Assessing Contrast - The Squint Technique - Digital Photography School
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Assessing Contrast – The Squint Technique

SquintPhoto by shawhouse

Here’s a surprising little tip that a pro once shared with me when thinking about contrast in images. It’s not really conventional but it works!

When setting up an image to shoot you can assess the contrast levels in a scene and see how the camera will ‘see’ it by squinting.

More specifically – close one of your eyes completely and then squint with the other.

With eyes wide open we’re able to take in a lot of visual information from a scene – more than even the best camera is able to process but what you’re doing by squinting is reducing the range of what you’re seeing and are leaving yourself with the highlights and shadows (ie you’re taking out a lot of the mid-tones).

Give it a try – you might look a little silly (probably not as silly as the guy in this shot) – but it might just help you improve your images a touch too!

PS: One of our readers ‘boyan’ also made this comment on this technique:

“Galen Rowell recommends the same technique in one of his books, but in a different context – it allows you to concentrate on shapes rather than colors, and helps you compose better. An alternative is to stop down the lens and use the DOF preview button – I believe that I read that on Thom Hogan’s site.”

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://www.prophotonut.com Damien Lovegrove

    It’s a great technique that I used when lighting locations for television in my time at the BBC. Doesn’t work when lighting with flash though so I’d forgotten about it until now. Thanks for the reminder.

    Damien.

  • http://foodientravelbug.blogspot.com Mei Teng

    I have never tried this technique before. Thanks for sharing.

  • JoelAnt

    Very nice, I will have to try this out.

  • http://www.ilanbresler.com Ilan

    Ha!
    That’s funny idea, gotta try it (and make sure no one is near me when I do that)
    So far I was counting mostly on my ‘senses’ and ‘taste’ when checking contrast – for example – http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/07/black-and-white.html – but this sounds like an interesting way of examining it.
    Will try it!

  • Arjay

    I can’t do squinting – I find my field of vision decreases too much for me to assess the overall.

    Instead, I slightly cross my eyes – yes, I know it sounds daft, but it works for me. I find I can still see the entire picture, but all the detail disappears leaving me with a true appreciation of colour tones and light and dark. Give it a go (if you can cross your eyes)!..

  • cosmosmariner

    …valuable tip; thanks!

  • Mike

    I’ve been doing the “squint” to check out my Christmas tree lights for decades. Works for that too – you can easily see where there are gaps….

  • Jonathan Tommy

    I was taught this technique as well when I was studying Art in school…. :)
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Best wishes,
    Jonathan

  • Carole Karbowy

    Yep it is a really useful technic. I’ve been using this method ever since I have painted. As you say it takes out some of the detail and helps you to focus on what is really going on.

  • glen

    I am a shoot assisstant and I see my photographer do that a lot. Interesting.

Some older comments

  • glen

    September 18, 2009 07:09 pm

    I am a shoot assisstant and I see my photographer do that a lot. Interesting.

  • Carole Karbowy

    September 18, 2009 06:02 pm

    Yep it is a really useful technic. I've been using this method ever since I have painted. As you say it takes out some of the detail and helps you to focus on what is really going on.

  • Jonathan Tommy

    September 18, 2009 02:01 pm

    I was taught this technique as well when I was studying Art in school.... :)
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Best wishes,
    Jonathan

  • Mike

    September 18, 2009 06:51 am

    I've been doing the "squint" to check out my Christmas tree lights for decades. Works for that too - you can easily see where there are gaps....

  • cosmosmariner

    September 18, 2009 02:18 am

    ...valuable tip; thanks!

  • Arjay

    September 15, 2009 01:26 am

    I can't do squinting - I find my field of vision decreases too much for me to assess the overall.

    Instead, I slightly cross my eyes - yes, I know it sounds daft, but it works for me. I find I can still see the entire picture, but all the detail disappears leaving me with a true appreciation of colour tones and light and dark. Give it a go (if you can cross your eyes)!..

  • Ilan

    September 14, 2009 03:06 pm

    Ha!
    That's funny idea, gotta try it (and make sure no one is near me when I do that)
    So far I was counting mostly on my 'senses' and 'taste' when checking contrast - for example - http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/07/black-and-white.html - but this sounds like an interesting way of examining it.
    Will try it!

  • JoelAnt

    September 14, 2009 12:07 pm

    Very nice, I will have to try this out.

  • Mei Teng

    September 14, 2009 11:07 am

    I have never tried this technique before. Thanks for sharing.

  • Damien Lovegrove

    September 14, 2009 08:23 am

    It's a great technique that I used when lighting locations for television in my time at the BBC. Doesn't work when lighting with flash though so I'd forgotten about it until now. Thanks for the reminder.

    Damien.

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