One Trick To Making Powerful Portraits

Bald eagle photograph Copyright Scott Bourne

One Trick To Making 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.


Here’s why:

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.

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