Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?

Started Oct 9, 2010 | Discussions thread
Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Tips to minimize pupils in dark 'studio'?

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).

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...[??]

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

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