When you encounter wildlife, it’s pretty easy to get excited, isn’t it? It doesn’t happen often, so when you’re lucky enough, the first thing you’re probably thinking is, “wow, I do not want to scare this thing away!” (well, unless it’s a bear or mountain lion, heh).
In that moment of excitement, it’s easy to forget about camera techniques and just start snapping photos from where you’re standing. But, if you want an intimate, sharp, and isolated portrait of any wildlife subject, you’re gonna have to get down to their eye level to snap the photo, and here are some reasons why:
#1 – It makes the image more intimate
A lot of wildlife you encounter will be shorter than you, so you’ll usually be looking down on them. This creates a feeling of superiority in the image.
Getting down to the eye level of your subject helps put you in their world, and get their perspective on things. Suddenly things don’t look so small anymore, do they?
#2 – It makes the image sharper
When you photograph wildlife at eye level, you also help position your camera so the sensor is parallel to the most important plane of your subject (the eyes and as much of the body as possible).
This helps put all important parts of your subject at the same distance from your sensor, so all those parts will be in sharp focus.
In every photo, there is really only one plane of complete sharpness, so choosing this plane wisely and positioning your camera’s sensor so it’s parallel to this plane is critical to getting sharp photos of wildlife (or wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, etc).
#3 – It creates a better background
When you’re photographing wildlife from above, the background will usually be the ground or plants immediately behind the subject. This makes it hard to get that nice out of focus background because it’s just too close to the subject.
But, when you get down to eye level, the background will usually be something far away, making it much easier to get a good blurred, out of focus background.
Be prepared to get dirty!
Of course, getting down to eye level isn’t always easy: sometimes it means you’ll have to take the photo while lying down on the ground! Don’t worry, it’s just a little dirt! And, it’s the only way to get intimate, sharp, and isolated portraits of wildlife.
Get more great tips in our free weekly newsletter.
About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.