How to Use a Reflector for Dramatic Eyes in Portrait Photography

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Topčagić exposed for 1/250 sec at f/4, ISO 100. The three settings are called “the exposure triangle” in his part of the world. _ Photo: Maja Topcagic_.

Maja Topčagić, a 25-year-old photographer and photo retoucher from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, has a passion for photographing blue-eyed redheads. “Statistically, only about one percent of humanity has the combination of blue eyes and red hair,” says Topčagić. Her site features some of the prettiest one percenters in dozens and dozens of photos. “I started the project almost a year ago, and every month the collection is growing,” says Topčagić, herself blue-eyed and sometimes a redhead.

His go to lighting for these portraits is alluring the ambient light of an overcast day, sooner or later, when the low-lying sun casts a general warm melt. For this shot, the yellow/orange tint of the light brings out the warm tones of her model’s hair and freckles, and, because it was diffused, the lighting didn’t cast shadows on her face. . In a way, it’s the perfect portrait light.

But it has a downside. Flat portrait lighting tends to deemphasize a person’s eyes. Given that one of Topcagic’s main intentions was high lighting, the mesmerizing contrast between blue eyes and warm, light flat cool hair was a problem.

To solve it here, she turned to a circular silver lamé reflector. One assistant aimed it at his model’s face, where he gave a specular, sparkle to the light that helped accentuate the blue in what otherwise read as gray eyes. “Even if the model had really big, bright blue eyes, the reflector is needed to highlight them the right way,” says Topčagić.

Want to make a similar portrait yourself? “Choose the part of the day you photograph wisely,” says Topčagić. “Go for the most beautiful light. Sunset or sunrise will almost always work. Take a model with you and experiment from a lot of angles.” For location portraits, she often has her subjects flat on a hill and shoots on them. The strategy allows him to flaunt the red hair so that it becomes a more prominent feature in the photo. If oriented correctly, the hill can also block direct sunlight, allowing you to shoot on sunny as well as cloudy days.

lighting illustration
In light of her ROUSSE model, Maja Topčagić relied on warm-late afternoon hued sunlight (A). Diffused through light cloud cover, sunlight is directional enough that a helper can bounce toward the model of a collapsible, silver-lined circular reflector (B). K__ris Holland / Mafics Studios

He popped the subject’s eyes, the blue tones emphasizing. Of her exposure, she says, “I always choose the aperture first, then decide the shutter speed and the ISO. Once I have my aperture, with the reflector light in place, I first set the shutter speed and ISO.” It sets the slowest shutter speed that will ensure a sharp subject and the lowest possible ISO. Of her passion for freckles says Topčagić, “They were once considered unsightly, but today freckles are making a comeback. »

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