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How Low Can you Go? An Illustration of Camera Angle for Wildlife Photography A Post By: Paul Burwell Whenever I teach wildlife photography, I inevitably go on at some length about the necessity of trying to get your camera near the height of your subject’s eyes. This concept doesn’t only apply to wildlife photography, it applies equally well to photography of people, pets or hobbits. When I teach this concept to a group of students, their eyes tend to glaze over until I put some images in front of them that can really illustrate the point. Safety first It obviously isn’t always practical or safe to get into a lower shooting position. This is true if you’re dealing with larger animals and especially predators, getting low may trigger their prey response where they start to consider you a potential snack, or in my case a meal. It isn’t just your health I’m concerned about, as it seems the regular response to some Join over 1.6 million Subscribers! ! " # $ % & Start Here Photo Tips Gear Post- Processing Courses eBooks ' Se (

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Camera Angles for Wildlife PhotographyHow Low Can you Go? An Illustration of Camera Angle for Wildlife Photography
A Post By: Paul Burwell
Whenever I teach wildlife photography, I inevitably go on at
some length about the necessity of trying to get your camera
near the height of your subject’s eyes. This concept doesn’t
only apply to wildlife photography, it applies equally well to
photography of people, pets or hobbits. When I teach this
concept to a group of students, their eyes tend to glaze over
until I put some images in front of them that can really
illustrate the point.
Safety first
It obviously isn’t always practical or safe to get into a lower
shooting position. This is true if you’re dealing with larger
animals and especially predators, getting low may trigger their
prey response where they start to consider you a potential
snack, or in my case a meal. It isn’t just your health I’m
concerned about, as it seems the regular response to some
Join over 1.6 million Subscribers!
! " # $ % &
"Canon vs Nikon:" - (read it before I delete it) Here is the truth one of them doesn't want you to know.
uglyhedgehog.com
sort of animal attack is for the authorities to track down the
o!ending critter and end its time on earth. So, when I’m
telling you that your pictures will improve if you can get lower
and match your subject’s eye level, you do still need to THINK
about what you’re doing and the sort of subject you’re dealing
with. No photograph is worth either your health, or the health
of your subject.
How camera angle effects your images
I thought I’d use the following images, of the extremely
dangerous and elusive Richardson’s ground squirrel, to
illustrate how images improve as the angle of the camera to
the subject changes in respect to the level of the subject’s
eyes. This is the perfect critter for this topic because,
depending on the squirrel’s posture, its eyes are somewhere
between one and six inches (2.5 to 15 cm) above the ground.
All of the images below were photographed with my full-
frame Canon DSLR along with the Canon 500mm lens with a
2.0x teleconverter on it for an e!ective focal length of
1000mm. All of the images were made at an aperture setting
of f/9, the standard setting I use on this lens/teleconverter
combination when I’m wanting as little depth-of-"eld as
possible while at the same time stopping down a bit to
compensate for the sharpness lost by using the teleconverter.
1000mm is roughly equivalent to about a 20x zoom, if you are
using a point-and-shoot type camera, from what our bare eyes
would normally see.
just on top of the window opening. The extreme focal length
(or magni"cation factor) of images made with a super
telephoto lens does help minimize the apparent di!erence in
height (which ended up being about four feet or 1.2 metres)
but you can still tell it was shot looking down at the squirrel.
Richardson’s Ground Squirrel sitting on the grass – shot
from four feet height (1.2 meters)
On this next photo below, using my tripod with the lens about
18 inches (45cm) above the ground, you can really see how the
camera angle has changed and how nicely the background
resolves into a whole bunch of nothingness (technically called
bokeh), but there is still an element of peering down on the
ground squirrel.
shot from 18″ camera height
"Canon vs Nikon:" - (read it before I delete it) Here is the truth one of them doesn't want you to know.
uglyhedgehog.com
The e!ect of getting your lens closer to your subject’s eye
subject without looking down at it and the innate connection
between the viewer and the subject is a lot more intimate and
compelling. So what happens when you get even lower to the
point where your lens is as close to the eye level of the subject
as possible?
6 inch camera height
6 inch camera height
You can see the image becomes even more compelling with
the lens and camera are now at the same level of the squirrel.
I was laying in a prone position on the ground for these last
two images, with the lens resting on a bean bag. In the "rst of
the two images above, shot at 6 inches camera height, you can
really see the delineation line of what’s in focus and what isn’t
(the DOF). One could argue that the out of focus grass in front
of the image is distracting, but, I’d argue that the dreamy
e!ect created adds to the interest of the photo, and the
squirrel’s head and eyes are nice and sharp.
Summary and your turn
I hope that these images, along with the accompanying text,
help illustrate the point about getting to your subject’s eye-
level whenever feasible. It’s not necessary to use a 500mm
lens, you will have the same e!ect with whatever lens you
have.
Have questions about di!erent situations?
This is the place to ask them or contribute your own thoughts.
UHH Photography Forum
Paul Burwell is a professional photographer,
writer, educator and enthusiastic naturalist with
over twenty years experience working with and
educating adults. In addition to being the owner of
the Burwell School of Photography, he is a
contributing editor and regular columnist
with Outdoor Photography Canada Magazine.
Paul has been a "nalist in the Veolia 'Wildlife
Photographer of the Year' worldwide competition
in 2009, 2010 and 2013 and was named a 'Top
Wildlife Shooter' by Popular Photography Magazine
in 2010.
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