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The Eyes Have It

Photographs involving people, especially one person, should have the eyes as the immediate focal point. When a viewer looks at an image, you want their eyes to go to the eyes of the subject in the image. From there, you want the composition to create movement and have the viewers eyes examine the entire image, just like on any other photograph that you create.

But the starting point should always be the eyes.

I am noticing a lot of over enthusiastic eye retouching, however, particularly with respect to the eye white. First of all, the eye white is not white. It has a blueish cast to it Secondly, it does not have a power source. It does not glow.

The first decision to be made is whether to retouch at all. If the eyes look good, I leave them alone.

If I do decide to retouch, I use separate layers grouped together.There are at least 2 layers – one for the eye white and one for the iris. As I have a very high resolution camera and file sizes increase rapidly, I generally just make a selection around the eyes and copy that to 2 new layers.

To the first layer I eliminate most of the veins and any irregularities using the healing brush tools or the dreaded clone stamp. I then change it’s blending mode to Screen, using a mask to reveal just the whites. I also add a saturation layer, clipped to this layer, and lower the reds (if required, and it usually is). See that opacity slider for the layer? The screen mode/pixel copy layer? It goes down. Way down. Down down down to the flo (as Flo-ri-da says). Well not all the way. Season to taste but it sure ain’t 100%.

The second layer is masked for the iris, screen mode, don’t mess with the pupil or the black ring. Maybe use the burn tool on the ring.

I then create the group, move the layers I just created into them, and can then easily see the results of the retouching as a whole.

This image shows the results of the technique and how I like the eyes to look:

Notice the framing: no space over the head to draw the eye there. I don’t do this for full-figure images but employ it the majority of the time for headshots or head-and shoulder images to draw the eye to the subject’s eyes.

Natural eyes.

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