The “eyes” win it.
Okay, pardon the joke. I only say it to make a point.
We like to look at people’s eyes. Poets may call them the doorway into the soul or something like that. But, what difference does that make to a photographer?
Well, it turns out, lots and lots.
There are a number of points to be made about capturing someone’s eyes in a photo — and capturing them correctly.
First off, we’re almost able to tell whether a person looks alive or dead just because of their eyes. That is assuming the eyes are open, closed eyes can give an impression of sleep or peace.
But what I’m talking about is the little bit of glint that gleams in an eye when you photograph someone. In photography terms it is called a catchlight. But, before I ever even heard the term catchlight, I knew that there needed to be some kind of spark in a person’s eyes (or eye) to capture them with vitality.
This was way before any formal photography education — I liked the photos where the flash or whatever light source gleamed back at me from the eyes. Let me clarify that — this does NOT mean red eye from poor flash usage.
The next thing has to do with whether or not the eyes appear sharp in an image. A portrait of a person — whether in action or where they are posing for the camera purely requires eyes to be in focus. So much so that we tend to think a photo is bad when the eyes are clear or are blurry.
We will even ignore other features being out-of-focus and think an image is sharp when all that is sharp is the eyes.
When someone is trying to hide wrinkles, that can be a very effective tool. Unfortunately it does mean that you are working with lens apertures that essentially have no depth of field. But, I’ve apparently worked miracles on some guys and gals, as the wrinkles (ah, those signs of experience and wisdom!) seem to vanish or diminish when I shoot very close. As long as the eyes are sharp.
When you look at fashion magazines you’ll find this little element is so important.
So much so that there are many special retouching tools that have to do with sharpening just the eyes — and leaving everything else alone.
Color is also something that creates emotions and feelings — based on the eyes again. We like people to have color in their eyes. Again, so much so that many tools in Photoshop and other like programs can address just that factor. Giving blue eyes a bit more saturation, a bit more vibrance.
Dark colors around the eyes (eyeliner or shadow under the eyes) can make eyes actually seem smaller. This, by the way, is true whether or not we are looking at images. We had a gal who had been wearing dark eyeliner pretty much her whole life. And her eyes would vanish when she smiled. We implored her on her wedding day to first visit a cosmologist and see what lighter shades could work. She did.
Her mom at first said she did not even recognize her daughter. And told her she should have stayed with her regular black make-up. And then she saw the photos and saw her daughter’s eyes clearly in the photos. And was amazed and overjoyed.
It’s kind of funny to realize how much of an effect the eyes of a person can affect the final outcome of a photo. But, then again, perhaps not. After all, they are the doorway to one’s soul.