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How to Determine Your Dominant Eye for Better Photography

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Did you know that one of your eyes is more dominant than the other?

This article will show how using your dominant eye can help you create better compositions and improve your photography!

Close-up of dominant eye
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What is a Dominant Eye?

Humans are blessed with a trait called ocular dominance. It means one of our eyes is stronger than the other. And that stronger eye provides a slightly greater degree of input to the visual part of your brain.

In the same way that we’re right-hand dominant or left-hand dominant, we’re either right-eye dominant or left-eye dominant.

With that said, it is possible to have a mixed (alternating) ocular dominance. In that case, your eyes take turns being dominant.

How Eye Dominance Works

The part of our brain that processes visual information (the 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. It depends on the information. This is important for our binocular vision.

But ‘plasticity’ in these dominant eye columns suggests this eye dominance can be variable. Some people find that their eye dominance alternates or is challenging to determine.

A photographer crouching to shoot a photo with his dominant eye

How to Figure Out Your Dominant Eye

When looking at an object, you use both eyes. You use both 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.

There are simple ways to figure out your dominant eye. Follow this simple eye test to find out which one of your eyes is dominant.

Eye Dominance Test

Remember, eye dominance and handedness (your dominant hand) are not directly related. But they are significantly associated.

Follow these steps to determine your dominant eye:

  1. Extend your arms out in front of you.
  2. Face your palms out.
  3. Bring your hands together to form a triangular with your fingers and thumbs.
  4. Look through this hole at a fixed object, like a picture on a wall.
  5. First, look at the object using both eyes.
  6. Then close your left eye. Does the object in the triangle move? If it does, your right eye is dominant.
  7. Double-check. Look at the object again with both eyes
  8. Close your right eye. Does the object in the triangle move? If it does, your left eye is dominant.

If the triangle moves an equal distance with both eyes, you may have mixed eye dominance.An opticians eye test chart seen through a pair of eyeglasses

Why Using Your Dominant Eye is Useful

Knowing and using your dominant eye is beneficial for many activities. It is especially helpful when determining the precise positions of things… like accurately shooting targets like in archery.

And, of course, this translates into taking photos. Using your dominant eye to look through your camera’s viewfinder allows you to compose better images. Your dominant eye will give you a more precise preview of the shot you are taking.

Using your non-dominant eye can cause certain details to be slightly displaced or not exactly where you want it in the frame. Imagine framing a scene or placing essential elements in the centre without total accuracy.

If you’re not doing it all ready, make sure you’re using your dominant eye the next time you’re taking pictures. It’s vital if you’re using leading lines, the golden ratio, or the rule of thirds to place points of interest.

You want the subject placement to be accurately in photos. But there is a benefit to photographing with your non-dominant eye.

Benefits of Using Your Non-Dominant Eye

I tried shooting first with my dominant eye (right) and then with my non-dominant eye (left). At first, I found no difference. I shoot with my dominant eye automatically because I’m right-handed.

But then I wanted to use my peripheral vision—to keep an eye out while looking through the viewfinder with my dominant eye. I found it impossible to do this with my non-dominant eye.

You can try it yourself. Keep both eyes open and alternate between both eyes. You might find that your dominant eye repeats the exact image you see, making it very difficult to see peripherally.

Using my non-dominant eye in the viewfinder, I can still photograph a scene. But I can also see the world outside my camera’s frame with my dominant eye.

Yes, this perhaps isn’t necessary for some, like landscape photographers. But if you shoot street photography, it can be helpful to shoot and watch your surroundings simultaneously. It all depends on your style of taking photos.

A photographer shooting street photography with his dominant eye

Conclusion

Knowing which eye is dominant ensures you take the most accurate compositions. This is important from technical and creative aspects to capture the photo you envision.

But there are instances when using your non-dominant eye to take photos is helpful. It allows you to see the changing scene in the world around you. And using your dominant eye for peripheral vision can help you anticipate shots.

You will have to determine when to focus on composition or anticipation of a shot. But don’t be afraid to experiment using both your dominant eye and non-dominant eye when taking photos!

Try out our Intuitive Composition e-book and cheatsheets to capture stunning everyday images!

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