November 2015 | Issue no. 19 | by mark shaiken

By a traditional proverb, the eyes are the window to the soul.


They are the focus of portraiture, glamour, street, and senior photography. They are also an important part of sports photography. Just like in other genres of photography, the eyes will tell the story of the moment and the athlete. If you can see the eyes, you can fill the frame and tell the story.  “Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes.” (Tarjei Vesaas).  I particularly like sports images where the eyes of the athlete draw you into their performance and their emotions:

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The eyes must be in focus.  For a portrait photographer, the focus point is the eyes so the eyes, of course, will be in focus.  For a sports photographer, typically the focus point is the body.  If you are shooting wide open, however, sometimes the depth of field is just shallow enough that the body is in focus but the eyes are not.  Stop down just a little, maybe to f / 4.0 and that should solve the problem.

A bigger problem is the effect of high ISO on eyes.  Sharpening a noisy image is delicate surgery.  If I want to sharpen the eyes, I typically do so in Photoshop:  under filters, select Sharpen / Smart Sharpen, and try the following settings:  Amount = 200% / Radius = 2.7 px / Reduce Noise = 65% / Remove = lens blur, and then the following shadow / highlight settings:

shadows highlight

Then, after smart sharpen applies its adjustments to the entire image, create a black mask (to hide the adjustments), zoom in on the eyes, and with a soft brush set at a 45% brush opacity, paint in the adjustment to achieve some sharpening without the appearance of over sharpening.

You can also whiten the whites of the eyes with the dodge tool in photoshop but any whitening should be extremely slight or it will very quickly look unnatural.

Don’t shoot ’til you see the whites of their eyes (ok – couldn’t resist).  Connect with the moment through the eyes of your athlete.

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Next month, issue 20 of do :: or :: diso covers backgrounds.

Rock BS 11912-329-2-2


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