The Trick to Magical Eyes

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The Trick to Magical Eyes

Eyes; they are the windows to the soul. While there are artsy images that have the subject looking away, for most portraits people enjoy seeing the eyes looking out at them. Dull lifeless eyes just won’t work that well. Luckily there are approaches to get that sparkle in the eyes every time.

Before you set your lights up you have to consider the subject’s eye sockets, some are deep-set others are not. The color of the eyes will also impact the brightness; light blue eyes will always pop more than dark brown. When adjusting lights for deep-set eyes you have to watch for when the top of the eye socket starts to cast a shadow down into the eyes themselves.

For your light, the starting point is about 45 degrees up. The modifier you use and the face position will have a large bearing to your effect. The broader thus softer light wraps around the eyes, lighting them up. The smaller and more specular the light is, the darker the eyes go.

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Here is a trick to make eyes seem more vibrant. It’s controlling the size of the pupil. With the room lights turned off, using a small light, the pupil goes very large to adjust to the darkness. The larger the pupil goes, the smaller the iris is, which is the color of the eye. However, if you are using a large, bright light, one that is too bright, the pupil goes very tiny. This black spot effect gives a very alien effect to the image; it’s actually disturbing to see.

To bring the most out of the eyes, start with a wide light source fairly close to the face. Bring in a large reflector on the far side. The last touch is to put a reflector under the face at an angle. You can see a small bottom moon shape in the iris that both illuminates the eye and gives it shape. Position the main light so the face is lit with the feather side of the light modifier. Watch that it does not create a shadow from the nose that goes into the eye.

Introduce these approaches into your lighting mix in your next session and you will thrill your subject. Everyone likes it when their eyes light up.

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