Ah, the eyes! Windows to the soul some say! Those awesome, little colored orbs! They are absolutely wonderful body parts. In photography they are the ultimate, be all end all to an image. We are taught that the eyes should always be completely in focus. If you get that, everything else doesn't matter. So, with all this in mind, I want to talk about eye placement in a shot and what it brings to your photograph.
First off, we have the direct eye contact with the camera. This is a commonly used technique and one that has a lot of validity. It allows you to see those beautiful colors. It gives a certain directness and boldness to your image. It also, depending on the pose, gives a certain sexiness to the image as well.
In my picture here, Brooke is giving the camera a direct, piercing gaze that is bold. Mix it with the hip placement, it becomes a sexy, direct gaze that draws your viewer in. I like the direct gaze pose. Sometimes I wish that some of us would get away from using it all the time. However, the direct look is not the only thing you have in your bag of tricks as a photographer!
Normally, I don't like using examples from the same shoot, but Brooke was fantastic with her posing for me and this one happens to be one of my favorite photos from the session. In this shot, it's in the same location, same pose in back to back shots. But this time Brooke turned her head to the side giving me her profile and just a hint of the eyelashes of the other eye.
What did this change do to the whole tone of the image? For me, it softens the mood. Now it's giving me a feeling of anticipation. A feeling of expectation. What is she looking at or waiting for? Just this slight pose change with her eye placement has dramatically changed the whole mood of the image.
The Off Camera
The off camera look is one that I like to incorporate in every shoot I do. For me, it makes me feel like I'm an observer to the scene. I'm not the one shooting, I'm just looking into the action. It's a very natural look. One that works for many uses.
For this shot Caylie was looking at another person off to my camera left. But in the image, it looks like she is smiling at a loved one who is walking towards her or even just thinking of someone special to her as she rests. Its a nice, natural look that plays well with this image. Also one that leaves the viewer wondering as to what she is looking at or thinking about.
The Look Down
I see this shoot a lot when you work with a model or person who had some makeup done for the shoot. It's a great way to showcase the wonderful work the make-up artist has done. While you are not able to see the eyes, just the idea is enough to convey meaning.
From her pose, we can see that Karen is relaxing. There is no tension. Her facial expression is serene. But with the lookdown, we get to see the wonderful make up work that the MUA (make-up artist) did. It's a great pose for women. Not so much for men. It gives a softer feel to the image, one of vulnerability.
There are many, many more variations of the eye placement. These are the four main ones I have run across and tend to use. The eyes have so much to do with portrait work but you don't always have to use the stare right into the camera look. Different uses give you different feelings. Play around! Find out what works with you and for you!