PhotoZAP #84: Not Seeing Eye-to-Eye

Our Panel of Perfectionists Picks Apart Your Pictures

"Your model's pose is endearing and the conversion into black and white really amps the sentiment of this moment, but the missing pupil ruins all of those good attributes." -Jena Ardell

© Al Haring, Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Gear: Canon EOS 5d Mark II with Canon EF 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (both available at Adorama) taken at 132mm at f/5.6, handheld. 1/125 sec at ISO 1250.


Photographer’s statement:
"As you can see, I relied pretty heavily on post processing to produce this photo. I am interested in hearing what other photographers have to say about the photo and how they would improve it. I have a few things that I think could make it a stronger, more impressive photo and would like to see if others have similar ideas."

Our critics say...

Mason Resnick: Nice pose, good open lighting, but not too dramatic. The subject is very light, and doesn't stand out from the light grey background. A much darker background would create stronger subject-background contrast. Then there are two niggling details: Either show all of the partly-obscured tatoo below her neck, or none of it. Otherwise it's a distraction. Then there's the eye. Where's her pupil? Was it removed in post-production? Was she looking away? Is she blind? If her pupil is simply hidden, I would have instructed the model to look more towards the camera. The lack of a visible pupil, with no explanation, just seems creepy.

Brandon Partridge: I'm not a fan of the crop or this pose especially when the model is looking off to the distance and her focus direction isn't apparent (as Mason pointed out; not even the outward most ring of her cornea is visible). I would have loved to see more of her left shoulder as well as the rest of her head in the shot. The small partially-visible key(?) tattoo and the pieces of hair and other debris on the left side of the fabric are distracting; part of the fabric near the top of her shoulder seems to have become unraveled—all of these things should have been removed in post. You didn't specify your light setup only to say you used "existing light"; does this mean you had light fixtures or sunlight flowing in from the windows or both?—regardless your ISO setting seems to be much too high.

Jena Ardell: I would have loved to see the uncropped version of this photograph because the way you cropped this clutters your composition, prompting our eyes to fixate on the distracting items Mason and Brandon have mentioned. Your model's pose is endearing and the conversion into black and white really amps the sentiment of this moment, but the missing pupil ruins all of those good attributes. As humans, we seek the connection found in someone's eye (or at least we are interested in seeing which direction they are gazing). ISO 1250 tells me the lighting was poor or, as Brandon mentioned, your setting was simply too high. You used a 28-135mm lens almost at the longest focal length. Had you shorten that to say, 85mm, you would have had more leverage/more light to work with. If your goal is to create images that look like this (after post-production), use lighting equipment and/or +1 exposure compensation. Then you won't have as much editing to do when you convert to black and white. Investing in backdrops (or a better location with better light) would have helped too.

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