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The Illusion of Depth

by Editor Lourens Durand
Published the 6th of August 2021

'Diamonds are forever' by Rana Jabeen

When we use the word “depth” it has many different meanings, depending on the context in which it is used and on the listener’s experience and background.

It may bring up visions of scuba diving, the mining of precious metals or coal in cavernous pits or simply the rich timbre of a singer’s voice. Perhaps the use of the word could also refer to depths of despair, of research, of character or of colour.


'Scuba divers' by Ilan Ben Tov



'coal mine' by Emine Basa



'Artists block' by Llja Hackman

To artists and photographers, though, it represents a problem of how to create an illusion of depth on a flat surface of paper or canvas – not only in terms of physical perspective but also in reflecting emotions and feelings.

On the physical side, the illusion of depth relies on the foreground, middle ground and background of a photo or artwork blending into each other in a way that reflects a three-dimensional scene.

Here are some examples of the tools that may be used to make this possible:

* Diagonal leading lines converging at a point may help to create perspective

* S-curves provide meandering lines that invite the eye to sweep along winding paths through the picture joining the foreground to the background

* Lines need not be physical lines, but suggested by means of colours, textures, light and dark or repeated patterns

* V-shapes are often used in landscapes, with the background of distant mountains forming the V, framing a point of interest closer to the viewer

* Using trees or other shapes in the foreground as a frame for more distant objects

* Look for atmospheric colour, where colours of distant objects are hazy and less saturated than in the foreground

* Camera position should be selected to allow objects further away to appear to be smaller than those in the foreground

* Overlapping of objects also helps to provide perspective

* Choose a wide aperture for a narrow depth of field, blurring the background but preserving sharpness in the foreground

* Lines and shapes can also influence the mood of the photo, eliciting different feelings and emotions, adding depth in a figurative sense:

* Squares and rectangles suggest order and uniformity, creating a relaxed mood

* Circles depict unity, completion, and perfection

* Triangles focus on a point, representing strength and stability as well as grouping things together

* Converging lines create physical depth, but parallel lines create a sense of order and rhythm

* Vertical lines depict dignity, strength and growth, whilst horizontal lines suggest calmness and tranquillity

* Symmetry, repetition and patterns create a sense of order, whilst asymmetry produces a sense of imbalance

* A C-Curve around objects in a composition create a feeling of unity and togetherness

* Two C-Curves, one a mirror of the other, may have the effect of pushing against each other, creating conflict

In Portraiture there are further possibilities by combing some of these composition ideas with facial expressions and body language of subjects to add further physical and emotional depth.

I hope that the following selection of superb images made by 1X photographers will manage to shed some light on the tools at our disposal to create the illusion of depth on a flat sheet of paper.

Lourens Durand


'The Gondolier' by Carmine Chiriacó


'Dawn in the reservoir' by Manuel Bermúdez



'Two Girls Sand Dune' by Teo Chin Leong



'When the time stood still' by Peter Svoboda MQEP



'A hole in the wall' by ido meirovich



'East River' by Janice W. Chen



'A calm morning' by Sus Bogaerts



'Ash and Dust' by Roberto Pazzi



'where nothing else matters' by Piet Flour



'Vertical breaking' by Andrés Gámiz



'Umbrella' by Fira Mikael



'Love' by Stefan Eisele



'My New Baby' by Kim Lennert Simonsen



'Willkommen im Kinderparadies' by Susanne Jung



'To the future' by Semir Catovic



'Asymmetry' by Jois Domont (J.L.G.)



'inspired by artist drawing' by Erhard Batzdorf



'Surfing at New Jersey Beach' by David Wang



'Curves' by Andrés Gámiz



'Bald eagle hunting' by JOHNNY CHEN



'The sea inside' by Mohammadreza Momeni



'Emotion' by Vitaliy Reznichenko



'Flowers' by Setsuna Kurouzu

Extremely well-illustrated article. Great choice of photographs - very very interesting. I will certainly refer to this in future. Thanks for the inspiration.
Great article! Thanks for including my work in and congrats to all the other photographers involved!
Congratulations on this article ,the pictures could not have been more fitting, kudos also to Yvette for your editorial touch
Compliments for this inspiring article and selected photographers!
Congratulations to everyone and thank you for including me on this list. Very grateful Yvette
fine collection and interesting illustration of the depth aspect in photography and art. Compliments to the creators of the article, and the selected photographers.
O Magazine é o melhor do 1.X - muito claro e pedagógico para além de ser um indicador de qualidade do site. Obrigado!
Thank you so much, Lourens and Yvette.
Thank you. Much appreciated.
Beautiful and inspiring works. Many thanks to Yvette and Lourens. A nice weekend! Erhard
Thanks a lot for passing by, dear Erhard !
Great article and examples, thank you!
Many thanks for your appreciation, dear Elisabeth !
Congratulations Lourens Durand for the well written and informative article. Thank you for selecting my image! Best wishes Lourens and Yvette
Thank you, Rana ;-) I wish you a fine weekend, dear friend ...