In the blink of an eye

In portrait photography a single blink can ruin a picture in, well, a blink of an eye.

We have all taken pictures of people – friends, relatives acquaintances – and at some point there will be photos of them with their eyes closed. Some people blink more often than others and we capture their bright smiles and eyes shut or worse, in mid-blink.

Some people will tell subjects who they know to be “blinkers” to try and hold their eyes open for the picture but often that leads to an unnatural wide-eyed look that can be just as bad a blinking.

People blink to help clean and lubricate their eyes. The human eye blinks automatically at varying rates, but on the average the eye blinks about once every several seconds. We can consciously hold back blinking for longer but eventually it will catch up to us and we have to close our eyes.

If you’re photographing someone outside, try not to have your subject face the sun. Its brilliance can cause many people not only to blink but to squint as well. Similarly, if you go from indoors where the light is relatively dim to the brightness of outdoors, allow your subject some time to become accustomed to the light.

You’ll often see portrait photographers take a lot of photos of a single set up. It’s because they know that people blink. The more photos you take, the more chances you’ll have of getting your subject with their eyes open, especially if he/she is a blinker. Try shooting a burst of 3 or 4 frames. You may get 1 or 2 blinks but it will increase the likelihood of getting one with eyes open.

Group shots multiplies the likely hood of getting a blinker by the number of people in the group. The bigger the gathering the harder it is to monitor everyone for blinking.

Some people unconsciously anticipate when you’re going to press the button and inadvertently blink right as you take the picture. A common technique used to get aground that is to tell your subject(s) that you’re going to fire the camera at the count of “three.” Firing the camera at the count of “two” instead of “three” will help thwart to anticipatory blinkers. It is still wise to take multiple pictures because some people may try to sneak in a quick blink before the third number is called.

A blinking subject can be frustrating for a photographer but with a little knowledge and a few simple techniques you can keep your annoyances to a minimum and your subject happy.

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