The Importance Of Eye Placement
When making someone’s portrait, the saying goes “the eyes are the key to the soul”. For this, I couldn’t’ agree more. You can tell a lot just from someone’s eyes. Pain, happiness, excitement, anger. You can tell if they’re not sleeping well(bags under the eyes). If they are stressed or even if they are suffering from certain medical conditions. You can also tell by the dilation of the pupil as to how much light is present and for Photographers, you can typically tell light placement based purely on a catch light (source light reflection in the eye)
Eye contact is one of the highest signs of showing a connection (in everyday face to face situations). So as a Photographer, eyes, just like everything else in the scene, play an important role.
But that doesn’t mean that every portrait you make, they need to be focusing on the lens. It all depends on exactly who you want to make the connection with and therefore creating the sense of emotion you want in the image. If a child within a photo has their head bowed slightly down and eye fixed on the floor, does that mean you can’t connect to this child? No. What it means is that you will possibly get a sense of the child being shy or thoughtful, depending on other body language.
In this image, I wanted to create a feel of being observant and for there to be a candid feel. Combined with the direction of light I felt it would be a much stronger image this way. Had Lily-Mae been looking towards the camera, the image would not have the same feeling at all.
So what about group photos? How exactly does eye contact play a role in that?
Personally, when you involve 2 or more people within a photograph, eye contact/placement becomes more crucial.
Each photographer will have their own idea’s, their own methods and their own preference. However, for me, as I drive myself forward and focus on family groupings from a personal perspective I much prefer the photographs that show interaction and character but they still need to be constructed in a way which creates a great photo.
The moment that you take away all eye contact from the camera and place it around the family is the moment that intimacy is created.
Take a look at the below images, ask yourself where your eyes end up? and which you believe creates a connection with you, or the family?