Make your portraits draw the eye…
Here is a quick tip with lots of examples. To make your portraits flow and to help direct the eye to the right places use the hands to help direct the viewers eye.
Up and down loses the eye
The typical beginners full length portrait shows the subject standing upright, arms limp and lifeless at their sides and a sort of half grimace on their faces. Coupled with a portrait-aspect crop this disaster is a straight-through for the eye.
Despite what charms lie below the face, we look there first. We seem to be programmed to do it. Then we follow the rest of the body down with our eyes. IF everything points downward our eyes continue to the feet and then we lose the eye out of the bottom of the frame.
The hands can use the power of lines to redirect the eye
The eye is trained to follow lines and edges – these are places where contrasts are the most obvious and there the eye can see the differences in light and pick out detail. This is the power of lines in Composition – they literally create tracks that the eye follows.
The power of the lines in upright, long portraits is to direct the eye downward and out of the picture. That will always happen unless some form of stopper can be used to direct the eye to where the main interest lies. No better way to do that than with arms and hands. They can be used to stop the eye progressing downward by placing them across the body or they can be used to direct the eye back to the face by pointing upward. They can even be used to direct the eye around to follow the curves of the face and head as in the portrait above.
Some long shots
In the next few pictures you can see how the eye is directed out of the picture by the vertical lines, the portrait crop and the stance of the subject…
The hands can change everything…
Consider now the way the subtle lines and positions of the hands and the arms redirect the eye back to the face in these shots. These portraits have so much more to offer the eye because the hands bring us back – prevent us from going out of the image.
The hands and the arms rule the lines
We have an almost pathological need to go to the face or hands with our eyes. The rest is almost incidental. Used properly you can cycle the viewers eye endlessly in the portrait. It is a great technique and one that really satisfies the eye.
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