Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?

Started Oct 9, 2010 | Discussions
Sirthx
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Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
Oct 9, 2010

Greetings. The room I use for portaits is a dedicated home theater room that is by design very dark. I like the darkness in that I can easily create a black background or I can use the thick, deep-red velvet drapes as a subtle backdrop. Downside is that pupils dilate. My attemps to counter this with a halogen lamp just out of the model's eye-line behind the camera work ok, but not great and can give an unwanted catch-light. (I can PS it out, but it's just another step I'd rather avoid.)

I have 2 alien bee 800s, reflectors and a wireless flash at my disposal. Any tips/advice for tight headshots with regard to minimizing pupils??

Thanks much!!

-Mike

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Gato Amarillo
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Sirthx, Oct 9, 2010

I would have thought the AB modeling lights would keep pupils at a reasonable dilation. Are you running the modeling lights at full power? If not, turn them up, at least on the main light.

If the modeling lights don't do it, the only solution I know is to raise the ambient light level. Keep in mind that this will have minimal effect on your flash exposure so long as you keep the shutter speed up near the maximum sync speed.

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Sirthx
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Gato Amarillo, Oct 9, 2010

Thanks Gato. You know I'm embarrased to admit that I leave the modeling lamps on but always have them set to 'track'. Will leave them on full power and check the results.

I knew there was a reason I started this thread. Sometimes I woder about myself.....

Thanks again.

-Mike

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Sirthx, Oct 9, 2010

Sirthx wrote:

Greetings. The room I use for portraits is a dedicated home theater room that is by design very dark. I like the darkness in that I can easily create a black background or I can use the thick, deep-red velvet drapes as a subtle backdrop. Downside is that pupils dilate. My attempts to counter this with a halogen lamp just out of the model's eye-line behind the camera work ok, but not great and can give an unwanted catch-light. (I can PS it out, but it's just another step I'd rather avoid.)

I have 2 alien bee 800s, reflectors and a wireless flash at my disposal. Any tips/advice for tight headshots with regard to minimizing pupils??

"Downside?" Hmmmm.... [??]

I find myself puzzled as to why dilated pupils are so often seen as a "problem" in the photographic community of the United States... [??]

Across Europe, also UK, the appearance of large lustrous pupils has always been seen as an indicator of beauty and sexual attractiveness... so much so that the women of ancient Rome used the juice of the "Deadly Nightshade" plant as a cosmetic: it was a muscle relaxant that dilated the pupils...

.... thats' why its other name is "Belladonna".... (beautiful woman).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna

Further to this point, I remember the time that Miss Bell, who taught me and my classmates print retouching, showed us two B/W photographs of a pretty young woman that appeared, at first glance, to be identical copies of the same shot....

Miss Bell made no comment other than to ask each of us which was "the more appealing".... and, without being aware of exactly why, we all chose the ONE picture above the other. What's more, this was the same picture for all the girls in the class, not just the guys.

It was then that teacher asked us to look more closely, specifically at the eyes, because they were NOT the same....

No doubt, you are ahead of me... !

With our British sensibilities, the print we all rather preferred was the one with dilated pupils, shot by electronic flash in a room with otherwise subdued lighting, (like yours, OP.)

The other print, the one we didn't care for so much, had a somewhat "blank" look from larger irises, with the dark pupils closer to 'pin-prick' sized, something I later referred to as the "Little Orphan Annie" look. It had been shot by the modelling lights of the flash, switched up to their full power.

That was back at the beginning of the 60s.

In the years since then the general perceptions of large pupils have remained stable, well, among the British photographers that I know, anyway. Large pupils are considered attractive, as they probably have for been centuries, judging by Old Master's paintings cherished in museums. Certainly there has never been any negative feelings associated with pupils that are large, dark and glossy, especially in portraits of young women.

So, why is there this cultural difference that's grown up, I wonder [??]

Something in America has overcome the instinctive allure of evident arousal as seen in large pupils. I don't know what it is...(shrugs). Maybe it's something to do with not wanting to be associated with drug-taking... another known cause of dilated pupils, or so I hear...[??]
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kbhartman
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Barrie Davis, Oct 9, 2010

Your comments are informative, convincing and interesting.

As an American, many years ago I 'learned' that dilated pupils gave the appearance of our models appearing ditzy - no other explanation. However pin-point or whatever term you used was not the goal, but a pupil size commensurate with ordinary daylight.

Does anyone have knowledge of pupil sizes and their effect on observers. What were you taught?
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Soothsayerman
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Sirthx, Oct 9, 2010

I get a seperate 6500k flourescent light and shine it directly into the models face and use a sync speed of 200.

The reason people do not like huge pupils is that pupils have no color, theyre black. People that have their portraits/headshots made usually aren't happy with that. But.... sometimes people want huge pupils. Just use a dark studio. Pretty simple really.
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Sirthx
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Soothsayerman, Oct 9, 2010

Barry, that was a great read so thanks for posting it. In this case it has very little to do with culture. I just happen to have a model coming next week that has spectacular ice-blue eyes, and she's requesting a very tight close-up style headshot. Her blue eys are the most striking feature and she wants to showcase them in this particular session.

