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Thread: Eye Contact - importance and technique

  1. #1
    Tim's Avatar
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    Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Hi - I'd like to open a discussion about eye contact in photographs. We all know how important it is to get your model to maintain eye contact with the camera - this can often change an average photo into an amazing photo.

    I've been looking at some photos recently where eye contact is not made, but I'm not sure how this is defined. Its an intuitive thing - you just know when it is there, and when it isn't, but I wonder if we can be more specific: is there some aspect that we can identify that says 'these eyes are making eye contact' or 'these eyes are not making eye contact' ??

    I'd also like to hear some PhotoShop post processing techniques for enhancing eye contact. Has anyone any tips or tutorials that discuss how to change the eyes in a photograph from 'not making eye contact' to 'making eye contact' ??

    It would also be useful, sometimes, to be able to remove eye contact in a photograph. I have a number of crowd photos where just one or more people are looking at the camera, and the eye of the viewer is immediately drawn to these persons. Here is an example: http://www.gnomeplanet.com/display.php?photoid=1309
    Last edited by Tim; 12th October 2011 at 08:00 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    I didn't think eye contact was important unless you are doing glamour photography? I always thought sharp focus of the eyes was the norm. I would think you can evoke different moods depending on the way the subject's eyes are cast.

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    I was at camera club judging recently where any portrait without eye contact was immediately marked down, even though some were clearly unsuitable themes for it - eg a musician looking at his hands on the instrument, a boatman steering a boat and watching the horizon ... I'm sure eye contact helps many people pictures, but surely not as a strict rule.
    Last edited by dutyhog; 23rd October 2011 at 11:33 PM. Reason: typo

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    I can't define "when it works" and "when it doesn't" ... but what I DO know, is that eye contact isn't always needs for a photo to "work" ...

    Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Were the first two shots any worse than the last, due to their "lack of eye contact"? I don't think so.

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Yep, Judges are Judges and such remarks are subjective and vary from Judge to Judge to Judge. Colin's post in my thoughts gives the answer, You and Your subject set the scene... not the Judge.

    At my local club we have just had our first DPI Competitions and suffered with poor judging and marking. Out of 68 images only 2 scored less than 16/20 and some of those scoring 18 t0 20 were worse than the lower marked 2 !!!

    Competitions are subjective .. to the Judge at that moment in time ..

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Quote Originally Posted by victor View Post
    Yep, Judges are Judges and such remarks are subjective and vary from Judge to Judge to Judge. Colin's post in my thoughts gives the answer, You and Your subject set the scene... not the Judge.

    At my local club we have just had our first DPI Competitions and suffered with poor judging and marking. Out of 68 images only 2 scored less than 16/20 and some of those scoring 18 t0 20 were worse than the lower marked 2 !!!

    Competitions are subjective .. to the Judge at that moment in time ..
    I think with competitions you almost have to study the judges, their profiles, photography background, etc. to know what will work and what work. That obviously stifles your creativity but if the prize is your goal you often won't have any choice. There is a bridle photography challenge that photographers have a set of rules, such as framing and themes that is sought after not so much for the prizes but for the certification is gives the winner whose goal is to be the premiere wedding photography in his region. I'll look it up, I think I posted a link to it once.

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    I think with competitions you almost have to study the judges, their profiles, photography background, etc. to know what will work and what work. That obviously stifles your creativity but if the prize is your goal you often won't have any choice. There is a bridle photography challenge that photographers have a set of rules, such as framing and themes that is sought after not so much for the prizes but for the certification is gives the winner whose goal is to be the premiere wedding photography in his region. I'll look it up, I think I posted a link to it once.
    I agree.

    This may sound arrogant, but I've entered some of these "competitions" and got absolutely nowhere; I was a bit naive in those days, but when I was reminded to "follow the money" I came to realise that they were just another commercial venture (contestants paid a fee to enter - contestants had to have their work framed (and guess what, the competition was co-hosted by the local framers) - so called prizes were either donated (in exchange for the publicity), or soft-dollar. In terms of the results, I honestly think they were judged by folks with a completely different set of values to the ones that I had assumed; my idea of a strong entry is one with a lot of commercial potential (ie to be sold for good money) -- most of the winning and notable mention entries had pretty much ZERO commercial potential (I don't believe that anyone would want to buy them and hang them on their wall) - on the other hand, I got more than a little "self satisfaction" from selling more of mine than probably all of theirs put together.

