Making eyes sparkle. It’s a recipe of contributing factors (like everything in photography!). The first thing you need to get eyes to ‘pop’ is light. Light is important in every aspect of photography and it’s important to master it; find the perfect light!
Have you heard the term ‘open shade’? Seek out a location that is shaded i.e. the edge of a wooded area, under a tree or in a doorway. Have your subject face the source of light, so whilst they are shaded, reflected in their eyes will be light from the open skies, creating beautiful reflection and catchlights!
The image below was taken in Mid-summer around 11am when the sun was high, but we found a shaded area under a canopy of trees. I had my subject turned outwards toward the open park. Notice the pretty reflection in her eyes, they positively sparkle, and no harsh shadows you would expect from shooting in these conditions.
You do not need to be outside to get your subjects eyes to sparkle. Look for light from windows to create the same effect in your indoor portraits. Place your subject infront of a window or door and see how the light falls on their face. In the image below, the subject is directly facing a glass door, see how crisp her eyes are, and the beautiful, even, light on her face.
Experiment with light and shadow. Placing your subject at different angles to the window can add depth and dimension to your portrait.
Try and get into the habit of looking for those catchlights. If you think you’ve found a good spot to shoot, have your subject turn slowly and watch closely for those sparkly peepers, you’ll know when you’ve got it right! Not only does great light add life to your subjects eyes, it also helps with better skin tone, and even exposure to the face.
Check this out. This is one of my daughters (she’s a very willing model!). I’ve placed her against the front of our house, directly below the porch with the light behind her. Notice how dull her eyes look. Not only that, see those harsh shadows under her eyes and that one side of her face is poorly lit.
Okay, now here, I’ve not only moved her around to face the setting sun, but I’ve also inched her forwards right to the edge of that porch so she’s now in the ‘open shade’. Her eyes are beautifully lit now, those harsh shadows under her eyes are gone too!
One shot I always try to get is to have my subject looking up at me. Laying on a blanket or just having them sit and look upwards, let the sky reflect in their eyes. I know when I’ve really nailed it – I can see myself when I zoom in!
The Golden Hour. Whether you’re shooting in open shade or not, try to shoot at the right time of day. An hour after sunrise or before sunset is The Golden Hour. Avoid shooting in the middle of the day, the sun is too bright and you’ll get harsh shadows and blown highlights, you’re also likely to get squinty subjects!
A helping hand……..Personally I don’t use reflectors, only because I’m usually photographing kids which is challenging enough without bringing a reflector into the equation! If however, you have an assistant or an adult model, reflectors can be very effective! Again, keep moving! Move the reflector around until you can see that pretty light in your subjects eyes.
Look at the difference in the two images above. The image on the left is ‘au’natural’, the one on the right is using a reflector. Massive difference right?! Sparkly eyes, less shadow under the eye, beautiful, even skin tone……..
Shooting backlit images can be made much easier by using a reflector, you’ll ensure you’ve kept your subject’s face well lit whilst you capture that flare behind them!
And lastly…Practice, practice, practice……!