Heidi Guerard (aka Heidi Hope) is internationally recognized for her colorful, soft and whimsical portrait photography. Heidi’s creative style of studio photography combined with her business and social media savvy helped the Heidi Hope Photography studio quickly grow to become one of the country’s most successful since beginning in 2009. Often referred to as a “baby whisperer”, Heidi’s most celebrated work is creating artistic portraits of babies from their first days of life through their first days of school. A former high school photography and art teacher, Heidi has maintained her passion for mentoring through online workshops and public speaking. Heidi has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education and currently teaches photography workshops out of her busy Rhode Island studio.
She is also a Celebrity Photographer here at Chic Critique. We love her, and we know you will too!
Check out this amazing line up for April!
These critiques begin on MARCH 31st!
Cris Passos | Cris Passos Photography
Click HERE for Cris’s 4-week Critique
Only 9 spots left!
Jessica Klaus | Jessica Klaus Photography
Click HERE for Jessica’s 4-week Critique
Only 10 spots left!
Grace Hurtienne | Grace & Jaden Hurtienne Photography
Click HERE for Grace’s 4-week Critique
Only 10 spots left!
Brittney Kluse | Brittney Kluse Photography
Click HERE for Brittney’s Workshop
7 spots left!
Have your images critiqued by your favorite photographer or join us for a workshop and breathe new life into your pictures!
Guest Editor: Jackie Boldt of Live and Love Studios
Make Your Eyes Pop Without the Help of Post-Processing
I’m a minimalist, in both my personal life and my shooting style. I shoot with as little equipment as possible, as that makes me more mobile and ready to shoot my subjects. I also like to use the available light around me, as it yields a more natural result. It is showing what is already there, without me having to modify it.
This style also carries over to my editing. Since I like to get it as natural as possible in camera, I hardly ever brighten my eyes more than a simple enhancement. If you get the lighting right in the first place, there should be very little done to eyes in post-processing.
I did work with studio lights for a few years, however I discovered that it was not a fit for my true style of shooting. I will say that it did teach me quite a bit about how to evenly light your subject’s face, almost mimicking natural lighting. I also shot with a mix of natural and studio lights for a while, which was also challenging in itself. You have to essentially “mesh” the two light sources for a natural look in your image.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through what I have learned working with both natural light and studio lighting to help you get the same results in your photos.
Look for catchlights.
It’s thrown around a lot, but they are so important to creating a well-lit portrait. Before even snapping a photo, you need to check for catchlights in your subject’s eyes. In case you don’t already know, catchlights are the bright part of the eye reflecting the light source back into the camera. This ensures the eyes are bright and well lit, making them really pop!
While working with natural light, you can achieve nice, even catchlights by shooting:
- In open shade
- Early in the morning
- Late in the evening
- Using reflectors (either a natural reflector or physical one)
If you are unsure where to place your subject based on the light, my trick is to use the catchlights you see in their eyes. I take my subject and have them follow me while I walk around them in a circle. The entire time, I’m watching their eyes for the best catchlight and what direction they are facing when I see that catchlight.
If you are indoors, look for the windows, preferable without direct sunlight. Windows that face north hardly ever have direct sunlight, so those are ideal light sources when working indoors. I also like sliding glass doors while working in homes since they are usually the largest windows. Depending on how you like your subject lit, you can face them directly towards the window (flat, clean lighting) or at an angle to the window (portraits with more depth and shadows) making sure that you are still seeing those catchlights in the eyes.
Understand your camera settings.
Another crucial aspect of having eyes that pop in your images is making sure the eyes are sharp and in focus. Blurry, soft eyes that are bright and well lit are not going to stand out.
In order to make sure the eyes are sharp and not blurry, there are two settings you need to be aware of: your shutter speed and your aperture. Both will produce a different kind of “blurriness” in your images when the settings are incorrectly used. How can you tell the difference?
If there is no part of the image in focus, it is your shutter speed. Your shutter speed should be high enough to freeze any movement. Even if the subject is very still, too slow of a shutter speed will show movement from the photographer holding the camera or from the subject shifting.
A rule of thumb to remember is to compare your focal length to the bottom number on your shutter speed. The bottom number on your shutter speed should be higher than your focal length. If I’ve lost you, here is an example. If you are working with a 50mm lens, your shutter speed needs to be higher than 1/50th in order to properly freeze movement. If, however, your subject is moving and active, you should aim for your shutter speed to be above 1/250th, no matter what your focal length.
On a final note, if you are working on a crop-sensor camera, the focal length increases by the crop factor. You just need to multiply the focal length by the crop factor to find your true focal length. This is the number to compare to your shutter speed.
So, if you are working with a camera with a crop factor of 1.6x and a 50mm lens, your equivalent focal length would be 50 X 1.6 = 80mm. Therefore, your shutter speed should be at least 1/80th.
If there are parts of the face/image in focus (for instance, the ears are sharp), but the eyes are not, your aperture setting is to blame. The lower the aperture, the shallower your depth of field is. To put it another way, the lower your aperture, the more blurriness you have in the background and foreground. While this gives you a really nice effect in your image, it makes it more challenging to properly focus on your subject.
The best way to achieve this blurriness, but also making sure you have a focused subject is to take multiple shots of the same image. I’m not talking “spray and pray” or using your burst setting. You may think you caught the moment at the time, however the focus may have been off or the subject may have blinked. And, an image may look in focus on the back of your camera, but it really isn’t in focus when you look at it on your computer. It usually takes me multiple shots to get that image tack sharp.
Choose the right lens.
While you can get the eyes to pop with any lens, you are going to get a much more dramatic result with a longer focal length. For traditional portraits, I like to use a lens with a focal length at 50mm or higher. If there’s enough light, I strongly prefer my 100mm macro lens for getting sharp eyes in my images. Also remember your crop factor when selecting your lens!
Put it all together!
Now that you have your location, camera settings, and lens all figured out, it is time to shoot! The more you practice this, the easier and quicker it will be for you. And, you will feel more comfortable and free interacting with your subject vs. worrying about whether or not you got a sharp, evenly lit image that makes eyes pop.
My name is Jackie Boldt, and I am a Lifestyle Child and Family Photographer in St. Paul, MN . I have always shot with a lifestyle approach, even before lifestyle photography was popular! I also own and maintain a site called The Photographers Dream House with photography and business tips for beginner and aspiring photographers. I manage to juggle both businesses, while being a stay-at-home-mom to 4! Thanks for reading!