Use layers to enhance depth

4 Tips for Adding Depth to Your Photos

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There’s no better way to suck viewers into your photos than with a sense of depth. Here are a few simple tips to add depth to your images and make your viewers feel as though they were standing right next to you when you snapped the shot.

Tip #1: Go Wide

A wide-angle lens brings the foreground right up to the viewer, giving your photo tremendous depth and making your audience feel like they can step into the image. Because of the dramatic perspective it creates, a wide-angle lens should be your first go-to lens when you want to bring depth to your photos.

  • Wide-Angl-1

    Sand Harbor State Park, Tahoe @ 18 mm

  • Wide-Angl-2

    Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru @ 14mm

Tip #2: Stand Up

Ninety percent of wide-angle photos are shot from down low in order to exaggerate the foreground. However, the lower you get, the more you minimize your midground.  This can result in a photo with a dramatic foreground and interesting background but without much in between to connect them. So if you want to stretch out your midground, connect your foreground to your background to emphasize the depth and expansiveness of your scene.  Get up off your knees and watch the image become a portal that draws your viewers into the scene.

  • Midground-1

    Mid ground minimized due to camera being close the ground

  • Midground-2

    A small increase in camera height adds emphasis and depth to the midground

Tip #3: Go Long

Telephoto lenses are typically used to isolate subjects and create compression and flatness in a scene. However, when used with juxtaposed subjects, a telephoto lens can create a natural frame or contrast that gives viewers the sense of looking out past the foreground subject into the scene beyond.

  • Use smart framing with a telephoto to create depth

    Resurrection Bay, Alaska @ 510mm

  • Natural frames help create depth in your photos

    Calla Lilies, South Africa @ 300mm

Tip #4: Layer Up

It’s a phenomenon of our natural world that objects grow fainter and less distinct the farther they are from us. So if you’re shooting a scene with lots of layers or repeating patterns, set up a composition that emphasizes the layers and patterns and that natural optical phenomenon will automatically add depth to your photos. If you want to intensify the effect, find a scene with lots of atmosphere that helps the background fade away. Fog, mist, and smoke all work well for this.

  • Use layers to enhance depth

    Dogwood fall color in Yosemite @ 130mm

  • Repeating patterns and atmosphere add depth

    Freshly-burned forest in Yosemite @ 75mm

These are just a few ideas you can use to create depth in your photos. Got any of your own favorite tips for adding depth to your images? Share them in the comments below!

About Author Joshua Cripps

Joshua Cripps started making remarkable photos while he was still in the womb. His first significant image, titled Sonogram, was praised for its graininess, deliberate blurring of details, and gritty black and white mood. Earning two thumbs up from his parents, this photo only hinted at things to come. Since then Josh has won countless awards and accolades, including more than one “Certificate of Participation,” dozens of “Good Sportsmanship” plaques, and the coveted “Busy Bookworm” award. His mantel long ago collapsed under the weight of gold-painted, plastic trophies.

Currently Josh spends over 700 days every year in the field seeking out the finest landscapes on earth. He has a mighty beard and sings in a rich baritone. Hiking at least 45 miles to capture every photo, Josh ensures that every image he crafts represents the very heart of the wilderness. While you were reading this Joshua Cripps did 93 push-ups, won more awards, and became internationally re-renowned.

  • Wm. E. Bagley

    Joshua you have the nack and sand for doing one of the toughest jobs in giving “us” tht type of beauty that some of us will never create or be able to reach.

  • Gregg McCrary

    I’m with Mason. Joshua’s photos are jaw-droppingly spectacular, but in all honestly, there are many fine professional – and amateur -photographers in the world. It’s the confluence of his self-deprecating humor and photographic chops that sets him apart. He epitomizes the wisdom of taking one’s art, but not one’s self, seriously. A prime lesson for us all. Well played, Joshua. Well played.

  • Jane M

    Great article, refreshing to be told to stand up for landscapes especially for one of my advancing years and decrepitude where getting up and down from ground level represents a major achievement. I had not previously come across Joshua’s work before but I will certainly be looking at it now. Love the humour in the bio, best I have read to date and worthy of another award!!

  • Veronica Barrett

    Josh is obviously a very clever man – I’d love to know how he manages to get 700 days in his years. I only have 365 days in mine!

    • I think he has a clone…or two…or three. This is why he can manage 700 days of shooting. 😉

  • Daryl

    Great tips but i don’t like to carry dslr all the time rather i carry nikon coolpix s2800 which is very small and handy and i love it….. And want to know some of the basic camera tips which will make my shots more great

    • These photography tips should work for any non-DSLR camera as well.

  • The article is excellent, but it’s Joshua’s bio at the end that truly made me happy. In a world where every photographer working online is “award-winning” and otherwise self-important it is very refreshing to find a tiny nugget of whimsy. Thank you Jay, Varina and Joshua. You made my day.

    • Joshua Cripps

      Thanks so much, Mason! It is important to stay humble in these times of celebrity. 🙂

      • Alan Kelly

        I nearly choked on my porridge with laughter at Joshua’s” bio”–I really enjoyed the tips in the article but the unexpected humour just finished me off. Well done!

      • Troy Phillips

        Humility is a badge of honor. If your a good photographer and a hard worker others will do the talking for ya.