The Dog and Giraffe Look For Your Pictures

I wonder some days if I am the only member of the Brentwood Photography Group who is believes that entirely too much time is spent looking at a computer screen. I say that in the context of the oft-repeated maxim that what I ought to be doing instead is getting out and taking pictures. You know, practice, practice, practice.

The fact of the matter is that there are some of us who spend an awful lot of our “photography time” feeding an addiction to web tutorials relating to cameras, lenses , techniques and the like. This stuff just goes on and on and on. Let’s be honest: we spend a lot less time clicking the shutter and getting better at our craft that we ought.

I turned a corner last week. I came across a YouTube offering by a guy named David Wells that literally got me out the door with my camera. To practice what I had just seen, to be precise. Ostensibly the video dealt with travel photography but the principles it covered were, at least in my mind, applicable to any genre. It was based on an idea that I personally had never come across before in exactly that form: “The job of a photographer is to drive the viewer’s eyes to the place you want them to go.” Now the guy who put the video together is a professional travel photographer who sells his work for use in magazine articles or to companies involved in the travel industry. But why would this not be true for any kind of photography? If I could find a way to do that, why would it not also improve my work as a serious amateur?

The thing that really grabbed my attention was the very first “maxim” or tool he offered as a way to do this: “Try never to photograph from your standing height.” Wells gets a little corny when he characterizes his approach of positioning his camera as “dog look” (from below) or “giraffe look” (from above). But the idea intrigued me.  So out the door I went, set on spending a few hours photographing but never with the camera to my eye while standing straight up.

You know something, my pictures looked a lot better. Almost without exception. Take the picture above, for example, which I really, really like.  The top of that bunch of petunias was less than 3 feet off the ground. I find my eyes going first to the flowers and then back to the wagon wheels in the background. I think yours will follow that route also. If they do, then I have done my job as a photographer.

Try the dog or giraffe look for your pictures; you’ll like it.