An Easy Way to Improve the Attractiveness of Any Portrait and It's Thanks to Our Biological Instincts

An Easy Way to Improve the Attractiveness of Any Portrait and It's Thanks to Our Biological Instincts

I have a question for you, which of these pictures do you prefer? One of them has had the smallest adjustment that you might not even spot yet unconsciously it will have affected your decision.

Did you say the left image? Well, if you did then you are not alone as the vast majority of the population tend to warm towards portraits with larger pupil sizes. Those two pictures are identical other than that minute adjustment.

As far back as the 1970's scientists were studying the effect of the pupil size on male feelings of attraction. This has been re-tested using a variety of different methods over the years and each time the results have been the same; men find women with bigger pupils to be more romantically appealing.

For women, the preference of a mans pupil size has also been looked at and although the results are not as clear cut (a lot is influenced by the various stages of the reproduction cycle), females tended to warm towards larger pupils too.

So with that brief yet fascinating science lesson over, how can this help photographers? I'm sure from now on you will be making sure your subjects pupils are at optimum size if warmth and attractiveness are important for the shot. I do also think this interesting fact can be used in reverse. Just imagine if you was taking the portrait of an actor/actress whose character was cold, hard, and selfish. A large pupil size would actually give across the wrong message in this instance so a smaller pupil would be more appropriate to convey your message.

Once I discovered this concept a few years back I did actually change the pupil sizes in some of the pieces in my portfolio. Thankfully this is fairly easy to do in Photoshop and I'll quickly explain below:

First make sure you have the "Elliptical Marquee Tool" selected. From there draw a circle around the pupil.

With that selection made it's time to duplicate the layer.

Making sure you are on the new pupil layer it's time to increase the size. Go to the menu "Edit" then down to "Free Transform". After that you can increase the pupil to your desired size.

If you are happy with the result you will probably want to repeat these steps for the other eye! After that flatten the image and save.

Reducing the size of a pupil is a little more tricky as you require more iris (the colored part) which you don't have. The few times I have gone that way round I have found importing a donor eye image and masking the areas I want the easiest way. I think for the majority of cases you will be going the same was as the tutorial above.

These days I try to achieve the relevant pupil size in camera. There are obviously times when this is not always possible; just think trying to achieve a large pupil on a bright day outdoors. This is when Photoshop will help but if you are in a studio and have control of all the lighting then there is no excuse to get this right first time round.

Even though the eye is such a small part of an image, having an understanding of what the eye is actually saying will help you to convey the message you want. For anyone thinking of using this on your online dating profile please let me know how you get onĀ (asking for a friend)!

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Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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Toward that end, I like to shoot portraits in a relatively dimly lit room. It also allows better control of the lighting.

I went for the other option. Am I weird?

yes :)

Haha it's fine! There is no wrong answer.

This is interesting because many photographers including Peter Hurley actually like constricting the pupil with bright lights so that the eye shows more color. A dialated eye means more black and less color.

Hah! You beat me to it! I thought this very thing. I thought it was more desirable to get as much color (iris) as possible. I guess it does pay to "break the rules".

I agree that visually speaking the more iris the better it looks. But a small pupil might not compliment the overal tone of your image.

If in doubt use a medium size pupil. ;)

I studied the images before I read on and what I noticed was the difference in the size of the catchlights.

Hey Lenzy, as the pupil was enlaged for this demonstration the catchlight also got bigger as a result.

Good spot!

After reading the title, the first thing I noticed was the bigger catchlights on the left, and i liked it, but Ive always liked big catch lights in the eyes.

My bad! With hindsight I should have resized the pupil & then reduced the catchlight so ONLY the pupil was bigger...

Hope you enjoyed the post!

"As far back as the 1970's scientists were studying the effect of the pupil size on male feelings of attraction."

Actually, ancient Egyptian women had them beat. They would take Bella Donna to dilate their pupils to look more attractive. It was a cosmetic. Pretty crazy when you realize Bella Donna is a pretty intense 3D hallucinigen, which means they were tripping their asses off on their hot dates. Also, being as it was derived from the Deadly Nightshade plant, a large enough dose could kill them. Gives a new perspective to the phrase, "die young, stay pretty"...

Indeed they did!

How do you use this with dark eyed people? Sometimes the flash makes their eyes a bit clearer, but other times the eyes are so dark you barely see some color in them...

Good question! If the picture is well lit you should be able to see where the iris stops & the pupil starts. (Even if their eye colour is very dark brown)

If the photo is not well let then you may struggle to see the difference. You could try selecting the whole iris area & try trying bringing out some detail with the shadow/highlight feature. Just don't go too crazy as it will look unnatural...

I've edited some photographs, and it is a challenge, since most shots I've edited are from latin people, our eyes are quite dark and bringing out color sometimes is appealing to the clients it's always bothered me, I think that may be just my opinion, though. It is a challenge, and thansk for the advices!

Pupils naturally dilate under the following circumstances : dim light, doing certain drugs, making love or feeling aroused. For the last reason evoked, women with dilated pupils are naturally more attractive to men (so are women with plumber lips, redder lips, redder skin tone on the cheeks, redder ears) because they all imply that they are aroused. But might this be contradictory to the fact that a portrait can in fact be more pleasing to the eye with a smaller pupil and more eye color ? I don't think so. It only proves that men have an incredible ability to switch off their little brain when it comes to artistic things. I mean, I am perfectly able to look at and even shoot nudes without the slightest ambiguous thought and I believe most of us are. Fascinating how the brain works isn't it ?

Great points! For me I don't want any element in the image to jar. So I would make sure that the eyes were complimenting my desired tone from the scientific findings above.

In the same way I would reject an image I shot, if the EYES were not smiling as well as the mouth. On the surface the picture will look fine but some people might have a nagging feeling that something isn't right.

I love looking at photos of smiling celebrities and seeing if their eyes are giving way their true intentions...

Thanks for your comment

I couldn't even see the difference. I also don't like phony edits like this.

It wasn't the size of the pupils that I noticed. It was the size of the catch lights. Immediately.

My bad! With hindsight I should have resized the pupil & then reduced the catchlight so ONLY the pupil was bigger...

Hope you enjoyed the post!

First thing I noticed is that the whites of their eyes is very blue.

You're right! this was just a quick demonstarion made on my laptop from about 10 years ago...