I am going to take a quick detour from our discussion of directed candid’s and controlled poses to talk about how eyes and hands have a dramatic impact on your poses. I promise we I will come back to the discussion of controlled poses in an upcoming article.
You may be asking what do eyes have to do with posing?
My answer is EVERYTHING.
The right expression and placement of the eyes will make up for a less than great pose any day. I can also promise you that if your business model relies on print sales, you will make a lot more money if you pay close attention to eye placement in your photographs.
Before we get too far into this discussion let’s get a few things straight… Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the word POSE means to assume a posture or attitude usually for artistic purposes or to affect an attitude or character.
The problem is that a great pose is not enough to get the job done. The pose has to be capped off by a great expression and all great expressions begin and end with the EYES.
Webster’s goes on to tell us that the word EXPRESSION is the act of being expressive, a facial aspect indicative of feeling.
So the net result is that we can pose the body and even tell the person to hold the pose like a statue but the expression must have life and energy and it must happen in real time. If you have your subject pose an expression they will look like Zoolander. (If you don’t understand the reference, look it up and watch the movie – its hysterical)
Eye placement and facial expressions are among my highest priorities when I am doing any shot with a person in it.
I will usually begin by explaining to my subjects that the majority of the photographs I am going to take will feel as if they are looking straight into the camera. I will explain to my subject that the camera magnifies things and that if I ask them to turn their head, I am really only asking them to turn about an inch at a time. I will tell them to always make the photographer ask for more. This gives me greater control. If you ask a person to turn their head naturally, they will tend to turn by at least three inches or even more and you will then be looking at a more angled view of the face that does not give you pleasing eye placement.
In the example below we see on the left image that my model Khari’s face is turned further from the camera than the version on the right. As a result the iris and pupils of her eyes are forced into the corners and her left eye (camera right) is visually pressed up against the edge of her face. On the right image all that I have done is had her turn her face slightly back towards the camera. This small move creates better balance with the iris and pupil of each eye and eliminates the tension on the left eye against the left edge of her face. As a result the image on the right is more captivating but still has the same pose and feel.
Note: Look at the models left arm (camera right) in both examples above. On the left, her arm is aligned with the eyes and creates a diagonal that leads down and away from the face. On the right her arm is lifted slightly above the eyes so that is doesn’t create the same distracting diagonal line and as a result allows the eyes to hold more attention.
Give the eyes breathing room
In the example below, the image on the left shows my model Megan’s hair falling much closer to her right eye (camera left). In the example on the right, the hair has been pushed back and off the eye, which creates more impact from her soft expression.
Line them up!
If you want maximum impact from your subject’s eyes and expression, line them up with her nose. It doesn’t matter if she is looking straight down the barrel of the lens or off on an angle – eyes that line up with the nose almost always produce a more natural and pleasing result and for straight on shots definitely more impact.
In the pair of examples above you can see side-by-side comparisons with my model Katie’s face looking directly at the camera on the left and looking off to side on the right. Be sure to watch the video below for an animated comparison of the two poses.
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Make sure you get her good side!
There is more Hollywood legend than substance to this, however the fact is that no human being has a perfectly symmetrical face. More specifically everyone has one eye that is bigger than the other.
Unfortunately for some people it is easily noticed. For others the difference is very subtle and for others it only becomes noticeable when they smile and contract the muscles in their face. While we don’t usually notice this in “real time”, when it is frozen in a photograph for eternity it can become painfully obvious.
The concept of “the good side” most frequently refers to the optical illusion that is created by placing the smaller eye closer to the camera, making it appear bigger and as a result more equal in size to the larger eye, which is further from the camera.
In the composite above, you can see in the first image that the subjects left eye (camera right) is noticeably smaller. In the second image we turn her head to the left (camera right) the problem still exists. In the third image her head is turned to the right (camera left) and we have the illusion of the eyes being nearly identical in size.
Important tip: Make sure they blink!
Of course you don’t want a finished shot with your subject blinking, however it is very important to make sure that your subject blinks naturally.
If you catch the subject blinking – simply delete it – it’s not like it costs you any money unless of course you are shooting film. (If you are shooting film remember this piece of advice… F I L M is a four-letter word!)
Often a subject is aware of their blinking and they don’t want to ruin the photo so they will force their eyes open. If you don’t address this you wind up with two problems. The immediate one is that your subject will simply look stoned and the expression will not be at all natural. The second problem is that if you don’t have your subject blink naturally you will dry out their eyes and if you are doing a lengthy shoot the eyes will become blood shot.
So the best approach is just to encourage your subject to blink naturally and remind them occasionally during your shoot.
Many makeup artists will put Visine in their subject’s eyes BEFORE they begin makeup to help prevent irritation from the makeup and lights. This is a proactive technique that can keep eyes fresh and save you lots of retouching.
© Joe Edelman
In the next installment of To Pose Or Not To Pose we will talk about hands and how they can make or break a shot. After that we will return to our discussion of directed candid’s and controlled poses and techniques to pull everything together for poses that will grab and hold attention.
If you work with models you may find this information valuable: http://www.businessofmodeling.com
Until next time – remember – Don’t Be Afraid To Suck! Forget the rules. Experiment. Step out of your comfort zone and grow as a photographer.