Which Is the Stronger Image, and Why? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Which Is the Stronger Image, and Why?

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This Galapagos Tortoise head portrait was photographed during a very light drizzle with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/20 sec. at f/16. I used One-Shot AF after selecting a sensor that covered the eye.


Which Is the Stronger Image, and Why?

Let’s call the image above “Head On” and the image below “Side View.” Post a comment and let me know which image you feel is stronger and why.

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This is the same animal photographed with the same gear. Also ISO 400. And again, Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/8 sec. at f/22. Only for this one I used Mirror Lock with the 2-second timer.

Shopper’s Guide

Here is the gear that I used on Puerto Ayora that day:

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide

32 comments to Which Is the Stronger Image, and Why?

  • M. Bruce

    And the answer is —— an unambiguous —– none of the above! It looks to me that this is a question without an answer possibly posed to see who is paying attention. I took a photo-composition class more than a generation ago that had one assignment – 300 5x7s of a parking meter to be critiqued in batches of 100 – so with that in mind – I need more to choose from. ☺

    I would like to join other commentators and thank you for the Galapagos series – very, very, instructive.

  • That is a tough question. The first is an attention grabber to be sure, but I think I prefer the side view overall because it has a presence. Almost like a wise sage. The front on for me seems to focus more on the totally freaky nose!

    I would definitely try and shoot both versions if I had the chance, but I will go with the side as my favorite. I like the detritus on his face it adds to the character!

  • I prefer the side view. It has more presence. The tortoise’s eye to our eyes – makes me feel more intimately connected with the tortoise. There is more of a feeling of it looking our way with the one eye than in the straight on two eyes looking at nowhere expression of the first photo. I also like that it’s more off center than the front view.

  • Duncan Armour

    The first one by a long way – it is a cleaner image with fewer distracting elements and the sense of symmetry helps. The cropping of the head at the bottom bothers me in the second, and I find the connection of the head to the background less obvious. And thinking in terms of novelty – I’ve seen very few galapagos tortoise images taken in the style of the first image and many in the style of the second (hey I’ve even got a few myself!) so the first wins on those grounds too.

  • Second One. For me it’s all about the eye contact with any living creature. To me the first image makes the tortoise look a little goofy, but in the second he/she appears to be more mean. Maybe because the head is bigger in the frame as much as anything.

  • Ann M. Pacheco

    Hands down, numero uno for me. I become nose to nose with him and for the moment he is much bigger, powerful. I’m inches away and he has my full attention. I wonder what he mowed down for a snack and then I find myself auto focusing his shell and then I realize, its a grrreat head shot and it’s a Galapagos tortoise. A very beautiful one!

  • The second one for me. The direct eye contact is a plus. And all the reflection is on top of the head and not taking up much space. Therefore my eye does not focus on the reflection in #2 as it does on the reflection covering nearly the whole face in #1.
    Thanks for all the teaching info!!

  • Thomas Chamberlin

    The first image. Forgetting everything I am taught and just going with pure emotional impact, it wins hands down. It has three dimensional depth and he connects with me better. The second seems like just another head shot we are taught to do, head angle, etc., but it wouldn’t make stop me and look at it in a magazine or book.

  • Artie, definitely the first one for me. Its way cooler than the second one. Lots of impact because of the head-on angle….and I like the separation of the head from the body BG more.

  • Michel Martineau

    I prefer the side view we are seing a lot more detail from the top of the head

  • Dan

    I like the first one more, in my opinion is very aggressive, at first sight it seems like a very dangerous and large reptile.
    Excellent photos!

  • Gayle Clement

    Side view definitely. The color is richer, the pose more dramatic, and that eye is riveting. H

  • Glen DeKlein

    Its Number TWO for me. More detail of the overall subject than number One.

  • Scott Kiser

    It is the first for me by a mile. I always feel a more personal connection when looking into both eyes, just like with people. Also, the detail in the background if very effective.

  • Beverly Kune

    I like # 2 the best … seems slightly sharper overall, and definitely captures me. My eyes tend to slide all over #1, with no clear resting point, but on #2 they remain riveted on the eye.

