Perspective and Point of View are not the same in Photography/Art

A couple months back I read an article on a “School” blog post about Perspective. I was like, “No, that’s NOT Perspective, that’s Point of View”. But I didn’t say anything because I don’t like doing that to authors, especially knowing they didn’t get paid for that post and were just trying to do their best and teach something. BUT it is a “school” so it bothered me that people were being taught wrong.

Yesterday, I had the chance to photograph the difference, so I thought I would take the time to show the difference in the two.

First off, it’s easy to see why these two get confused and also why people use the terms synonymously. If you looked up either of the terms you would see the other in the synonym or definition.

However, that only applies to writing. In Art, the two terms have very different meaning even if they may work with each other or be used in combination.

So, Let define them in Art/photography

Perspective is the spatial (height, width, depth) relationship of one object to another object or the background. The perfect illustration of this is a line of telephone poles going down a road. The one closest to us appears the largest, the one farthest away looks the smallest even though we know in reality they are all the same size. This is what tells our brains distance.

Point of View (Viewpoint) is the point along a vertical or horizontal plane that we view THE Perspective. Picture a infinite piece of glass in front of you, you move only up or down or left or right to change the Point of View of the Perspective you establish by moving forward or back.

 I hope you will remember from previous lessons, that Perspective and Point of View are ONLY changed by moving. They cannot be changed by your lens focal length. Remembering that, a Lens merely allows you stand where you want or need to.


 As always, my words may not make clear what is meant so giving examples hopefully will

This is Point of View. I have not moved forward or back and my Focal Length (Lens) has been kept the same (15mm)

I move my camera from being inches above the ground, to a Low POV, to an Eye level POV, to an above the head POV

As you can see, these result in very different looks and composition while maintaining the same relationship of size of the subject cactus to the mountain background…Perspective (the cactus size may be exaggerated due to the extreme wide angle lens, but it remains the same)

Here is Perspective. The first was shot just a few feet away from the cactus using a 15MM lens (again the lens is irrelevant, it merely allowed me to stand two feet from the cactus) and the second image I backed up to about 15 feet away and shot at 82mm. Notice the difference in the size of the cactus to the size of the mountain in each image. This is perspective.


One thing I also did was to try to keep the “Scale” of the cactus the same between both images. The Scale is how large the foreground subject is within the frame. I could have also altered that with different focal lengths from the same position.

And finally, just to throw something else that confuses people, this is Angle of View. Angle of View is the angle from center of the frame, or how much of what is in front of us is within frame. Now I didn’t say Field of View (FOV) because again although they are used synonymously. They aren’t exactly the same since we could change our field of view by moving. Angle of view would only be changed by changes in Focal Length (Lens) In this example, I stood in the exact same place and just change Focal lengths from Wide Angle to Mild Telephoto. Notice one thing, that the perspective did not actually change since I stood in the same place.So the Spatial relationship (size) are the same, even though the images look very different

This may explain better why I said FOV and AOV are not always the same

In these two images the Field of View is Technically the same since they both contain within the Field, The two palm Trees.



But both were shot with different Angles of View because the first was shot at 92mm (23º), the second at 32mm (63º). But wait you are saying. “Hold your horse, the Background Field of View is completely different!”. Right, because I moved forward in the second image thus changing… the Perspective ..wink wink, get it now?

Hope that helped a bit in your understanding. Now you need to get straight in your head how to use all of this in your compositions and that is the hard part. But at least now you may be aware that this stuff exist. Many people just grab a lens, point it and shoot, when really the most importnat thing is to stand where you want to stand to get the composition you want and THEN chose a lens that fits THAT

For more on Lenses, Perspective and Point of View you can also read these other article I’ve done on a subject I find fascinating . They are HERE , HERE and HERE