• EDUCATIONAL TOPIC #11 Why head angle and eye contact is important.

    I received the following comment from Tony in regards to this Red-Necked Stint shot.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Peterson View Post
    Looks good Duade. the head-turn/eye contact with viewer allows for a tighter/more intimate crop - something that I'll have to keep in mind for future compositions


    Tony has touched on a point that I believe is worth exploring and sharing. When taking photos of birds I am trying to create a link between the viewer and the bird. I always try to get good eye contact, it is this eye contact which I believe helps to create an intimate picture.

    When we talk about eye contact it often goes hand in hand with the head angle of the bird. That is the angle of the head in relation to the camera sensor. For most shots I get the light angle coming over my shoulder then I attempt to get the sensor parallel to the bird. This places the light over the length of the bird and gives maximum coverage. Next I hope the bird turns slightly towards me and looks in my direction.

    It is probably easiest to show an example. Here are three shots all taken within seconds of each other of a Rainbow Bee-eater that was posing nicely for me. All three shots are in focus with nice light and detail. The only thing separating them is the Head Angle.

    The head angle on the left bird is angled away from the sensor. Whilst we can see the eye it is not looking at us and fails to engage, this is an instant delete for me. The head angle on the middle bird is possibly exactly parallel with the sensor creating the perfect Field ID shot. For me this is ok but it lacks the intimacy I am after and it looks like the bird is looking away from us. The bird on the right has what I believe is a good head angle, that is a few degrees towards the camera sensor. The bird is now looking towards me and there is great eye contact, this is the image I would use.

    I took this shot of an Australian Wood Duck recently.

    It received this comment from Ray which is bang on.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Walker View Post
    You would get another point or two if he had of turned towards you a tad more..
    It didn't really matter that the light, detail and low angle were strong. Simply having the wrong angle will always let the shot down.

    In comparison I took this shot of a Australian Pied Oystercatcher which also has good light and detail. The difference here is the bird angle is parallel to the camera and there is a very small head turn towards me creating good eye contact. This image to me is engaging and successful.


    And one last example of good HA. The bird is turned slightly towards the camera sensor and it looks like the bird is staring straight at me creating a strong connection.


    How to capture the correct HA.
    1. Burst Mode.
    I always shoot in burst mode and will often let off 4 or 5 shots at a time. This gives me some insurance when shooting as it increases my odds of at least one of the shots being sharp and containing the HA I am after. This can chew up memory cards but I will delete anything in camera that is soft or poor eye contact.

    2. Pishing/Squeaking.
    I will often make squeaking or pishing noises to get the birds attention. The bird will often look towards the noise allowing you an opportunity to snap that important eye contact.

    3. Positioning.
    Sometimes you have to move left or right, up or down to get the stronger angle. Be sure to read David Stowes excellent tutorial; http://www.feathersandphotos.com.au/...AND-BACKGROUND

    Hopefully this is useful to beginners who want to improve their images. I would love to see further examples posted from other members showing two shots one with good HA and one with less than ideal.

    Source: I first read about HA and its importance here http://www.birdphotographers.net/for...le-Fine-Points