Ways of Looking

Black and White Couple

The subject's ways of looking toward or away from the camera is very important because the first thing noticed about most people are their eyes. The eyes can compel our attention and draw us into their personality with just a glance. Because of this, nothing has more influence over the mood or meaning of a portrait.

The eyes of you subject can convey an essential message. Much of this message depends on the relationship between the subject and photographer. Usually a friend who looks straight at the camera expresses a relaxed openness. But the same gaze from a stranger in the street may convey challenge or hostility. Either way, there is a strong sense of involvement, and we know that the subject is aware of the camera.

However, a great picture does not depend on the subject looking directly at the camera. A picture of a subject looking away from the camera might succeed in giving a more spontaneous result. It can give a feeling of looking of looking into a person's life. You could be catching them in private thought or they may be mesmerized by something outside the picture frame. In this situation, the look away must be positive and letting the subject know that you are staging that kind of shot in an impression of shiftiness.

Try having your subject turn their face away from the camera, only looking back at it with their eyes. This can create a balance between a formal and informal portrait.

There are also technical reasons to focus on the eyes. They move quicker than any other part of the face. Also, if the eyes are in sharp focus, the rest of the face will be as well.

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