In Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, travellers are at once turning into giants, before becoming one-inch versions of themselves. Cans of Pringles chips become walkways, and you can drink from a bottle of wine 100 times your size. Is this a surrealist painting come to life? Not quite. It’s a simple arrangement of perspective and it couldn’t be more fun.
This is a short guide to what’s known as a forced-perspective photo. We’ve got five quick tips that will help you prepare, and ultimately get, the shot you’re looking for.
Step 1: Don’t come empty handed
Bring props and toys. And really, anything goes – toy dinosaurs, beach balls, flippers, hats, umbrellas, stuffed animals, etc. Stuff that won’t be too difficult to carry with you when travelling, but will really stand out against stark-white salt flats. The landscape here consists of a layer of dry, cracked salt, and it goes on as far as your eye can see. When shown through the camera’s lens, the horizon line appears closer than in reality. And it’s within this forced focal point that we get the chance to play with perspective. We will use these props and toys to create a foreground in the image.
Step 2: Sky and salt, that’s it
Schedule enough time to find a section with a clean background and blank horizon. It can take up to three hours to cross the salt flats in Bolivia. Most trips will take you from one side to the other, stopping in the middle to get photographs. It is important that you stop somewhere where there are no distant mountains or hills. A big portion of the perspective anomaly is the minimal background. Sky and salt, that’s it.
Step 3: Keep your distance
Make sure the prop is close to the camera and the person (or people) are far from the camera — in fact, they’ll need to be a lot farther back than you might think. When placing your shot, keep the prop close to the camera so it is bigger in the frame, and place the people in the distance on the same line of sight as the prop; it’s then that you will begin to see the perspective take shape. The farther the distance the people are from the camera and the prop, the more “miniature” they will be in the shot. This takes time and can be somewhat painstaking, but you’ll get it.
Step 4: Get down, stay down
Lie down on the salt to get the shot. This is something people genuinely don’t think about, but when your prop is small, and you want to make it the hero of the image, you need to get on the same level. The closer you and the camera are to the same plane of the prop the better. From this angle you will really start to see the image take hold.
The only exception to this rule is for standing shots where you’re holding someone in your hand or they’re dangling from your finger. When shooting these, it’s not necessary to lie down, but for all other perspective shots it is.
Step 5: Line it up!
Once the perceptive is lined up you’re ready to make smaller adjustments to create that perfect image. It’s much easier to set up the prop first and get the person in the background to stay put, and then move the you and the camera to get the shot. Don’t move the subject or prop. They’re set in place and it’s up to you now to make the small changes. Once you see your frame, take a few shots and review your images, moving the camera slightly every time until you are satisfied.
Tip: Do multiple takes. You may think you have your shot from what you’re seeing in your camera’s display, but all too often, once you have your image up on a larger screen, you see all kinds of things that aren’t working. Try a few different angles, and compose the frame in three or four versions. And hey, you may find you’ve created an even better image than you had set out to take!
G Adventures runs a number of departures in Bolivia encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.