We’ve all been told that the eyes are the “windows to the soul” – but there’s nowhere that is more evident than in portrait photography. Without clear, crisp, focused eyes a portrait photo lacks the ability to connect with the viewer, meaning you end up with just a regular photo, instead of something that inspires and elicits emotion.

Here are a few things to consider when you are composing your portrait image when it comes to positioning the eyes within the frame:


Centering the eyes in kid’s photos should only be considered if you are composing a close-up (face/shoulders only) portrait and the eyes are staring wide open, straight into the camera. By positioning the subject like this you force the viewer to connect with the image on an emotional level. When it work, it really works!

Eyes Closed

Closed eyes communicate a sense of peace, silence, or thoughtfulness. Here the eyes (or eyelids) do not have to face the camera, they can be pointed up, down, or to the side. Think of a child blowing out the candles on their cake or the seeds off a dandelion – the closed eyes make us think of children’s wishes. Sleeping faces also make for great portrait photos, who doesn’t love the peacefulness of a sleeping child?

On an Angle

In general, things that are level in a photo are a bit dull, which is why you’ll see a lot of portrait photos where the subject’s head is just slightly tilted. With kid’s photos you can also tilt your camera to get the same effect. Tilted eyes, depending on the accompanying facial expression, can portray a sense of playfulness or thoughtfulness.

kid's photo basics positioning the eyesLooking Off-Camera

When your subject is looking off camera it adds an element of mystery to the image; where are they looking, what are they looking at? The result is a more engaging image. With young kids you can have someone stand over your left or right shoulder with a toy to capture their attention. Remember that for the most part you want more room in the image on the side where your subject is facing.

Unique Expressions

You don’t have to have bright, happy eyes in each and every portrait of your child. Kids have a range of emotions, so should the photos you take of them. Sad, concentrating, angry, frustrated, these are all emotions that can be portrayed by the eyes and can be captured on camera. And don’t forget to apply these tips to other types of portrait photography: from families to seniors to pets!

It can help to have a cooperative subject for the first few times you test out positioning the eyes in kid’s photos – perhaps take a class to really get your skills on track for great images.

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