Event photography with Nikon’s eye-tracking technology…

A little while ago, I was contacted by Nikon asking if I would take part in a photographic experiment they were conducting. Based on the idea that some people have an ‘eye’ for photography, they wanted to pitch 3 professional photographers against an amateur. They weren’t just interested in the end results though, but more interestingly wanted to try to examine the process that both the professionals and the amateur went through as they examined the scene for composition. In order to do this they used a 21st century pair of spectacles with tiny cameras that tracked your eye movements as you took the photo. Here’s a still from the video Nikon filmed, to give you an idea of how gawky I looked in them…

Event photography for Nikon

It was a pan-European experiment with a travel photographer from Germany, a nature photographer from France, and myself chosen for my experience as an events photographer from the UK. We were all to be given the same camera – a Nikon 5100 with kit lens – and had no other pro kit to fall back on… Just our ‘eye’. A slightly daunting prospect with the very real chance that the amateur might well end up taking a much better photo than the so-called pro…

For my bit, we took over a bar in West London and got in a party-load of willing participants to get the atmosphere going. After donning the goggles, I was told to take two photos – one from a fixed spot (the same as the amateur), and one from a position of my choice. If you have a look at the Nikon website, you can see some video footage of the experiment (my section is towards the end), and read some more about the results of the experiment on the Nikon blog. These are the two shots I took:

EyeTracker-01.jpgEyeTracker-02.jpg

The first was quite a challenge – very little to go on when you’re unable to move around and change the perspective. It was a case of finding what the focus of the scene was going to be, zooming for the best crop, and then waiting for a moment where there was some sort of interaction or emotion going on between the people in the shot.

The second was slightly easier to frame in that I was able to find something to create an interesting perspective – in this case going round behind the bar and shooting through some bottles at a group of people, again waiting for an interesting moment.

It was interesting viewing the video afterwards and seeing just how much my focus was shifting around the scene while I was analysing it. Quite a bit of the eye movement appeared to be analysing people’s faces as well as the general structure of the room. This makes sense as I find when I take events shots I do try to make my focus the people themselves – I’ll often try to pre-empt a reaction by watching how they’re interacting with others – while at the same time trying to find an interesting way to frame the shot and compose it in a way that’s photographically pleasing.

Anyway, this was a fascinating project to take part in – interesting to take a step back and look at the way that I work. And I think I managed to avoid embarrassing myself too much with the photography too, which was a relief…

 

 

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