View Full Version : Head Turn

Ed Vatza
01-03-2008, 07:02 AM
Hopefully the learning continues! :)

In two of my image critique posts (Harlequin Duck and Ruddy Turnstone), I received comments regarding head turn. Here are the two comments.

"A more pronounced head turn your way would have improved the image, making it more pleasing to the eye and most important, placing the eye and the tip of the bill on the same plane, thus yielding more sharpness in the latter."

"We need another head turn here..."

I took this advice to heart. Then I went back and looked through my "Best of Species" album and realized that I was lucky if I had a small handful of images where the birds head was turned in the way I think the reviewers are referring to (head turn more toward me). First off, I don't generally like the full frontal (head on) view so it would have to be a more subtle turn. Second, most of the images that I made are profile images.

Then I started to look around at bird calendars and such things and realized that many (most) of those images also were more profile in nature and not with the head turn as I interpret it. Now obviously being on a calendar doesn't necessarily mean that they are great images. (Although I wouldn't mind having one of mine on a calendar! :D)

I am wondering what others think. And can you direct me to some classic examples of the kind of head turn we are talking about here.



Mike Milicia
01-03-2008, 08:40 AM
I'll give this one a try. I took a look at the two images that you mentioned and I think the comments regarding the head turn were prompted by the fact that the bird was actually looking slightly away from the viewer. Although this can work in certain circumstances, in general, it seems to be more pleasing if the head is at least parallel to the "film plane", and, ideally just a few degrees toward the viewer. I'm guessing that the feedback you are getting is looking for a relatively subtle head turn. In fact, you may not even really notice it at first until you see the image side by side with an image without the head turn. Even though subtle, this kind of head turn can make a big difference as it tends to make the bird more connected with the viewer.
That's my two cents ... interested to see what other feedback you get.

George DeCamp
01-03-2008, 08:43 AM
Hey Ed!

A quick response from me.

Take a look at this sweet image by my good friend Scott;


Which ones look more pleasing? To me the birds with the catchlight which are also the ones with a head turn towards the camera. The one little bird facing away has no catchlight and is less pleasing. Does that mean it is no good? Nope, just more pleasing the other way...in my opinion and I am sure the people who left your comments.

Hope this gives you one idea. :cool:

Alfred Forns
01-03-2008, 09:03 AM
If the bird is square to the film plane the eye and bill tip can not be in focus while photographing wide open/close/long lenses If there is a slight head turn then the point of the beak and eyeball will be in the same plane Both in focus

Hope this helps !!!

Daniel Cadieux
01-03-2008, 10:34 AM
To me this is more of an esthetics point of view. It is more pleasing to the eye when the bill is pointed, at a minimum, at least parallel to the sensor - and preferably a few degrees more than that towards the viewer. One exception is owls of course, where a full straight-on photograph looks very good.

Jimmie Campbell
01-03-2008, 12:30 PM
I'm with Al on this one. A slight head turn towards the camera helps with eye and side being in the same plane of focus and hence can achieve sharper focus of both. I also, feel the slight turn makes a better visual connection with the viewer, can improve the crop as less space is needed in front of the bird and it's easier to maintain native aspect ratios for the crop.

Ed Vatza
01-03-2008, 12:30 PM
OK so I am learning albeit slowly.

I believe both the Harlequin and the Turnstone had catch light in the eye although the Turnstone did have some "flash eye". But the major reason for the need for a bit more head turn then appears to be to get the eye and beak/bill in the same plane. I understand the importance of that for focusing.

So by this measure at least, a pure profile shot can be spot on if we get the eye and beak in the same plane. To do so, the head needs to be turned slightly.

Sorry if I am stating the obvious. I just want to make sure I understand correctly.