While the examples I use in this post are of birds/wildlife, they could just as easily have been people.
I learned a great deal about making wildlife photographs when I spent time shooting portraits of people. Most of the techniques I was taught to use when making a human portrait apply to wildlife photography.
And one of those techniques that always applies is shooting at the eye level of your subject
Shooting at Eye Level
If you have photos of people they tend to be at eye level. But if you took photographs of animals/birds/pets before you got serious about photography, chances are the subject was lower than your camera. This means you shoot down on them. You might like the results better if you shoot at eye level.
I love making wildlife portraits at eye level. There are lots of benefits to this approach.
In no particular order:
1. You achieve more pleasing backgrounds
The subject to background distance is always small when you shoot down on an animal. But when you move to eye level you have the chance to separate the background from the subject which makes it easier to achieve a nice, unobtrusive background.
2. You get a more intimate photograph
When you position your camera at eye level, your camera sees them the subject the way they see you. Point of view matters. You are drawn in to their world. The connection between camera and subject is deeper so when people look at your photographs they will connect better with the subject.
3. You show respect for your subject
This takes the point I was making above a step further. Engaging your subject at eye level shows them respect. When you shoot down on a subject, you diminish that subjects power. Shooting at eye level shows respect – that you are no more important than your subject.
4. It’s Easier To Make Sharp Images
When your focal plane is parallel to the eyes of your subject, you give the camera sensor the best chance of finding the sharpest part of the image. Of course depth-of-field matters but having the plane of focus match the subject improves overall sharpness.
5. Its relatable
Eye level is the most common view, being a real-world angle that we are all used to. It is easier to recognize something when you see it at eye level. It shows subjects as we would expect to see them in real life. It is a fairly neutral shot that removes any hint of editorialization and instead simply presents the subject as it is in real-life.
Next time youre making photos of animals, insects, people, anything with eyes, consider trying to place yourself at eye level. I think you’ll see what Im talking about.