One term that gets thrown around really often in photography and art is “3/4”. You can find it either as “3/4 view”, “3/4 photo”, or “3/4 portrait”. Perhaps there are other variations as well. So what exactly is 3/4? There are actually 2 distinct meanings, which we’ll check out in this post.
Sometimes it is used to refer to the angle, and sometimes, it is used to refer to the framing of the photograph.
3/4 portrait: definition #1
Just using the term 3/4 is not going to be sufficient, but if you use a modifier word after the fraction, you’ll be able to understand what the meaning is.
If you see 3/4 portrait, it commonly refers to a shot where the model is framed from the top of their head down to about their knees.
In this kind of photograph, 3/4 of the model is visible in the frame, hence the name. A 3/4 portrait has nothing to do with the angle the model is at, just how much of the model is visible.
While this is most common for human and animal subjects, you could theoretically apply this principle to inanimate objects as well.
3/4 view: definition #2
If you see the term 3/4 view, then it usually refers to the kind of angle the model is facing you at. This kind of shot is called a 3/4 view because the only visible portion of the model’s face is 3/4ths of it.
To set up this pose, the model has their head turned slightly away from the camera in a way that the ear opposite the camera is just out of shot.
Even though it’s called a 3/4 view, it won’t always be 3/4 since everyone’s face size and shape is a little different.
A similar shot to a 3/4 view is a 2/3 view, where the model’s head is turned even further away, enough that the opposite eye appears very near the edge of the face.
You can use 3/4 view to take a photograph of the entire body of your model, or you can use a 3/4 view portrait to just take a photo with their face and/or neck in the frame.
Of course, one small difference between a full body 3/4 view shot and a portrait is that for a full body shot, the models entire body will be turned, whereas in a 3/4 portrait, it may just be their face that’s turned away, but you can’t see the rest of the body in the shot!
American cowboy shot
Another variation of the 3/4 shot which combines the 3/4 portrait and the 3/4 view is combined, in a shot commonly called the American cowboy shot.
In this, the head of the model is turned around 45 degrees from the camera, and 3/4ths of the model’s body is visible in the shot.
This shot became popular in classic Westerns where the face of the actor would be visible as well as the gun on their hip.
Photographing other objects with 3/4 view
People are not the only things you can photograph with a 3/4 view. Many photos of locomotives, cars, airplanes, and other vehicles are commonly shot in a 3/4 view so that the front and the side can be visibly.
For a bit more detail, the shot may be taken from a height to show parts of the top of the subject as well. This theme is very common in product photographs as well.
Fans of trains and locomotives will probably find this kind of shot very popular in their circles, as they feel this kind of shot is the ideal way to capture a photo of a train!
Setting up the shot
Now that you know what a 3/4 photograph is, how do you set it up? There are basically two ways to do it:
- If you’re photographing a model, you can have them angle their face away from you at the desired degree
- If you’re photographing in the field, you’ll have to set yourself up at an angle from your subject
You need to make sure the light is coming from the proper angle, too. Since only part of the model will be visible to you, make sure the light is coming in a way the desired parts of the model are illuminated.
The lighting problem can be overcome by using a flash.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of camera you are using: you can shoot great 3/4 photos on a dSLR or you can choose to shoot a picture on your camera phone – in 3/4 photos, it’s all about the composition and lighting.