Eye See You: Tips for enhancing the eyes in your portraits
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Friday, March 15, 2013
By Sandy Puc'
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It's no secret that the eyes tell a powerful story. Whether you are photographing a baby or a senior, a new bride or an entire family, this is where their truest essence lies. It's a powerful part of the imagery in your work, and enhancing the eyes can make all the difference.

Here are some easy ways to enhance your subjects' eyes in each and every session.

To the Light

Lighting can help accentuate the eyes in so many ways. Adjust the lighting to the height of your model, and with changes in poses, you will need to readjust if they are going from sitting to standing. They should always be facing the light. You don't always want them to look at the light, however. In fact, the most powerful portraits will be of your subject looking directly over or directly into the camera lens. But, regardless of the object of their gaze, the face should be turned toward the light.



Whether the moment is full of joy, wonder, mystery, contemplation or warmth, it's your job as the photographer to bring out that mood in your conversation and with prompts as well. This is something you are probably already doing in a certain sense. For a session with a baby, you are holding up toys and saying, "What's that?", evoking a sense of wonder and surprise. For a senior you might be chatting about their college plans or their boyfriend of girlfriend, stirring a youthful excitement and sense of confidence. You can prompt these emotions more directly, if need be, by simply saying, "now a quiet downward gaze" or "pretend you are getting your diploma right… now!" or tell lots of jokes if you need to break the ice more.


Color Code

You will find that studying color can really pay off in your photography. A color wheel will quickly reveal the complementing colors to any hue in the rainbow. Use these complementing colors to accent your subject's eye color with a flower, hat, scarf or other accessory.


Of course, you should focus on your subject's eyes, and position them on the rule-of-thirds. There are a million ways to do this, but it's easy to get carried away and forget these essentials.


Get Cozy

The closer you get to your subject, the easier it will be to bring out their eyes. You want to have depth in your images, but this can still be done from up close. While you won't want to be very close throughout the whole session, the closer you are the more the eyes will pop, so try to get a few powerful close-ups every time.


It's a Bird, It's a Plane

By directing your subject to look in any direction, you can create a more emotion-filled expression instantly. For children, I use a tickler on an extension rod to get them to look into the light, down, toward the camera, etc. For older children you can say things like, "Do you see the clown inside my camera?" or something silly like that. For a senior or older model, you can direct them to look off into the distance in any direction or look deep into the camera for varied results. You can tie meaning into the shot by saying, "Think of your mother" or "remember the moment your fiancé proposed", etc.


I hope these tips help you bring out the eyes of your subjects more.


Big hugs,

Sandy Puc'

Do you have any eye-enhancing tips?

Share them in the comment section below!


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