Shooting Both Eyes Open

Shooting with both eyes open is a photographic technique that can be beneficial in specific situations. This article shares a sample Pro Capture H image run shot with both eyes open.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

Shooting with both eyes open takes some practice as it can be quite disorienting. A basis question that many folks have is “Why would a photographer want to shoot with both eyes open?”

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

Using this technique allows a photographer to better anticipate when a subject will be entering their composition. This shooting approach is most commonly used when shooting action sequences when a photographer is in tight with a subject, but also wants to be aware of other subject matter entering the frame.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

Think of a fullback running with a ball and a linebacker approaching to make the tackle. In that type of situation a photographer wants to be aware of both the main subject, as well as another subject entering the composition so they can time the tackle while it happens.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

This sample image run is a good example of the benefit of having a bit of advanced warning when a subject is approaching. As you can see from the EXIF data I was using the Pro Capture H mode with my OM-D E-M1X.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

I was shooting with a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second with my pre-shutter frames and frame limiter both set to 15 frames. This meant that I had window of 1/4 of a second to capture the 15 photographs that are featured in this article. The timing of my shutter release was critical.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

As you can see I was situated in pretty tight to the bird feeder. I had my single auto-focus point placed in the bottom right corner of my focusing grid. When looking through my viewfinder with one eye I had no idea what was on the back side of the feeder.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

My plan was to photograph birds approaching the feeder as they flew into the sun. That’s also the reason that you’ll see that I used -0.7 step exposure compensation, i.e. to avoid highlight blow outs on subject birds.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

What you can’t see is the grackle that was perched on the back side of the bird feeder. Since I was shooting with both eyes open I was fully aware of the grackle even though I could not see it through my viewfinder.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

With my second eye open I could also see the subject sparrow in this image run fly from the top of the fence in my yard towards the feeder.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

I was pretty sure that the sparrow could not see the grackle based on the flight angle at which it was approaching the feeder. This led me to anticipate some interaction from the birds, or at the very least some interesting wing motions from the sparrow.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

I decided that I would press my shutter release before the sparrow landed on the feeder.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

To my surprise the sparrow never did land on the bird feeder. As it approached it must have noticed the grackle and the sparrow hovered in mid-air for a split second, then departed.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

My Pro Capture H run was able to photograph the hovering action before the sparrow left.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

If you have not used both eyes open when shooting action sequences you may find it beneficial to give it a try. It will likely feel awkward at first as many photographers are most comfortable shooting with one eye closed.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-640, -0.7 step, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

The benefit of this technique may be better timed action sequences, especially when multiple subjects are involved. This was not the case with my sample image run in this article as the other bird remained out of frame… but it did affect the sparrow’s behaviour.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs we cropped to approximately 4800 pixels on the width, then resized for web use.

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4 thoughts on “Shooting Both Eyes Open”

  1. I have used and advocated two-eyed shooting for years. It is an advantage when shooting sports. Two bad we don’t have three eyes, as we could then use the center eye on the viewfinder, and be able to see on both sides.

  2. I have long used (and taught) this technique for long telephoto work.

    You can train yourself to see out of one eye or the other. I use my viewfinder eye for composition, and my other eye for tracking, and alternate between the two as the subject is moving about.

    With a long telephoto, you can also use this technique to “calibrate” the position of the end of your lens with respect to your subject. Of course, there are parallax issues with subjects at different distances, but with my OM Zuko 350/2.8, the subject is right at the end of the lens with my left eye when it is in the viewfinder. Conversely, with the OM Zuiko 500/8 Reflex, I have to put it about 1 cm off the end of the lens in order to be in the viewfinder.

    “Two-eyed shooting” is certainly a skill worth having in your bag of tricks!

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