    Is it arrogance? Is it sour grapes? Is it supreme self-confidence? Who knows - I like to think that when someone critiques my work that I'm smart enough to ask myself "do they have a point?" - sometimes I'll agree with them (and take the suggestion onboard) - sometimes I'll disagree with them - and sometimes I'll agree in principle, but feel it's not a big enough deal to worry about (as is often the case for factors that are beyond my control). I've had to learn to trust my own judgement first and foremost though - and I have to say that a lot of the time the judges of these competitions are not folks I look up to. I don't think of them as my "superiors" or even "a jury of my peers".

    My "judges" are my customers who judge my work by opening their wallets - and most seem pretty happy that I "march to the beat of my own drum".

    Arrogance or supreme self-confidence ... you can all decide

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    in my view its subjective,sometimes if i am doing candids and get eye contact i feel i have failed (ie once they realise they tend to go into posing mode), i remember seeing old forces portrait shots and hollywood starlets shots where nobody looked at the camera,there is a fine line between looking off camera and the model seeming like she/he is posing for somebody else,cheers martyn

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    I have never entered a photography contest, but I have entered homebrew contests before. In those, the norm was to provide a judging sheet to the entrant that included the full evaluation of your beer. I always found that extremely helpful. Many of the criticisms were things that helped me refine my brewing, and some of the comments were things that I had no interest in -- comments on how the recipe may have deviated from the norm in a particular beer style, for example, is entirely appropriate for the rules of competition, but of little interest to me personally in creating a brew that I feel accomplishes my goals as a brewer. So the thing that "made" the judging for me was the detailed and educated feedback, which I in turn could evaluate for appropriatenesss to my development in the art. FWIW

  10. #10
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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Thanks very much for everyone's comments on the Importance, or Otherwise, of eye contact. I feel this part of the question has been answered very well, and I wonder if we could now move on to the other parts of the question: How we can define when eye contact is made, or is nearly made, and how to adjust this in PhotoShop.

    Is there some aspect that we can identify that says 'these eyes are making eye contact' or 'these eyes are not making eye contact' ??

    Has anyone seen some PhotoShop post processing techniques for enhancing eye contact? Has anyone any tips or tutorials that discuss how to change the eyes in a photograph from 'not making eye contact' to 'making eye contact' ??

    It would also be useful, sometimes, to be able to remove eye contact in a photograph. I have a number of crowd photos where just one or more people are looking at the camera, and the eye of the viewer is immediately drawn to these persons. Here is an example: http://www.gnomeplanet.com/display.php?photoid=1309

    Tim, currently travelling in Egypt (only has internet access occasionally!)

  11. #11

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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    i am not the best one to answer your question, i once tried to correct a model with a wandering eye by cloning the good eye, by the time i had finished she looked like an alien,

  12. #12
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    Re: Eye Contact - importance and technique

    Some Pros particularly wedding photographers do it all the time as they only get one chance, so use cloning to get one good shot. I know why they do it, but on less than group shots it rankles with me. My other half seems to be the worlds worst! Her eyes always close when I squeeze the shutter, yet Pro models are rarely ever a problem. They almost know how to look at you and at a shoot we did on Monday, the model just looked at you in a way to say yeah I am ready now, shoot away! So its a case of experience too.

    I do believe that eye contact is important but only if it is the kind of shot that needs involvement of the the eyes in the right way.

    Oh yes judges. John sums them up well. At the end of last season I was talking to one of our old timers who had announced he was retiring from competitions after 20 years and has suddely regained his passion for photography rather than trying to give judges what they want.

    I was also chatting to a judge who is also a leading pro glamour and portrait photographer and has been for the past twenty five years. He entered a very tasteful shot into a competition and was poorly marked because the judge didnt like the tiny red flower in the background. No mention of composition, colour, bokeh, eye contact etc whatsoever. Apparently the judge was the only one who saw the flower even after it was highlighted!!

    Judges are a law unto themselves and display huge biases, so it isnt worth getting too excited when they are off key.
    Last edited by shreds; 26th October 2011 at 09:06 PM.

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