Stunning Portraits Start with Illuminating the Eyes

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Photographing the light in the eyes.

The eyes are the windows to the soul. That’s especially true in photography — it’s really difficult to get an interesting photo of someone if their eyes don’t light up the frame. Capture that sparkle to get a fabulous picture.

When photographing people, looking for the light in your subject’s eyes isn’t about your camera. It’s about getting the camera settings right or using the best lens or having the weather conditions in your favor, though these help. There’s more to the magic — here’s what I mean.

Photographing people

{35mm lens shutter speed 1/250 sec; aperture  f/3.2;  ISO 200}

Even on overcast days, facing the direction of the sun casts more favorable light on the subject’s face and eyes than facing away. In the example above, I’ve got my subject facing the direction of the light source. In this case, she’s in the shade on a sunny day.

Next is a shot I took with my subject in the exact same spot as above, but turned 180 degrees so that her back is to the light source.

Turn your subject toward the light

{35mm lens shutter speed 1/250 sec; aperture  f/3.2;  ISO 200}

My camera settings didn’t change. I used the same lens and focal distance. Even though everything is the same, her face is much darker and her eyes don’t have the catchlights as they do in the first shot.

My point here is to look for that light, and do your best to capture your subjects with that glow. We can’t always control weather conditions. If I didn’t have the option to turn my subject, I’d adjust my settings to lighten up the face a bit, but this demonstration illustrates the drastic difference that happens by simply turning your subject toward the light.

photo credit: Kristen Duke

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