Large pupils will minimize their impact.

Thanks again for the response.

-Mike

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Sirthx, Oct 9, 2010

Sirthx wrote:

Barry, that was a great read so thanks for posting it. In this case it has very little to do with culture. I just happen to have a model coming next week that has spectacular ice-blue eyes, and she's requesting a very tight close-up style headshot. Her blue eyes are the most striking feature and she wants to showcase them in this particular session.

Large pupils will minimize their impact.

Well, there you go. I happen to think that small pupils minimise the impact of whole eye, no matter how pretty the colour. Naturally, it depends on how large the pupils actually are relative to the area of the pupil....

..... and anyway..

.... people with blue eyes are more sensitive to light than those with brown, so you might have trouble getting anything other than pupils that are well stopped-down...

Idea: Tell you what... if you can, why you don't you repeat Miss Bell's experiment?

Shoot the young lady with her pupils displayed both ways, then post the pictures here and see which version of her eyes are voted most attractive... A tight headshot should be just the thing.

It's a suggestion... [??] Could be instructive. [??]
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Barrie Davis, Oct 9, 2010

Barrie Davis wrote:

I find myself puzzled as to why dilated pupils are so often seen as a "problem" in the photographic community of the United States... [??]

Across Europe, also UK, the appearance of large lustrous pupils has always been seen as an indicator of beauty and sexual attractiveness... so much so that the women of ancient Rome used the juice of the "Deadly Nightshade" plant as a cosmetic: it was a muscle relaxant that dilated the pupils...

This isn't just a European or UK preference. It is a human preference. Miss Bell's experiment has been verified many times in different cultures. All else being about equal, larger pupils make a person seem more attractive or more open.

But it's a matter of degree. Larger pupils make a person seem more sexually attractive up to a point . Beyond that point, they tend to look abnormal. A model in a dark studio might well have pupils that are dilated beyond the point of enhancing attractiveness.

The illustration below shows the extremes. The optimum pupil size (for attractiveness) would surely fall somewhere between them.

Idea: Tell you what... if you can, why you don't you repeat Miss Bell's experiment? Shoot the young lady with her pupils displayed both ways,

"Both ways" misses the point. It isn't a question of dilated versus constricted. It's a question of degree, of how much they're dilated or constricted.

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Sirthx
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Peano, Oct 9, 2010

This thread has turned into an unexpected (but very much appreciated) debate. I love the conversation.

Certainly Peano as you mention, the ideal pupil size to me would be somewhere between the examples in your post. Actually much closer to the larger puple than the pin-point pupil. My goal will be exactly that.

Thanks again everyone as I'll take this info well beyond next weekend's shoot.

-Mike

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24Peter
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Sirthx, Oct 10, 2010

I always go for dilated pupils whenever possible for portraits - definitely a more attractive look. Normal, ambient household room lighting tends to yield the right levels of dilation. Shooting is a completely dark room (if you could even focus) might result in overdilation though.
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Barrie Davis
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Peano, Oct 10, 2010

Peano wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

But it's a matter of degree. Larger pupils make a person seem more sexually attractive up to a point . Beyond that point, they tend to look abnormal. A model in a dark studio might well have pupils that are dilated beyond the point of enhancing attractiveness.

Your point is indisputable. It is very much a matter of degree.

The illustration below shows the extremes. The optimum pupil size (for attractiveness) would surely fall somewhere between them.

Agree again.

(To be fair to me, the OP was talking about "minimising" the pupils, not just reducing them a bit.)

Idea: Tell you what... if you can, why you don't you repeat Miss Bell's experiment? Shoot the young lady with her pupils displayed both ways,

"Both ways" misses the point. It isn't a question of dilated versus constricted. It's a question of degree, of how much they're dilated or constricted.

Yes. I suppose what I meant was, that the OP should shoot his model with the pupils of her blue eyes constricted to the degree that showed them off best in his opinion, and then again with them somewhat more dilated, just for comparison.

I certainly wasn't suggesting samples like that below.
[Thank you for finding that, picture. It is a goody!]

How about this copy of the Mona Lisa....(La Giocondo)...

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(somewhat lighter in tone than we usually see her, and with a lot of flare from the surface, but this has made the eyes easier to see into.)--

Are the pupils too large to be attractive, or just right? Or what?

Hmmm ... Nice shot, Leonardo!

And it is nice to see a portrait where the background is NOT blurred into oblivion!
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Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Another point to bear in mind ...
In reply to Sirthx, Oct 10, 2010

If you're going to be "wrong" on pupil size -- and you often will be -- it's better to have pupils too small than too large. In post, it is much easier to enlarge pupils (realistically) than it is to make them smaller.
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DirtyLuxe
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Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?
In reply to Barrie Davis, Aug 22, 2013

I totally agree, Barrie.  As I was scrolling down I was wondering whether someone would make this comment or if I would have to do it.  It's counterintuitive: it would seem that smaller pupil = more iris = prettier eyes, but that's just not how our brains are wired.  I was taught that pupils need to be large and if they're not to make them that way in post.

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