Sometimes, in photography, it becomes a real art to try to draw the viewers eye to a subject on the photo. Composition does that to an extent with leading lines, or with diagonal lines or something like that, but, when you are not working with that, how do you do that? In portraits especially, you want to bring the viewers eyes to the person’s eyes that you are taking. So, color, lighting all has to be just right to make that happen.
I found this article from Picture/Correct that I wanted to share that I thought was really good. Read through this and I hope you will learn something about lighting, and color:
As a photographer, it’s your duty to make sure that the viewer is looking at the exact area of your image that you intended.
A brighter sky, such as in the image below, naturally draws the attention of the audience toward the sky and not the buildings:
In the image below, a darker sky and better exposed building naturally draw the attention of the viewer toward the building:
The same thing happens when you’re shooting portraits.
In the image above, the bright white top of the model completely overshadows her face. Her face, despite properly being exposed, doesn’t draw the same attention.
Bergman explains that there are several techniques to make sure this doesn’t happen. To overcome this problem, you can alter the light. Use a snoot or a diffuser or any other light shaping contraption to soften or alter the quality of the light.
But that doesn’t always deliver the kind of results that you want.
The best solution is to ask the model to change into something darker.
This way the subject is properly exposed while the darker clothing, which absorbs much of the light, remains obscured. Now the viewer’s attention goes straight toward the subject’s face and not her clothing.
Thanks to Rajib for this great article.
My own comments on this now:
Now, this just shows you how you need to have a good relationship with your subject. To most people who come in to take a portrait, they spend quite some time choosing their clothes. So, it is important that maybe you go over their clothes choices before they come in for their portrait. Imagine the person coming if for their portrait and you tell them they have to go home and change, because you want them to highlight their face more. So, explain what you want to do before they come in to your studio.
Could you make the changes in the background to accommodate their clothing? Perhaps. That is something you could certainly practice with people on. Let’s take a look at some portraits that might show that possibility:
Here is one portrait that is just the opposite of what was explained in the article above. A white background with the subject just wearing casual clothing. What is your thoughts? Does your eyes go towards the face? In reality it does NOT. The face is actually covered a lot with sunglasses, the portrait shows a lot of her clothes, and with wording on the clothes, it makes you want to read the shirt. This is definitely not a really good example of drawing your eyes towards the subject’s face. However, if this was an ad for the shirt company, then the point was made perfectly. I don’t know if it was, but, only the photographer would know. That is the first thing my eyes went to.
This is actually a very classy portrait. The background is well blurred out, she is wearing dark clothes, and she is positioned showing her face nicely, this is the type of portrait like is mentioned above where our eyes are drawn to her face first. Right to the eyes, then you probably drift to the hands, to the hair, or whatever from the eyes, but, this is exactly what our author above is talking about.
Now this is interesting to look at this portrait of a man. This is a black and white portrait, so you can get away with this, and it even makes it more dramatic. A white background, and he has very nice eyes for a man. Dark hair, and the shirt that he is wearing is very light, it is natural that your eyes, are first drawn to his eyes. It takes practice in color and black and white to be able to tell your subject what to wear, and to also see what is the best facial trait of the subject and highlight that. But, then you ask: what if the subject doesn’t have really great eyes, like these models do? The eyes are still the main subject. Always shoot for the eyes. The subject will be impressed that you made their eyes look so good.