It's All In The Eyes

It has been said the eyes are the gateway to the soul, yet so many portrait photographs exhibit lifeless eyes. This can be the effect of inattention by the photographer when positioning lights, posing or directing the model. In many cases working in a studio where the ambient light levels are low because the flash modelling lights are switched off or the studio house lights are low or off altogether!

Image straight out of camera with usual processing, not much else!
Nice bright eyes showing off the iris colour. I tend not to work with the flash modelling lights on and rely on one of the studio house lights behind me and in front of the model. I use a shutter speed where the ambient light has no influence on the flash exposure.

I personally prefer to see eyes exhibiting the colour of the iris, rather than a dark wide pupil.

There are a number of ways which can correct this - a low power light on the camera/lens axis to fill the shadows created by lights above eye-level will also close the pupils giving more iris colour.

Photographer Rolando Gomez demonstrates this over on his Lens Diaries blog - A Perfect Solution for Shooting Beauty like many photographers Rolando is now exploring the possibilities of using continuous LED lights in his work, especially Rosco's Litepad range and the Litepad Loop.

Here in the UK, photographer Rob Rook has created his own fluorescent ring light with components from a local DIY store.

© Copyright Rob Rook 2013 reproduced with permission

As you can see in the image above, an on-axis light creates wonderful light in the eyes, contracts the pupil giving greater colour (OK it's a monochrome image, but you know what I mean) and clarity to the eyes. The ring light catch light may also be shaped with black tape or foil to create different shaped catchlights, very much like the masks supplied with Rosco's Litepad Loop.

Rob has been kind enough to share his ring light design on his Facebook page here and here

Rob's ring light design is great for studio use, but a little limiting on location as it's mains powered. Fluorescent tubes also exhibit weird and sometimes inconsistent colour temperature which could throw your white balance when working in colour, especially with mixed light sources. This is why LED lights which are more energy efficient and a consistent colour temperature are a necessity for consistent results.

To really see the importance of the eyes in beauty and portrait images, US photographer Joe Edelman has produced a short 4 minute video on eye placement and facial expression - for anyone photographing beauty or portraits, this is must watch and learn video!

That's it for now, TTFN!


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