How do insect macrophotographers see their subjects? Going left, right or straight ahead?
I spend a lot of time looking at photographs of insects, and have much admiration for the skill of the artists who take these images. However, I've always wondered whether these insect photographers are biased in how they view their subjects. When viewing insect photos, are the subjects heading right more often than left? How often do photographers take images of their subjects looking straight at them?
This may seem like a ridiculous question - but there might be reasons think some biases exist. Perhaps left-handed photographers tend to view their subjects 'heading left', or maybe, depending on the camera, there' a natural inclination to view subjects from left to right, and thus more images may exist in which the insects are heading right. Or, some insects are easier to shoot when they are facing the photographer, and thus some subjects may be appreciated most often from that perspective.
With this in mind, I spend some time looking and images, and counting the number of photos in which the insect or spider is heading left, right, or looking right at the photographer. I started with just a simple google search of insect photographs, and here's the result:
Summary: there seems to be more images of insect heading right instead of left, and not as many looking straight at the photographer.
I think this first effort was somewhat meaningless, and I wasn't particularly satisfied with the simple 'google search' approach; I found some images kept coming up in this search, and there were heaps of images in that search that weren't done by what we might consider 'serious' insect photographers --> the folks who really know their subjects, and who spend a great deal of time and energy looking at insects and spiders through a camera lens.
I therefore turned to three of my favourite insect macrophotographers, Nicky Bay, Alex Wild, and Matt Bertone, and here's the result after tallying the numbers (based on a quick and rather haphazard scan through their sites):
In general, these photographers tend to shoot their subjects moving left or right with higher frequency than when their subjects look straight at them. These general results actually matched the more global google search. Perhaps this makes some sense: getting the full side profile of the insect is often important, and a head-on view maybe just isn't as interesting, or perhaps isn't as beautiful. And, it's good to know that there aren't more insect photographs in which the subject is heading left as compared to heading right or vice versa. (That would just be odd and unexpected)
Then I turned to Thomas Shahan, and found something quite different:
Thomas REALLY likes to take photographs of his subjects when they are staring right at him. The reason? About 90% of his images in which the subject is staring straight at the photographer are of jumping spiders. The Salticidae have among the most amazing eyes, and Thomas is clearly enthralled with photographing them, head-on.
This is the closest thing I can suggest about a take-home message: Insect macrophotographers take photos of their subjects heading left about as often as when they are heading right, unless they have big eyes.
In sum, this was a fun exercise, and satisfied my curiosity (believe it or not, I've been wondering about this question for YEARS!). And, along the way, I sure got to appreciate and enjoy some pretty amazing images.