How to use creative angles and elevations to feature your property in imagery and video

A creative director once cautioned me about “locked knee and elbow syndrome” in photography.

This blunder is very damaging to the right-brained producers of imagery who keep their camera angle level with their body and never turn the camera to create vertical photographs. As I became more aware of the ways this mistake can impact the final result in photos and videos, I began to see the symptoms everywhere, especially amongst inexperienced camera users.

It’s true: There’s just something awkward about lying flat on the ground or climbing high on a ladder to get a better vantage point while there are people around during the shoot. You’ll have to ignore all types of comments—“You’re gonna regret lying on that beach,” “Be careful! That ladder is really high!” or “Have you done this before?”

Seriously? Funny thing is, I always carry ground cloths or blankets to lie on, and I’ve had the same 10-foot ladder for 20 years that travels with me East to West Coast all the time. And in all my decades of experience, I’ve had no falls to speak of, although my ladder did topple once on its own at The Greenbrier—high winds, or something.

So, what are some ways to overcome this sort of tunnel vision to create stunning images and video for your resort or tourism property?

For Photos

Once you’re at the location, consider the scene and what angles could be used to acquire height and perspective. Here are some considerations for still imagery:

1. Take advantage of your surroundings

Is there a roof or balcony that could be used for the shoot? What about an adjacent building or other location where you could get height? We’ve used all of these and even climbed water towers in the Dominican Republic to capture the perfect image of a golf course.

2. Think through your equipment

Next, consider equipment or devices that could get you that height. Start with ladders and scaffolding and work your way up to fork lifts, lift devices, and bucket trucks. Many are located on site and can be rented for the day or week.

3. Use a drone

Lastly, and one of the now go-to methods, is to fly a drone. Especially if you are shooting video but also for stills, this is the answer to many dramatic vantage questions. Here are several factors to keep in mind for drone shooting:

  • Never work with a drone operator who isn’t FAA licensed and insured—lacking that legal and liability protection is a recipe for disaster.  Also, hire someone who has some experience with a reel and a portfolio to prove it. Having even an FAA approved, fully insured hack fly their new toy into your pool or spa is just not cool. 

  • Some drones have limited ability to change lenses and aperture, so your view and depth of field will be effected. Also, some drones won’t have the file size required for your final product/stills or video (i.e., for a mural that will run at a trade show, a 15GB file is not going to cut it.) So shoot with another option, if possible, like a bucket truck with larger file camera or find a camera drone option.

  • Beyond the smaller file and lens limitation, look for drones that are able to fly with a mounted camera or with features that will enable lens choices and aperture options. Always find the equipment that will meet your project’s short-term and potential long-term needs. Remember, a lot of great drone images can’t be used for really large image or broadcast needs.

For Video

Faster Internet speeds and the popularity of social media mean that, many times, clients will ask me to shoot video at the same time as still photos. Here are some of the options for angles and movement for video work beyond the drone options:

1. Use sliders

Mounted on a tripod or light stands, sliders enable the camera to move along a fixed horizontal or diagonal path. They typically run from 24 inches to 5 feet.

2. Use jibs or cranes

A boom is a linear device like a seesaw with a camera mount on one end and counter weight on the other. This allows the arm to move greater distances for high shots either vertically, horizontally, or a combination of both. These are mounted on a tripod or support device. They can run from 6 feet to 20 feet—a crew can independently operate the smaller size, but a skilled operator is needed for larger cranes.

3. Use gimbals

Powered by motors, this pivoted support enables hand-held operation of a camera without vibration or shake for the ability to track or follow action. They come in a variety of forms and features but make handle-held camera work a great creative option. 

Wrapping up

These are just some suggestions to open your creative visual eyes and consider the many ways to create a more dramatic scene with movement and varied angles. And don’t ever forget the worm-eyed perspective that comes about with a lower view at your location.

Chip Henderson