Here is a look at 10 photos that use the forced perspective technique. This type of trick photography doesn’t use photo editing software but rather, with some creative positioning of subjects and the camera, it creates an optical illusion that makes objects appear to be more distant, closer, smaller, or larger than they really are.
1. A Wee Little Thing
This is a classic forced perspective photo: an optical illusion of something or someone appearing like it’s shrunk and sitting on a person’s hand. This is a fairly easy one to set up too, all you need is a somewhat open space (I did this years ago in a fairly small yard) and a couple of people. You can have the “miniature” person sitting or standing and the person in the foreground posing in a number of ways—like this woman is doing here—or the foreground person can look like they’re kissing the little person, about to flick him or her off their hand, or even like they’re about to pick the person up by the head.
2. Canned Clouds
Although this forced perspective photo uses an aerosol can and clouds, you can create similar images using smoke from a chimney, steam from a kettle, or anything else that produces a similar effect. You can also try positioning your subject so the smoke/steam looks as though it’s coming out their ears or mouth.
3. Waterfall in a Cup, Coming Right Up!
Waterfalls can be used very creatively in forced perspective photography. Like this photo, you can position the subject or object so the waterfall appears as though it’s pouring into it. Conversely, if you’re higher than the waterfall, you can have the waterfall look like it’s pour out from something like a bottle, a person’s mouth, or even a tea kettle.
Note that the waterfall is slightly out of focus in this photo. In order to capture an image that has both the foreground and background in focus, you will need to shoot with a small aperture in order to obtain a large depth of field. If you’re not comfortable adjusting exposure settings, you can also set your camera’s scene mode to Landscape to try to get similar results.
4. Holding Up the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has made an appearance in many photographers’ forced perspective images. Indeed, it has been held up, pushed over, hugged, and even kicked down. Your imagination is your only limitation.
If you ever go on vacation to Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia, make sure to put some time aside to try your hand at forced perspective photography. The salt desert makes the perfect backdrop for these images thanks to the simplicity of its vastly open area, which also means fewer shadows to get in your way to ruin your trick photography attempts. Of course, if Bolivia isn’t on your travel bucket list, any open area should work – a tractor on a farm, a picnic table in the middle of a grassy field, or even a ship on the open ocean … there are endless possibilities!
6. Careful Now!
This forced perspective photo creates the optical illusion that the man is holding onto a crane’s load. What really makes this photo work is, not only is the man’s hand very carefully placed, the image is also composed so there isn’t a bunch of unnecessary clutter. Try to compose your shots, or edit them later, so only relevant objects are included. Too much information can take away from the effect.
7. Fooling You with a Toy Canoe
All of the images I’ve shown you up until now have been of large objects made to look smaller than they really are. This one, however, is a little more complicated. At first glance, you may think that the canoe and vehicle are life-sized and the hand has been strategically placed. However, look at the shadow on the canoe from the finger, indicating that, in fact, the canoe is actually toy-sized. Were you fooled? When creating your own forced perspective photos, make sure the shadows don’t give away your secret!
8. A Picture within a Picture
This type of forced perspective photo will take a little more preparation as you will need to capture a photograph, print it, and then return to the same location to capture a second image, but the end result makes it totally worth it. This technique can look especially interesting if you can use an old photograph, taken decades earlier if possible, and line it up with the same structure but with the modern-day scene.
9. Taste the Rainbow
If this is the pot of gold that’s waiting for me at the end of the rainbow, I think I’ll pass. What is that guy wearing? But in all seriousness, this is a forced perspective photo that anyone can try when there’s a rainbow. If possible, try to position the subject so there are minimal background distractions – remove them with photo editing software later, if need be.
10. Capture the Sun
The sun is a very popular subject for forced perspective photos and for good reason! Given the natural light and the way the subject is positioned between the sun and the photographer, the end result will often be where the person is silhouetted. This works well for this type of trick photography because distractions, like unnecessary details or awkward shadows, are virtually eliminated. Like the sun, the moon is also fun to incorporate into forced perspective photos: you can have your subject catch it, bite it, hold it, touch it, pinch it, or whatever your creative mind can come up with. Have fun with it!