Where Is Your Camera In Relation To Your Subject's Eyes? :: Digital Photo Secrets

Where Is Your Camera In Relation To Your Subject's Eyes?

by David Peterson 4 comments

Where your subject looks in a photo says a lot. If your subject is staring directly at the camera, most people take the picture a lot less seriously. Whoever you’re photographing clearly knows they’re being photographed, so it’s like running into an acquaintance on your walk to work. You both say hi to each other, but you don’t exactly share a moment together.

To communicate sincerity in an image, you need to pay attention to your camera’s location in relation to your subject’s eyes. Is the camera pointed slightly away? Are you looking down on your subject? Is your subject looking up at you? Each of these seemingly slight variations of camera position can have a big impact on the overall message you’re sending to your viewer.

To get this shot, the camera was slightly to the right as the subject looked in the other direction. Sure, it’s clearly a “produced” photo, but it’s a lot better than most snapshots.
Photo By: Gemma Stiles

Taking a picture of someone? Keep the eyes in the shot.

I know it sounds like such basic advice, but the eyes really are the windows into the soul. Photos of the back of peoples’ heads are about as interesting as photos of empty furniture. This is one you’ll really want to pay attention to in sports photography. People oftentimes think it’s enough to “take a shot of the action,” but the action isn’t just a bunch of random bodies playing a sport. The “action” takes place in the eyes.

The person who took this photo didn’t intend to take it for any professional purposes, but I’ll use it to make a point. If you aren’t going to include someone’s eyes, you might as well just photograph the wall.
Photo By Flickr User StarMama

Sometimes having the eyes just barely in the shot can make for some great art. It communicates a kind subtlety that leaves a lot to the imagination. Try framing the shot so your subject’s eyes are in the upper corner. If you manage to fire off a shot of your subject looking back at you, there’s a good chance you can get one of these elusive yet awesome photos.

If you want serious, you have to get serious

There’s a reason models are so valuable in the industry. They know how to get serious when the time comes. In essence, they know where to look. The photographer knows where to point the camera too. Experienced photographers rarely point the camera dead center. It’s usually somewhere off to the side or at an angle. When the model looks away, you get more of a sense that you’re sharing a moment together.

Some of the best candid photography is shot from the hip. Try bringing the camera down to hip level, pointing it up, and taking a few shots that way. If you zoom in a little bit, it won’t look like your subject is staring down at you. The point is to take yourself out of your subject’s line of sight. If it’s very clear that your subject can’t see you, the photo carries a sense of intimacy.

Either way, you’ve gotta get serious if you want to communicate seriousness. Bring the camera to side, lift it up, bring it down lower. Do anything different from the normal snapshot, and you stand a better chance of making an impact with your photo.

What certain camera positions communicate

Want to know a sure fire way to make someone look small? It’s pretty easy. Just get on top of a chair and take a photograph looking down. This happens all the time when people photograph their kids. They don’t think to get down to their level, and it usually kills the personality of the shot. It makes your kid look like another small and powerless person.

If you have kids, try photographing them from their eye level. The best way to do this is with a zoom lens so you can get a candid shot. If your kids know you’re photographing them, it kills the mood. Yes, you will be doing a lot of crawling around on the carpet, but the effect is much more powerful than the top-down photos your friends are probably taking.

A wonderful example of what you can do if you position the camera in the right place. As a viewer, you feel so much a part of this scene that you’re almost cautious to avoid waking the baby.
Photo By Flickr User: US Army

When you bring the camera below the eye-level of your subjects, you create the reverse effect. Now they’re looking down on you, and it makes them look positively gigantic. This effect is often used when photographing pro athletes, especially the bigger kind. It adds to their domineering character as they are perpetually looking down on you.

As you can see, it’s not just important to pay attention to where you subject is looking. It’s just as important to pay attention to where you are. Are you in the line of sight? Does it look like you’re running into an acquaintance on the street, or are you happening upon a private moment? How you position the camera says a lot about the moment you’re capturing. Use it for the right effect.

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  1. Noelene says:

    Thanks for all the really good advice you publish, it has helped me greatly in growing as a photographer. I'm not so sure I entirely agree with the comment "Photos of the back of peoples heads are about as interesting as photos of empty furniture".
    Some time ago I was on a 4 day photography workshop and just happened to shoot this exact scenario. The accidental model and the group leader were both equally enthusiastic with the result as of course was I. So, I would say, in some circumstances it could work, but not as a standard pose.

  2. Pete Hennessy says:

    Your tutorals are the best!

  3. Leonard says:

    Always appreciate your comments.Thank you.Len

  4. Charles L. Gare says:

    Thanks for your great photography tips, they are much appreciated

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