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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> how to get large pupils in portrait?
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01/26/2011 12:21:59 PM · #1
So I have been looking at some portrait photography websites, I am working on improving my portrait work and have entered two side challenges dealing with portrait work.

What I am noticing in the ones I really like is that the pupils of the subjects are very large. This doesn't make sense to me because if you have good lighting it seems the pupils would be small. The pupil are almost always smaller than what I would like when I take portraits.

So the question basically is how do you keep the pupils large on your subject, and have a good light source at the same time?

ETA: here is a good example from 21.gif timfythetoo of what I mean. Obviously a good light source but look how large their pupils are:
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_688205.jpg

Message edited by author 2011-01-26 12:25:12.
01/26/2011 12:24:47 PM · #2
Originally posted by sjhuls:

So I have been looking at some portrait photography websites, I am working on improving my portrait work and have entered two side challenges dealing with portrait work.

What I am noticing in the ones I really like is that the pupils of the subjects are very large. This doesn't make sense to me because if you have good lighting it seems the pupils would be small. The pupil are almost always smaller than what I would like when I take portraits.

So the question basically is how do you keep the pupils large on your subject, and have a good light source at the same time?


It's strobes, Jen. The modeling lights are dim, the ambient light is very low, and the pupils don't have a chance to react in the instant of strobe. If you are photographing portraits with continuous lighting, like floodlights, the pupils are gonna be small.

R.
01/26/2011 12:26:43 PM · #3
So would a speedylight flash, with a softbox work?
01/26/2011 12:47:26 PM · #4
Originally posted by sjhuls:

So would a speedlight flash, with a softbox work?


Ought to, yes. It's all about low ambient light pre-exposure. So much so that if you have really bright modelling lights to set the lighting, you should dim them or turn them off altogether before making the actual exposures.

R.

ETA: you know the dreaded "red-eye" effect when flash is on axis with the lens? And how the red-eye reduction feature emits a bunch of tiny pre-flashes? That's to get the pupils to shrink so the blood vessels aren't reflecting back red... Not that that's professionallighting or anything, just an interesting sidebar on how that works...

Message edited by author 2011-01-26 12:50:27.
01/26/2011 12:56:19 PM · #5
In my studio I don't have any modeling lights so the only light is from the canned lights in the ceiling which are on a dimmer. I usually have them down pretty low so I don't have competing light for my speedlights. Low initial light gives me good pupils. And like what was said previous, the pupils don't get a chance to react to the strobes.
01/26/2011 01:08:54 PM · #6
You could go back to the technique used by portrait painters of yore and apply drops containing belladona alkaloids ... ;-)

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_522930.jpg

If you can't dim the ambient lighting you can also try having the models close their eyes for several (10-20) seconds while you pre-focus, and then have them open their eyes just before you fire the shutter (I'd use something like a 3-2-1 countdown to coordinate the action).
01/26/2011 01:26:11 PM · #7
Originally posted by GeneralE:

You could go back to the technique used by portrait painters of yore and apply drops containing belladona alkaloids ... ;-)



Ha ha! actually this link reminded me of a funny story. My brother in law was using the motion sickness patch before a big fishing trip with my husband and didn't read the directions and rubbed one of his eyes before washing them and ended up with one pupil really dilated. He ended up being sick because of the imalance of light coming in his eyes.

Thanks, 21.gif Timfythetoo I always admire your portrait work. Its nice to know it can be achieved with speedlights. Now if I can only do it. I'm going to give it a shot, I'm not expecting perfect results but, you have to start somewhere right!?
01/26/2011 01:34:38 PM · #8
Good thread! I hadn't really thought about this, but it makes complete sense once you hear the trick. Just yesterday I was wondering about scenarios where strobes are more useful than continuous lighting.
01/26/2011 02:24:13 PM · #9
Originally posted by GeneralE:

You could go back to the technique used by portrait painters of yore and apply drops containing belladona alkaloids ... ;-)

or have your subjects use various recreational drugs...

Message edited by author 2011-01-26 14:25:55.
01/26/2011 02:34:44 PM · #10
or you can photograph them right after they wake up from a nap and don't really want to smile anyway. ;-)

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_555569.jpg

Message edited by author 2011-01-26 14:50:34.
01/26/2011 02:44:47 PM · #11
Originally posted by ErikV:

Originally posted by GeneralE:

You could go back to the technique used by portrait painters of yore and apply drops containing belladona alkaloids ... ;-)

or have your subjects use various recreational drugs...

Only one of the top five non-pharmaceutical recreational drugs will produce pupil dilation, the others will either constrict or have no effect.

You could also zoom way in and just "make" the pupils bigger.
01/26/2011 03:24:27 PM · #12
Lots of cake, maybe ice cream too.

Oh... those pupils
01/26/2011 07:57:38 PM · #13
At the risk of repeating the good advice already posted, it is the low light levels just before the strobe fires that make for 'big' pupils.

The type of flash (be it speedlite, studio strobe or whatever) won't change the effect, but will obviously make a difference to the 'feel' of the lighting.

Some photogs go the other way and use bright lighting to reduce pupil size before the flash fires. Each to thier own :-)

Paul.
01/26/2011 08:59:00 PM · #14
get everyone standing in front of the class, small pupils in front, large pupils behind. have the principal standing at door so everyone is stiff scared to run around. zoom out so all pupils, big and small, are in frame and say cheese :)

seriously, what they said. dim light before firing the flash :)
01/27/2011 03:07:12 AM · #15
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought about school photos when seeing the title!
But lots of help for me in this thread too now :D
01/27/2011 05:03:23 AM · #16
I heard that cocaine worked for Kate Moss' pupils
01/27/2011 09:07:57 AM · #17
The alternative is to just use photoshop to burn larger pupils. Not as good as naturally large pupils but still pretty good.
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