Friday, May 8, 2009

Eyes That Pop

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One of the most striking elements you can add to a portrait is eyes that really pop. The problem is, nowadays people get lazy and try to do this too much in Photoshop, rather than with the camera using proper light. So my tip of the day is how to find that light.



It's simple really, once you think about what brings life into the eyes. It's just light. Interesting eyes in portraits have what we call catch lights. It's the bright area on the eyes. If you're using the flash on your camera you get a catch light, but unfortunately it's not a very attractive one. The tell-tale sign that your on-board flash fired is that one dot on each eye that we call pin-lights. Pin-lights are seldom interesting.

So what makes a good catch light? To me I like broad lit areas across the eyes. Reflections of bright skies, big walls, or just about anything large that is brightly lit. This is why so many people prefer "natural light" photography, which typically means not using flash. This one is gonna really throw you though, the image at the top did use a flash. The key is to balance your exposure so that the off camera light source blends in with everything else bright behind me. That's a different topic though.

So now that we understand what makes the eyes look interesting, how can we position ourselves to make it happen. Typically it's as simple as getting your subject in open shade so that behind you it's really bright, and behind them "not so bright". Expose for the skin, and those eyes that are reflecting the scene behind you will pop out of the screen. No crazy photoshop tricks needed.

In the case of the shot above there is a big strip of concrete directly in the sun behind me, he's on a covered swing (thus in shade), and behind him are flowers in sun backed by the lower portion of a tree that is shaded.

2 comments:

Erica Young said...

Found your blog and this is interesting. Thanks.

JanuaryPhotography said...

Thanks for stopping by Erica!