  • Nancy Bell

    My vote is for the side-view. The head-on view looks somewhat like a dis-embodied head with a halloween fright kind of feel. The eyes are off to each side and I am presented with 2 dark nostrils. I want to back up and…move around to the side. The side-view head is clearly anchored to it’s neck, the head has detailed skin and a very sharp eye that puts the whole head in perspective. I find this view plus the chosen crop more compelling as a Galapogas tortoise showing their mass and ancient reptilian-ness as compared to the centered, pop-up head of #1.

  • hermann

    No 1 – for its attention grabbing qualities. Lovely sideways glance in no 2 though.

  • #2! The eye is compelling. #1 is very interesting and unusual.

  • Alan Lillich

    I vote for the second image. The first is striking, but the asymmetry in the top of the head (bump on the top right) and in the eyes becomes distracting the longer I look at it. The head in the second fills the frame more, making it a powerful portrait of a powerful individual. I like the slightly darker tonality of the second better. When I look at the first for a while my eyes are jumping all over. In the second, I can look at some detail for a bit, then take in the whole, then look at some other detail, all the time enjoying it. (I’m getting to be a better critic, let’s hope it transfers to the field.)

  • I liked the second image because the sharp eye is the focal point.

  • I think the second image is the stronger of the two. The tortoise’s eye is captivating, almost sly, in the second shot whereas we can’t actually see too much of its eyes in the first shot. His head fills the frame so we can see more of the fascinating texture of his head with the vegetation stuck here and there. Although the first image instantly grabbed me because of its comical nature (something which I’m always attracted to), I think the second image is stronger because of its connection to the viewer, mostly due to that eye contact.

  • Head on for me. Just grabbed my attention straight away. I like the symmetry, and it’s a sort of “you and whose army” expression!

  • Hi Art. I like both images but the side view image ‘grabbed me’ instantly with that eye. It looks as if the tortoise is looking deep into your soul! When you eventually look round the rest of the image there is great detail to add to the overall composition. In the head on image the eyes don’t have anywhere near the effect of the single eye in the side view image, it is the nostrils that take your attention first. Great work as always Art, keep it up.

  • Jonathan Michael Ashton

    I find this a difficult one to call. Both are very powerful and the first one confers an almost serpentine quality. I would suggest the second image is more compelling because it makes me stare at the eye, the first one reminds me of hissing Sid in the Jungle book and I am constantly roving from one eye to the other.

  • Caspar Davis

    I like head on better because I like the tortoise’s expression, and I had to got back to the first one to figure out the nostrils in the second. I really like the grass fragments in both, also the eye in the second. As always, the sharpness is amazing. Having figured the second picture out, iy is growing on me, but I still prefer the in-your-faceness and goofiness of number one.

  • I like the second one because it tells more about the animal. The head on photo seems flat and lacking in detail.

    Both, however, are amazing photos.

  • Both are beatiful images and I have really enjoyed your Galapagos series – Thank you.
    I feel that ‘head on’ is the stronger image. There is something about the symmetry, the view of the full face and the depth of field that makes it pop out of the screen to me. With the ‘side view’ the eye contact is loveley, but my eye is drawn to the lighter colors in the bottom right of the frame.

  • Fernando

    Hi, Art, I see more stronger a “side view”
    Because it is seen from a better perspective on the mouth, and eye. In side view, I also like the angle of the head.
    In front view the nostrils distract my attention, and appreciate so many textures as in side view. In front view, I see a resemblance to ET 🙂
    It is my humble opinion.
    I wanted to take this opportunity to thank their teaching in each of the newsletters.

  • Bill Clausen

    The side image is more striking because it gives more information. It gives the whole idea in one shot! It is a keeper.

    Bill Clausen

  • Ed Pring

    Side View….the eyes.

  • Steve Robinson

    I think #1 is the stronger image with those two eyes looking right at us. I also like the crop in #1 as I think #2 is cropped too tight. I’d prefer to see more of the head and a little of the neck. Just my ¢¢.

  • I like the second one (side view). It fills the frame more with additional detail of the head.