When the eyes are visible in a portrait, they should usually be the point of focus for the viewer–your viewer should snap right up to those eyes and linger there. Many things can distract from the eyes–hands, earrings, noserings (the worst!), necklaces, hairstyles–but you can use your photofinishing tools to mitigate the distractions and bring the attention back to the eyes. Simply providing sharpness, a little luminance, and possibly some saturation will help the eyes to remain the hero of the image. Be careful not to go overboard with the tools in your software, though. If the eyes look like they’ve been retouched then the distracting thing is now the editing, and when editing is the problem it turns viewers off to enjoy the rest of the photograph.
Let me show you three easy settings in three different apps that will help your subjects’ eyes look great and one essential setting that works in every app. You’ll see the comparison of all the settings below.
Perfectly Clear is probably the simplest app to use to make the eyes look great. The software automatically recognizes the eyes, so all you have to do is move the Eye Enhance slider to the appropriate setting. This is a powerful tool, and if you move it too much it can be overdone. One key with all tools is to consider the final medium the picture will be viewed on. Is it an Instagram photo that will be seen on a tiny screen? Turn it up more to ensure the sharpness shines through. Is it for a large print? Is it for an ad? Is it for a canvas print or an acrylic face mounted print? You should experiment so you know which settings look best for which media.
Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush
This is “Old Reliable” for me. Lightroom’s adjustment brush lets you paint exactly where you want the adjustment to show up. Paint only on the iris and pupil and erase any spillage on the whites or eyelids. Whites is a great way to increase the luminance without reducing the darkness of the pupil and details. Clarity goes a long way in the eyes so be gentle. I usually don’t, but you may find a little sharpness is good here, too. Press the \ key to see before and after and make sure you haven’t drawn too much attention the editing here.
Luminar is such a great tool because you can choose from a menu of filter types and then apply them to the whole picture or only to specific portions using the brush. Choose the Color Contrast and Structure filter groups, then click the brush icon on the top right and paint over the iris and pupil of both eyes. Now set the sliders in place and you’re done. There are many options in Luminar that could be used to finish eyes, but these are a good place to start. Structure is a terrific tool which I find more subtle than clarity and fitting for eyes.
Always Do This
The thing you should do no matter which app you use to finish the eyes is to crop the photo so that the eyes are level. This adds impact and confidence. Here’s the crop tool in Luminar showing the grid that pops up when you adjust the angle of the crop. Use the grid lines to line up the center of the pupils.
When you utilize finishing tools to enhance the look of a subject’s eyes you can reduce the impact of other distracting elements. Sharpness, clarity, structure, luminance, and color can all be applied to bring attention back where it belongs. Just be careful that your editing doesn’t become the distracting element.
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