When we take an image, we flatten our three dimensional world into something two dimensional.
And as a result, our images can look a little.....
Adding depth is simply a way of bringing back that three dimensional feel - in other words, more closely mimicking how we see in the real world. It helps our viewers feel like they are in the photograph, and adds more complexity to your image, in turn making it more inviting and engaging.
Luckily for you, that complexity only exists in the resulting image, because it can be super easy to do, you just have to remember to do it 😁
So, here are three simply ways that you can start to incorporate depth into your images, that will take you only a few seconds to do.
#1 Add a foreground element
One of the easiest ways to add depth to your images is to think of different “planes” and have something in the foreground, the middle, and the background.
You can do this with landscape photography, or portrait photography, or documentary / storytelling images - in fact any type of photography will benefit from this “staging” of planes!
Take the image below (which I would call documentary in nature!) as an example: we have part of the chair in the foreground, items on the table along with the subject in the middle, and then out in a reflection and patio area behind as our background. As a result, our eyes travel THROUGH the image, because those different elements on these three “planes” help to create depth.
You can use anything as a foreground element - for example some rocks in a landscape image, or some foliage or branches from trees in front of a person in a portrait, or even like this second example, which simply has a little bit of the edge of the hot tub in the front - just going to show that absolutely anything in front will help create depth, in doesn’t have to be something beautiful!
#2 Use leading lines and vanishing points
Another way to add depth is to consider the lines in your image.
Leading lines are when you use a line in your image to guide your viewers eye to a subject (in other words “leading” them!!) and vanishing points are when two parallel lines converge to create a single point - both have the same effect of leading you into the image and therefore creating depth.
In this example below, the line leads you straight into the image, and as you feel you are travelling along it, it helps to create that feeling of being three dimensional, rather than simply a “flat” single dimension image.
#3 Use a very shallow depth of field
Another way to create depth is simply to use a very shallow depth of field, and focus on something in the middle of the frame. This helps create a feeling of distance between your subject and the background, and when you have something in front, even just marginally, using this shallow depth of field will help create an out of focus area in front, and an out of focus area behind, giving you that sense of depth!
This image taken of dew on a spiders web has such a narrow plane of focus, than even though some of the drops are mere centimeter in front, they are rendered out of focus, helping create that depth and feeling of things being on different planes, even though in reality, they are darn close together.
If you are a little confused about which aperture settings to use when, they do be sure to download my free manual mode cheat sheet, which details ALL the settings for you!
There you have it! Three simply ways that you can start to incorporate a feeling of depth in your photographs, today.