The past few weeks, we have been refining our photography skills by taking a deeper look into one skill at a time. Last week, we explored macro photography. You guys did a fantastic job at capturing flowers, pets, and other objects. We are going to focus on the small again this week, but something a bit different – the eyes. The eyes of your subject may be a small part of your photograph but they are a big part of the picture.

I have often referred to capturing the light into your subject’s eyes to keep them from looking flat. They really should pop! Some achieve this pop in post-processing. But, if you know me by now, I am all about nailing it in camera. There are a few ways to make sure the eyes pop.

How to Make Eyes to Pop in Your Photography

Week 17: April 20-26

make eyes pop

Nail Your Focus. 

One of the key things when taking portraits is to have both eyes sharp. This is where depth of field comes into play. While I love to shoot wide open {large f/ stop} for the beautiful bokeh, I have to watch my depth of field. If one eye is slightly off the plane from the other, you won’t have both eyes in focus. If you find this to be the case for you, check your aperture. Move your aperture a stop or two down. The larger your number {small f/ stop}, the more that you will get in focus. You may have to compromise the nice creamy bokeh for tack sharp eyes.

make eyes pop

Another way to ensure tack sharp eyes to toggle your focal points. When choosing a focal point, I typically pick the eye closest to me.

Don’t forget to check your shutter speed! If you are photographing a still subject, your shutter speed should be twice the focal length you are using. For example, when I use my 35 mm f/ 1.8 lens, I don’t want to use a speed greater than 1/70 of a second. If you are using a tripod or have a steady hand, you could push it a little and try to use a faster shutter speed.

make eyes pop

A big factor in sharp images is good glass. When you have a good lens, it can really make a difference. I didn’t understand this until I upgraded my kit lens to the 35mm.

Look for the light. 

We’ve talked about finding the light before. It be in right in front of you or you may have to go looking for it. Finding the right light is the most important part of composing your photograph. So how do we find it. 

The time of day that you are shooting can come into play. You know how much I love the golden hours and there are many reasons for that. One of them being that the sun is lower in the sky which reduces unflattering undereye shadows. If you can’t shoot during the golden hours, look for open shade. Open shade is anything that is not directly in the sun, like under a tree or behind a building. If you are stuck inside, move your subject to a window or door. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to have my kids either sit on our bay window or by our sliding glass door in the kitchen when I take their pictures inside. 




Another way to get some light into your subject’s eyes is to switch your angles up. When you stand over your subject and have them look up at you, you can really get the light into their eye and catch some great catchlights.

make eyes pop

Your challenge this week is to find the light and nail your focus! Go catch some catchlights in your subject’s eyes. Make sure you share your photographs on Facebook.


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