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Hey…Your Eyes Are Up Here

There’s a reason a lot of home movies or home videos are hard to watch and that so many photos look like “snapshots”. Most of the time the person taking these isn’t thinking of how this will look to whoever is looking at it. They’re thinking of what’s in the shot.

So many videos look like they were shot the way someone waters a garden with a hose, spraying around and around and back and forth, to make sure everything gets soaked or at least sufficiently hydrated. Maybe the analogy of feeding chickens is more apt.

Anytime I’ve arranged a group of friends or my family around a table in a restaurant (remember going to restaurants?), lined up the shot on my iPhone or camera and then handed it to the server I wind up with something completely different. 

I don’t need to see the entire room, and I don’t need to see  a horizontal array of people from the waist down. I want a photograph where you can see everyone’s faces, not too far away. But the well-meaning server has figured that it’s important that they see everything, in the iPhone’s screen or camera viewfinder, and will turn the camera to vertical or zoom out.

It’s not because I went to film school (4 years!) or am a gifted photojournalist. I’ve been able to develop an understanding that the photo or video I’m taking will be seen by someone who isn’t me, someone who wasn’t there. It doesn’t have to be art, but there’s a step you can go beyond “is everything in the shot?”.

Or, in the case of the live video feeds we are all in right now, “Can I see myself?”

Our computer screens are usually at a height that is determined by our desk, the computer or monitor manufacturer, and any neck-and-shoulder stress we feel. Our laptops are lower, often actually in our laps. So when we launch Zoom or start a FaceTime or Skype we make sure we are in the frame (and, maybe also, that our hair doesn’t look too crazy).

That’s fine, but remember…what you are seeing is being seen — objectively — by whoever you are Skyping or Zooming etc with. And what they are seeing is someone looking down at them, as if they were peering up from inside a fishbowl or a crib (Ha! You thought I was going to say toilet, didn’t you!).

No one has phone books anymore. (If you need to, Google “phone book”.) But there’s probably something you can stack on top of something else so your webcam, tablet, phone or laptop is at or near eye level. As long as we are replacing in-person conversations with video calls, it’d be great to be looking at each other at the same height as we would if we were in-person. Besides, who needs to see the underside of our chin(s)?

{if you subscribed so you’ll get updates about “The Silent Comedy Watch Party”, don’t worry…there’ll be one along in a minute about the show. On Thursday.)

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