How to Take Top-Down Portraits

When done in a certain way, photographing your subject from above can result in unique and sometimes gravity-defying results. Check out this tutorial, which you can try at home with some basic equipment.

Here, Gavin Hoey of Adorama TV affixes his camera to a mount screwed into the ceiling. If drilling a hole in your ceiling is something you're not too keen on, then rigging a crossbar with a super clamp and arm might be a good work-around. Just be sure that it's safe and secure before getting someone to pose under it.

Hoey is able to control his camera's settings using Olympus Capture software via a tether cable. This also allows him to get a live feed, which is handy for getting those compositions correct before pressing the shutter. Thankfully, Lightroom tethered capture now has a live-view mode  — albeit with the frame-rate of an early 1900's stop-motion animation. No tether cable? If your camera has Wi-Fi, then you could just use your phone or tablet. 

He uses two of these flash triggers to easily control his lights. But because most of us don't have two of these lying around, we'll probably just have to suck it up and change our flash settings manually. Hoey's trick for getting the model looking natural and feeling comfortable while lying on the ground is pretty nifty, but I'm going to let you find that out for yourself. 

Have you tried any top-down shoots? We would love to see some shots in the comments below. 

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Daris Fox's picture

Just fly a drone, or stick the camera on a boom stand if you require the abilities of a camera. I've done both. The former I've done for boudoir shoots indoors with natural light. The boom stand does a great job as a stand in for a crane/jib and I can extend it's abilities using a magic arm or clamp for a secondary camera say for video.

I also use the boom stand to record me repairing my equipment and/or creating tutorial images.

Mike O'Leary's picture

Yeah, I use a boom arm on a heavy stand. The drone is an interesting idea. Can't see me going for it, though — the noise over a 45 minute shoot would drive my crazy.