Powerful Portraits Photograph At Eye Level

Believe it or not, I learned a great deal about making bird 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 bird photography. This may actually apply to any form of photography.

One of those techniques that always applies in wildlife/bird photography is making sure to get some coverage of your subject while shooting at eye level.

If you make traditional portraits of people, you probably know that the most powerful portraits tend to be shot at eye level. But if you took photographs of virtually any subject before you got serious about photography, chances are the subject was higher or lower than your camera. This means you shoot up or down on them. You might like the results better if you shoot at eye level.

There are lots of benefits to this approach.

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 editorializing and instead simply presents the subject as it is in real-life.

Give it a try.

About The Author

Photo Courtesy Levi Sim

Scott Bourne is a member of The Board Of Advisors at Macphun, an Olympus Visionary and a professional wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He was one of the founders of This Week In Photo, Founded Photofocus.com and is co-founder of the new Photo Podcast Network (photopodcasts.com.)

Scott is a regular contributor to several photography related blogs and podcasts and is the author of 11 photography books.

Scott is available to speak to your birding group, photography group and for both private and small group bird photography workshops. For more information on engaging Scott as a speaker or workshop leader, or for image licensing and print information, e-mail scott@scottbourne.com.


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