Monday, November 18, 2013

The Secret of Eyes in Portrait Photography

Eyes are the prime for any portrait. Any Psycho-physiological experience termed as emotion is interpreted through a dual screen theater called Eyes.Those Anger, Disappointment, Curiosity, Fear, Hope, Happiness, Love, Lust, Sadness, Surprise or Shame it’s all through those Eyes.

Eyes constitute hugely towards the subjects behavior in the frame. When we analyze those great portrait works of Davinci, Vermeer or Steve Mccurry, one thing which unfolds before us is the way they have handled those eyes. The play of eyes in a frame is greatly hyped because at first the artist or the photographer has been able to create a relationship with the subject, which has been reflected on the canvas or the photograph and then the viewer is able to sense him in the creator’s place and there is again this flow of relationship.

It may remain widely open, half-open or even closed, but it’s all in those Eyes.

Photo by Steve McCurry

Position of Eyes in a Frame

There are no active rules to position these prime things in your frame, but trying to follow rule of thirds or getting them on the midpoint of your frame will be an excellent option. Placing them on the center can be very compelling for the viewer, it can be very powerful when the eyes are wide open. Those eyes have to kindle an emotion to get the viewer involved with the subject, forming a relationship which certainly results in the success of the art.

Photo by Steven_Anthony

Photo by Mario Ardovino

Photo by Anthony Cronin

Eyes and Smile

We all know face is the index of mind, I would like to remind you that eyes do smile. A curious face can have a wider look with no smile at all, whereas a smiling face can have a angularly poised eyes, strangely which are also smiling. These eyes and smile they tend to complement each other so beautifully. At times a beautiful smile or a laughter can downplay those eyes, so when it comes to smile or eyes, smile wins it by miles, but how about having them both, the portrait will definitely win hearts.

Photo by Meleager

Photo by Boaz

Photo by Mona

The Eye Contact

An eye contact is always so tempting in any genre of photography. May it be a photojournalist or a wedding photographer everybody looks for an eye contact. People love to listen it from the subject rather than the photographer that is when an eye contact can make a great deal of difference. Like how we look into one’s eyes while speaking, the viewer tries to interact with the portrait, believe me it does speak.

It can be a powerful or heartbreaking with tears but it would be soul stirring for sure.

Photo by Twiggy Tu

Photo by Sergey Lungu

Photo by Annette Pehrsson

Eyes Closed

Even more powerful, transports the silence to the viewer. It makes him think and get into that mood of the subject. When making portraits, there is this thin line separating the viewer and subject which is closed when eyes are closed.

Those moodaholic portraits are those with eyes closed or partly closed.

Photo by Džesika Devic

Photo by Harold Navarro

Photo by Mohammad Keshvary

Watching Space

Looking back to the art of composition in portrait, we need to quote a term called “Watching space”. This space usually a negative space in your composition is the mind space of the subject, it helps the viewer to interpret the subject’s mood and its state of being. Try experimenting with this composition strategy to learn more.

Photo by Géraldine van Wessem

Photo by Andrew James

Photo by Radoslaw Pujan

Role of Catch Light

What a Bull’s eye is for archer is what a Catch light is for a portrait photographer. A catch light just enhances the target, thus an easier interpretation for the viewer. Technically a catch light occurs when the subject stays in a shade and looks into the light. Applying for both outdoor portraits and studio shots, the logic remains the same. Aesthetically these catch light adds more drama to the portrait, its a magic they make the portrait come into life.

Photo by Sandy Phimester

Photo by Lou O' Bedlam

Photo by Igor Mokhovik


The least said always try to get the focus on eyes, we know a portrait lives in its eyes.

* Siddharthan Raman is an aspiring street photographer based-in Hyderabad, India. His passion towards Photography has been a variable constantly growing. Please visit his Facebook and Flickr pages for more of his work. This original article was published on 121Clicks.

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