Today I want to talk about a topic that is often overlooked by photographers. Whether they are professionals or just hobby photographers, not a lot of photographers actually care about this topic a lot, although it has a big influence on the way we are photographing.
The Eye Dominance.
That we have a dominant hand is a very well known fact and You are probably doing most of Your tasks with the same dominant hand. Doing it with the “wrong” hand may seem very difficult and tedious.
If You are playing football, You also noticed that one leg is more dominant than the other is better for very precise shots.
A lot of photographers aren’t aware which of their eyes are dominant. What is the hand to the writer and the leg to the football player is the eye for the photographer. Yet, a lot of photographers are shooting with the “wrong” eye. What does that actually mean for You and how can You fix it?
Find out more about the dominant eye in this article.
What is a Dominant Eye
People are known to either be left or right handed. We are more precise, have better coordination and often are stronger with one hand than the other. The same does apply to our feet although this fact doesn’t really have a big impact in our everyday life.
For the human vision, there is also the tendency known that one eye is dominant over the other. This fact is also known as the Ocular Dominance.
It would be easy to assume that if You are right-handed, that Your right eye would also be dominant. However, this is not true and You can either any combination of right, or left-handedness and left/right eye dominance.
This does also mean that for You as a photographer, that You might have photographed with Your “wrong” eye ever since You started photography because You relied more on Your handedness.
Cameras are also designed to be used in a certain way and the viewfinder is usually on the left side. The fact the viewfinder can be found on the left, or the right side of the camera body kind of forces us to use a certain eye. Otherwise, Your nose will get in the way and always touch the display. When buying a camera, You should also keep that in mind.
The influence of the Dominant Eye
I found out about this subject when I heard about new training methods being implemented in modern football. To improve the coordination of the football players, they were forced to use only their strong or weak eye for different exercises. One eye would be patched up and they would perform the task only using one eye.
After this very interesting method, to improve coordination in football players I wanted to find more about this subject and it is actually a very big topic in other sports.
In archery, shooting, or hunting the eye dominance is just as important as the foot dominance in football. Every athlete knows which eye is dominant and they put a lot of emphasis on improving their vision.
If this is such a big thing, why shouldn’t we as photographers benefit from it as well? In the end, the eye and our vision is equally important in detecting interesting scenes and using the camera as good as possible.
There were also rumors, that a certain hand-eye combination would be beneficial for some sports and players with a specific combination would have an advantage. However, this rumor couldn’t be verified in studies and it seems to be the case, that the combination doesn’t really have an influence, but how You use the dominant eye certainly does.
As humans, we have a binocular vision, which simply means that we are using two eyes to create a dimensional image. There is an error though that is called “Parallax” which means that objects are displaced, depending on which eye You are using. Our eyes are not on the exact same position and You should comprehend, that the image that each eye sees is slightly different. It is comparable to changing positions and having a different point of view.
Due to that effect, the depth perception can be somewhat skewed. By having a dominant eye though, the brain relies mainly on that eye to determine the exact positional information of an object.
In medicine, the dominant eye plays a crucial role when eye treatments have to be performed. Constraints in the dominant eye are often perceived more heavily. This can be a vital information for contact lens wearers whose contact lenses aren’t adjusted precise enough.
There is also a hypothesis out there, that left eye or cross dominance is responsible for learning disabilities. Although there isn’t a final proof, it seems that the eye dominance plays a way bigger role in our life, than we are aware of.
How does the Dominant Eye influence Photography?
Just as athletes are using the dominant eye for the most important tasks, we as photographers should use our dominant eye as well. To make photography a lot easier, use the dominant eye to look through the viewfinder and don’t be afraid if the nose is touching the display or if it is a little uncomfortable at first. There are many benefits of using the dominant eye in photography.
Are You looking through the viewfinder and have to close the other eye as You would have otherwise problems to identify the image in the viewfinder?
Then this is a strong indicator that You are using the wrong eye. When looking through the viewfinder with Your dominant eye, You can just leave both eyes open and will have no problems to compose the image through the viewfinder.
When I first found out that I don’t have to close my eye when using the dominant eye I was quite baffled. That photographers have to close one eye for photography is deeply ingrained in the image of the photographer.
At first, it may be very unnatural to leave both eyes open, but after getting a bit more accustomed, You will see the benefits. Using both eyes will allow You to look through the viewfinder while still observing the scene with the other eye.
You are able to actually see what happens outside of Your camera. Are people entering from the side, or is there anything happening that should be of Your interest? With both eyes being open, You can easily observe the environment and take better pictures.
