Forget the eyes

Vary your point of fo­cus and draw at­ten­tion to dif­fer­ent parts of your sub­ject’s face or body

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I’ve worked out of a se­ries of nos. No to ex­quis­ite light, no to ap­par­ent com­po­si­tions, no to the se­duc­tion of poses or nar­ra­tive. And all th­ese nos force me to the ‘yes’ Richard Ave­don

It’s one of the most im­por­tant rules in por­trai­ture: the eyes must be in fo­cus. It doesn’t mat­ter if ev­ery­thing else dis­solves into blur, as long as those pupils are pin-sharp (and many of us have ex­pe­ri­enced the dis­ap­point­ment of shoot­ing a por­trait we think looks great on the cam­era’s LCD, only to find out later that the eyes are slightly soft). The rea­son why they need to be sharp is be­cause eyes are a por­trait’s most im­por­tant fea­ture, and with any im­age, we fo­cus on what is im­por­tant. But on the other hand, who’s to say what ex­actly a sub­ject’s most im­por­tant fea­ture is, apart from the per­son hold­ing the cam­era? Why not cham­pion a dif­fer­ent fa­cial fea­ture in­stead? For an off-beat por­trait, find an un­usual an­gle and fo­cus on an­other fa­cial fea­ture – per­haps the nose, the lips, the ears – or draw at­ten­tion to a char­ac­ter fea­ture like a body pierc­ing, tat­too or scar.

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