrigued by this idea? Head back into the Creativity Exercise archives, and check out “Shooting through a Glass Window or Door” from September 2012!

editors choice!

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Congratulations to the ladies below whose photographs were selected as this month’s Editors Choices!

Renata Plaice ‘renata_p’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Lisa Nicole ‘lisa_nicole’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Jana O’flaherty ‘hbfam4′:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Kara ‘kara_jb’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Holly Thompson ‘HollyAnissa’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Lisa Snead ‘lhsnead’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Melanie A ‘mel85′:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Kelly Tonks ‘kellytonks’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Angela Ross ‘bubble’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Dana Lauder ‘dlauder’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Cassandra Oleary ‘imagesbycassandra’:

creating depth with 3 planes photo

Thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!  We love seeing all the beautiful imagery!

Do you want to participate in the next Creativity Exercise?  Visit the forum here where Sarah Wilkerson has challenged us with the theme “Shooting From The Hip“.  Don’t have a membership to Clickin Moms yet?  Head on over here to sign up!  You can still participate in this ‘Creating Depth with 3 Planes’ challenge by either visiting the forum here or sharing with us in the comments below.  We’d love to see your work!

creating depth with 3 planes photo


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12 Responses to “creating depth with 3 planes”

  1. Jana
    Sep 09 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Fabulous article and I am so very honoured to have my shot included among all these gorgeous photos! Thank you!

  2. Sep 09 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    ooooo i love these images and this exercise!

  3. Adele Humphries
    Sep 09 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    really wonderful exercise and images!

  4. Sep 09 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Gorgeous and inspiring. Love this article!

  5. Meredith R
    Sep 09 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    gorgeous work ladies!

  6. Sep 09 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Thank you very, very much for including my image along with these incredible works of art. Well done, ladies!

  7. Sep 09 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    What a group of rockstars! You ladies did an amazing job!

  8. Beautiful images and great suggestions! I always feel invigorated and challenged from this blog :)

  9. Sep 09 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    Beautiful work! This was a fun exercise!

  10. Melina
    Sep 10 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Gorgeous images!!! Congratulations ladies!! <3

  11. Sep 10 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    i’m so thrilled to be included in such a beautiful collection of images. i loved that exercise so much!


  1. Editor’s Choice, August 2013 » Holly Anissa - Sep 10 2013

    [...] I regularly participate in the monthly Creativity Exercises on Clickin Moms. These exercises are a wonderful way to stretch yourself artistically and technically. August’s exercise was entitled “Creating Depth with 3 Planes” and my image was one of several incredible images chosen as Editor’s Choice! [...]

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