Another advantage is that leaving both eyes open is also way more relaxed and less exhausting. I could notice myself that I became kind of tired from closing one eye and that it is almost a little bit displeasing when closing one eye for a very long time. After closing the eye, the eye also has to adjust to the light again. This requires a lot of work and if the eye has to switch from pure darkness to light over and over again, it can get very tiring.
Another advantage should be that Your performance should be better with Your dominant eye. There is no evidence for this, but if athletes report that they get way better results when using and training the dominant eye, the same should be true for us photographers.
With the dominant eye, You will notice details more clearly and composing an image should become easier. The effect is very minimal, but if it is there, why not take advantage of it?
How to tell which eye is dominant
Finding out which eye of Yours is dominant is very easy. You can even do this while sitting in front of this monitor and reading the article.
So let’s start with a simple test.
Extend Your arms with the palms facing outwards
Now overlap Your hands in a way to form a triangle and having a narrow space to look through
Search for an object that You can focus on
Look with both eyes through the hole at the object
Now You should close each eye alternately
With one eye, the object should stay inside the hole and with the other You will not be looking at the object, but to the side of it
The eye that keeps the object in the hole is Your dominant eye
There are many other just slightly different tests. For example, You can also focus on the object and then move Your hands to Your face. You will notice that when keeping the focus on the object, that Your hands will move to either Your left or right eye.
Here is the full test in a neat small video.
Different combinations of Eye Dominance
Naturally, You would believe that there is a strong connection between Your dominant hand and Your eyes. Studies have out though, that there is no connection and that Your dominant eye can be either the left or the right one, independently if You are right or left-handed.
This does mean that there are two main combinations of eye dominance.
The first is when Your eye is in line with Your dominant hand. You are either right-handed and right eye dominant, or vice versa with the left hand and eye. Studies are rare in the field of eye dominance, but there haven’t been any special characteristics associated with this combination.
However, if You are right-hand dominant and left-eye dominant then this is called “cross-dominance”. Research suggests that “cross-dominance” is beneficial for sports such as archery or shooting, where aiming has a big influence on the results and performance, but these studies are lacking further evidence and don’t show any empirical results.
So whether You are showing signs of “cross-dominance” or your eyes and hands are on the same side, shouldn’t have an impact on photography.
In contrast to that, there are a few studies that suggest that left-eye dominant people have more problems with migraines or dyslexia. Still, the effect on creativity and photography is unknown so You shouldn’t feel too overwhelmed by the results of Your dominant eye test.
There are a few other possibilities to train Your eyes to perform a little better.
Improve Your eyes
The fitness industry is booming and we very well know that muscles need strong stimulation and a constant training routine to grow and get better.
Our eyes are also moved by muscles and are very important for our vision, but have You bothered to train them as well?
Here are some practical guides for better eye health that can help You in photography.
Improving the focus
Our eyes are very similar to camera lenses. When we are looking at objects that are far-away or directly in front of us, the eye needs to change the focus. If You are younger, You will seldom see any problems, but at the age of 40 and above the focus abilities tend to decrease and get worse over time.
People need reading glasses and the focusing becomes slower in general.
To combat these effects, You should purposely focus on distant and near objects alternately. Especially when You are doing a lot of work on the computer, the monitor can be quite exhausting for the eye. It is not the monitor itself, but having the focus on the same short range is very unnatural. To relieve this stress, take short breaks and focus on objects that are behind the monitor and alternate the focus from the monitor to an object that is further away.
I played football from a very young age and one training routine I remember involved running with the ball on Your feet while looking straight ahead and not down to the ball. This helped tremendously in slightly noticing the ball in the peripheral view while focusing better on what is going in front of You.
In photography, the peripheral awareness does allow You to see “more” of Your surroundings and possibly detect some interesting scenes, that You would have missed if Your peripheral view would be lacking.
To improve the peripheral awareness, You can try to watch TV while turning Your head to the side and having the monitor to the very far side of Your field of view. Practice this with both of Your sides to improve the peripheral awareness.
Seeing a three-dimensional room is only possible if both of our eyes work very well together. The depth perception helps us in identifying how far an object is.
To improve the depth perception, You should try to perform difficult tasks at a further distance. You can, for example, put a cap on a pen with the arms extended. Repeat this task and You should see improvements. To increase the difficulties, You can also try threading a needle with the arms extended.
The effects on photography may be various and hard to predict, but if it does improve Your photography it is still worth a try.
Maintaining the health of Your eyes and further improving their performance is crucial for a photographer. So find out what Your dominant eye is and start seeing in a new way.