Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons
Eyes Wide Open

At Skip’s Summer School last week in Chicago we had hands-on shoots for all students. In one class, I saw an opportunity to make a couple of teaching shots with this lesson in mind. Watch those eyes.

In a portrait, the eyes are arguably the most important thing in the photo. If the eyes are wrong the photo is wrong. Here I deliberately shot the model with her eyes squinting and with them wide open. Look at the difference.

These are just teaching slides so there’s plenty of things wrong with these pics – ignore them. Just focus on the eyes.

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons
Eyes squinting

By making sure to help your subject appear to have big eyes, you will make a more arresting portrait.

Some tricks to do that include:

1. Watching the light angle. If the model is looking directly into the light, she will squint. It’s human nature. Even a few degrees off center from the main light can make the difference.
2. Relaxing the model. If the model is tight, nervous, etc., she will naturally keep her eyes in a more squint-like position. Relax her – then shoot her.
3. Ask. Learn how to ask for big eyes. “Make those eyes big for me.” “Open your eyes as wide as they will go.” Simple directions go a long way.

Looking at only the eyes in the two photos, you can see the difference.


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