When we talk about focus on the eyes, we all know what that means, right? We want the eyes to be in focus. Anytime you are doing portraits and you have someone looking at you in the photo, you want the eyes to be in focus unless you are doing something more artistic or are purposely taking a different approach. Sometimes when you take that shot you are so confident that you nailed it, only to be let down when you get home and are looking at nothing but eyes magnified on your computer screen. Sound familiar?
Here are 3 different yet common ways our pictures turn out and what you usually see:
Out of Focus
When I have eyes that look like this, I just skip it and go on to the next picture. I can’t show a client a picture that’s out of focus unless I come up with a creative way to crop it and make it look intentional. You also can’t edit out of focus eyes to be more in focus. You might try sharpening them or adding clarity, but that will still not bring them in focus. Nothing can bring focus to an out of focus image.
Eyes like this are soft. To some, they may seem sharp and in focus, but to the trained eye, they are soft. Here’s how I tell the difference-if I can count the eyelashes, they are sharp, if I can’t count the eyelashes but the eye still looks good, they are soft. These are eyes that you can sharpen a bit and still be able to use. They are a bit soft, but that doesn’t make them a deal breaker.
These are the eyes we all want. In focus, tack sharp eyes. How do I get them? I focus in between the eyes. Not on one eye. But in between the eyes. All of these eyes belong to the same person (that sounds creepy!) and were taken during the same session while she was standing in the same spot. I was shooting wide open at 2.0. Had I focused just on one eye, it would not have allowed the other eye to be in focus. So when I want eyes in focus so that I can count the eyelashes, I focus in between both eyes and the shallow depth of field extends to both eyes.
Go out and try focusing between the eyes and I hope you have great results! If you don’t have a session coming up or someone to practice on, use a stuffed animal, a pet that will sit still or call a friend for lunch and photos!
For More Tips on Getting Sharper Images:
Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California. Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children. When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.