Digital photo tip: Get eye level with your subject

Published on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 by Mark Turner

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The most compelling photos are often made eye to eye with the subject. That means if you’re photographing a child, pet or small plant you’ll want to get down low so your camera’s lens is roughly at the same level as your subject’s eyes. 

If it’s a flower then that’s your eye level.

I’ve noticed that most non-professional photographers always shoot from their own eye level. There’s nothing wrong with that for many subjects, but it quickly gets boring to see everything from the same vantage point. It’s particularly dull to just tilt the camera down without thinking about how your subject will fill the frame.

One way to remember to try different viewpoints is to think about how different animals see the world. Birds see the world from the sky, looking down. Adult humans experience the world from about five feet. Two-year-old humans see things from half that height. A rabbit’s worldview is from only six to eight inches.

Try this little experiment with one of your favorite knee-high subjects. 

First take a picture from your eye level. Then get down to your subject’s level and take another picture. If you haven’t been doing this I think you’ll be surprised at how much stronger the eye-level photo is.

Don’t be afraid to lie down on the ground. Move in close and fill your entire frame with the subject, too. 

More on that next month.

Have questions for a future issue? Put “digital question” in the subject line and e-mail them to: mark@turnerphotographics.com.

Mark Turner is a Bellingham professional photographer who creates heirloom portraits of families, high school seniors and pets. He is the photographer and co-author of Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham Impressions and the smartphone app Washington Wildflowers. 

His photography has been published in national garden books and magazines for more than 18 years. Visit his website at turnerphotographics.com.