The story is in the eyeballs. How to get them right every time.


The story is in the eyeballs.

How to get them right every time.

Eyes are the trickiest things to pose. They are the heart of an expressive image. They tell the story at a glance.

Get them wrong and your image falls apart. Here are some ways to always get it right.

Before we get into posing the eyes you have to know, to understand, what different glances mean.

You have to realize they are never looking at you the photographer or looking away from you the photographer. They are looking at or looking away from the end viewer of the image. They are communicating to that person, which might even be themselves.

When they are looking right out of the image into the eyes of the person holding the image, their eyes are speaking to them. When they have glanced away, looking at a far horizon, it is the viewer of the image who wonders what they are looking at. They make up the story of what it might be that holds such fascination.

Keep this foremost in mind. What you are looking for are emotions that will communicate to that viewer.

Here are some practical approaches to do that.

You want the eyes to be focused on something rather than nothing. Rather than tell your subject to “Look over there . . .” then point vaguely off to the left, decide where you want the eyes, upwards, down, straight forward; pick a point that they can focus on that is real.


If you need the eyes opened up a bit, reset the point a little higher.


When you want them looking at you, tell them where: your head, lens, feet. Each will give a different feel to the image.

One of the biggest tricks to getting expressive eyes is head placement. Think of the head angle as the supporting character. Its position gives mood, it supports what the eyes are doing. The head position must be in alignment with the intent of the gaze.

For example if you have their body language and their eye position giving a shy, bashful look but the head is in an upward defiant position, it is in conflict with the image message.

Here are some rules of thumb that will help.



  1. Keep the eyes as centered as possible. You should try to get a little of the whites on each side of the iris. It gives balance.


  1. Watch for when the face is turned away but they are looking back at you. If the turn is too severe the near eye partially disappears into the corner of the eye, looking very odd. You will have to have the face turned back a little.


  1. When the eyes are looking up at the camera, they increase in apparent size by about 30%


  1. Avoid having small slits, especially when the eyes are almost closed but just a fraction is open.


  1. For blinkers have them close their eyes take a deep breath to settle them, then have them open their eyes, you will have a second or two for the shot before blinking starts.

The eyes are called the windows to the soul. They communicate so much. The rest of your image can fall apart but if you have the eyes right, it will still work, all else can be forgive. Get the eyes wrong then no matter how brilliant the rest of the image is, it won’t work.





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