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What Exactly is the Dutch Angle?

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When searching the web for new photography trends, we’ve come across multiple articles stating that the ‘Dutch angle’ is going to be one of the top photography movements in 2024. This seemed a little hard to believe at first. The Dutch angle is predominantly known as a filming technique – something to add tension or unease to a scene – but the more we looked into it, the more it started to make sense. Below are our full thoughts on the Dutch angle and how you can apply it to your photography journey this year.

The Dutch Angle: Explained

Cast your mind back to the 90s. Do you remember that Mission Impossible scene where Tom Cruise is accused of being a mole? This was back when Mission Impossible was more of a ‘tension-filled espionage thriller’ than a ‘nonsensical explosion-y blockbuster’, and the Dutch angle was used multiple times to compliment a sense of suspense and unease. 

In countless other movies, it’s used to the same effect, cultivating everything from alienness to instability, tension to conflict, and disorientation to otherworldliness. The angle in question is a camera shot that has a noticeable tilt on the x-axis. Originally created by German Expressionists in the 1920s – meaning it’s not actually Dutch! – it can be done by rotating the camera slightly to one side, creating a skewed horizon line, and maximising the depth of field of the shot. 

What are the Pros of the Dutch Angle in Photography?

As mentioned previously, we were quite sceptical about using the Dutch angle in photography – at least initially. But after delving deeper into it, we realised that the angle is not just about pushing a sense of unease. The Dutch angle doesn’t just enhance a particular mood, it creates a number of moods. 

It can be used to evoke excitement, underscore chaos, incite the fantastical, or highlight a subject’s emotions. Just as the Dutch angle bends the scene in front of you, the angle itself can be bent to your will, with plenty of room to experiment to get what you want out of it. As a photographer, this should always be something you take advantage of. If you have been using us as a photo book creator, it’s because you care about the pictures you take and want to give them a stage. 

As with any stage, it’s all about creating drama and intrigue, and the Dutch angle gives you a perfect opportunity to break away from compositional conventions. From a technical perspective, the Dutch angle can also emphasise movement – perfect for action shots with high energy – and, as mentioned before, it can be a brilliant tool for conveying emotions and bolstering your storytelling.

What are the Cons of the Dutch Angle in Photography?

That’s not to say it’s a sure bet. One of the cons of using the Dutch angle is that it can become distracting. If you’re trying to photograph a subject – and relay a certain message – the Dutch angle can actually take away from your vision, confusing the viewer by relaying a different message to the one you want to portray.

It’s very context-specific, and this isn’t always a good thing as far as photography is concerned. What’s more, it can easily look unprofessional. We can’t tell you how many photographs we’ve seen where a Dutch angle has been applied badly, leading to an amateurish image that looks more gimmicky than visually interesting. Experimentation is important, of course, but if it’s not working, there’s probably a reason for that – beyond your own capabilities – so we’d suggest dropping it and trying something else.

Tips on Perfecting the Dutch Angle

With all that being said, if you want to try out the Dutch angle for your next photo shoot, there are various things you can do to get it right. The first is to make sure the context is appropriate. 

As we just mentioned, the Dutch angle cannot be used arbitrarily – it must be used sparingly, in moderation, with a clear initiative that calls for its use. You should also try to be as purposeful as possible. Don’t tilt the camera timidly or opt for a subtle curve – this will only make you look timid as a photographer, and the Dutch angle is all about being bold and adventurous. 

In the same breath, you should make sure that you’re not putting all your focus into the angle. All the other elements of photography apply. In order for the angle to work, you need to match it with the lighting, the subject, and the overall composition – these will all work to create a harmonious and striking image, rather than a picture that looks like it’s been tilted at the last minute. If you do this and keep experimenting, the Dutch angle can easily be added to your ‘photography skills portfolio’!


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