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How To Determine Your Dominant Eye for Better Photography

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You might not know this, but one of your eyes is more dominant than the other.
Here’s how using your dominant eye can give you great composition and improve your photography.
A close up of a womans blue eye

What Is a Dominant Eye

Humans are blessed with something called ocular dominance. It means one of our eyes is stronger than the other. This eye provides a slightly greater degree of input to the visual part of your brain.
The same way we are right hand dominant and others are left hand dominant, we are also either right eye dominant or left eye dominant.
Saying that, it is possible to have a mixed ocular dominance (alternating ocular dominance). What happens here is your eyes take turns being dominant.
The part of our brain that processes visual information (visual cortex) has strips of neurons (nerve cells) called dominant eye columns.
These bands of neurons respond preferentially to input from one eye or the other, depending on the information. This is important for our binocular vision.
There is ‘plasticity’ in these dominant eye columns, which suggests this eye dominance can be variable. Some individuals find it alternates or is incomplete.
A photographer shooting street photographer

How to Figure Out Your Dominant Eye

Basically, when you look at an object with both eyes, you are using your dominant eye and your non-dominant eye. Your eyes don’t create an image by mixing together two views of the same object.
You see an object with your dominant eye, and the other eye acts as support.
You can easily find out which one of your eyes is dominant by following the simple dominant eye test at the bottom of this article.
An opticians eye test chart seen through a pair of eyeglasses

Why Is Having a Dominant Eye Useful?

Knowing which eye is your dominant eye is very useful. This is especially true when it comes to shooting, archery, and photography.
By using your dominant eye to look through your camera’s viewfinder in photography, you can compose images better. In terms of great photographic compositions, it will give you an accurate preview of the shot you are taking.
Using your non-dominant eye can cause certain details to be slightly displaced or completely off the frame. Imagine trying to figure out natural frames or place important elements in the center of the frame without full accuracy.
Keep these photo composition tips in mind when you’re shooting next, especially if you’re planning to add natural lines or use the rule of thirds in your photos. It will also help you place points of interest more accurately.
However, there is a benefit to photographing with your non-dominant eye. I just picked up my camera and tried shooting first with my dominant eye (right), and then with my non-dominant eye (left).
At first, I found no difference. I go to shoot through my dominant eye automatically as I am right-handed.
But, if I wanted to ‘keep-an-eye-out’ and check my peripheral vision while looking through the viewfinder, I find it impossible to do this with my dominant eye.
Try it yourselves. Keep both eyes open and try both eyes, one after the other. You might find that your dominant eye repeats the same image you see, making it very difficult.
If I use my non-dominant eye, I can easily photograph and see the world outside of my camera. Ok, this isn’t going to be important for a landscape photographer.
If you shoot street photography, it could be useful to shoot and watch your surroundings at the same time. It all depends on your own style.
A photographer shooting street photographer

Eye Dominance Test

There is a simple way to figure out your dominant eye. Eye dominance and handedness (which is your dominant hand) are not directly related, but they are significantly associated.
Follow these steps and you’ll know yours.

  • Extend your arms out in front of you
  • Face your palms outward
  • Bring your hands together to form a triangular hole
  • Look through this hole at a fixed object
  • Look at the object using both eyes
  • Close your left eye. Does the object in the triangle move? If it does, your right eye is dominant
  • Double check. Look at the object again with both eyes
  • Close your right eye. Does the object in the triangle move? If it does, your left eye is dominant
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