One of the things that makes a good image is capturing something that very few others would capture when they take images. Recently, I was photographing a wolf hybrid pup, and wanted to point out some things in those images.
The first thing to do is get in the mud! Well, not really in the mud, but lower to the ground. When you take images of subjects that are smaller than you, it is really important to get at least to their eye level. Why? First, this puts you on their level as an equal. With children and animals, we sort of expect to look down to them, but making them just as important as the viewer, it gives the animals or children status as the subject. They become important. As you look to the image at right, see how shooting at his eye level makes him important. We aren’t looking down at him. We also use depth of field to keep our attention focused on his eyes and away from the busy background of the backyard where we shot this image. If we didn’t, the background would show things in other yards behind the wolf more busy and would more than likely draw your attention from the wolve’s eyes. Most people would be lazy and shoot from their standing position and looking down at him. This may create an image that is OK and an excellent snapshot, this isn’t good enough for a professional photographer.
Another way of shooting him was below his eyes, promoting him into a very powerful subject and making him more important than the viewer (he is no longer an equal). Notice that we again use selective depth of field to blur the background and make the image focus more on the wolf. The bokeh wasn’t the greatest, but we can’t always be perfect with it. I also put a vignette on the top portion of the image because of the sky being so white and detracting from the wolve’s image. This just dims the sky some and should be very subtle – I sort of think this one is maybe a little too strong that I put on this image.
The final image is when the wolf put its head down on the grass. This meant getting down in the grass and capturing him at that level. Again, most people won’t want to get down at his level, but notice how getting to his eye level makes this image. Shot from any higher, and it would look like everyone else’s image. The image could probably be cropped in on the right side some to make the rest of the image an 8×10 crop ratio because the collar and shoulder aren’t really adding much to the image, and it would bring his head more in line with the rule of thirds.
Hopefully, this gives you some good reasons to be at or below eye level for smaller subjects. Next time you have a small subject that is lower than you (like a child or animal), try getting lower and taking a few images at or below their eye level. If this means rolling around in the mud, then so be it. You will love the images that you capture.
All information and images are ©2012 Don Krajewski on this post.