Can someone try to help me how to shoot and edit photos to have similar result as the fourth photo on this page? http://daniellestahl.com.au/blog/tag/sydney/

Is there some fast way how to do it or will I need to add contrast and then mask the areas where I don't want it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The technique is high key, you might want to look at this: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5101/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Mar 27, 2011 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC — hmmm, but the photo in the other question isn't really very high-key, despite the subject. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 27, 2011 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I missing something? The shots on that page are just nicely lit and well-processed, there's no particular effect going on. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2011 at 21:37
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: and some are just over the top in general -- the last B&W of the first group (second-to-last before reaching "view full post") has the eyes so over-processed they don't look even remotely human (at least to me...) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2011 at 22:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: I know there is lots of post processing. Lets say I'm looking for the results as is on fourth photo. I think I can do that by sharpening the photo and adding lots of contrast to the eyes. But I'm curious if there can be some partially automatic way how to do this, because to do the same process with every photo will take lots of time. I'm not looking for the high key. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2011 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


I would add two things:

1) have lots of ambient light so the subject's pupils are small and the iris, which contains the color and reflections is big

2) play with things in front of the subject (lights, objects, etc) and behind the camera that will be a part of the reflection in the subject's eyes.

Then follow Stan's instructions for enhancing the eyes in post-processing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, if you're indoors, use a large soft box to get a good catchlight, like I did with this photo. I also boosted the exposure and saturation of the eyes using the Adjustment Brush. flickr.com/photos/blakeperdue/5514422988 \$\endgroup\$
    – bperdue
    Apr 1, 2011 at 15:22

So, you want the funky iris reflections? Or, more generally, you want to enhance the eye colour and contrast/sparkle? (It doesn't have to be to the "special effects" end of the spectrum -- sometimes you'll make a wonderful portrait that, unfortunately, doesn't relay the subject's bright, beautiful eye color and you just want to fix that. The same process applies in both cases.)

You can do the same thing in any image manipulation application that supports layers (and, preferably adjustment layers as well). I'll leave the instructions vague so they're not tied to any particular application.

Select only the iris area of each eye, and copy it to a new layer. The circular marquee tool will probably work best, but make sure that the selection is feathered by a pixel or two. You're going to include some portion of the lids and lashes, but don't worry about it. It's easiest if your selection tool lets you select the center and drag a radius, but with a little practice you can learn to make the selection quickly with a "bounding box" selector (the kind where you click in the upper-left-hand corner of a square that will contain your circle, then drag to the lower-right).

Merge the two eye layers together -- you want exactly the same effect in both eyes. Now hide the base (background) layer so that all you can see are the two eyes on a transparent background. Use the eraser tool (with a soft edge) to remove anything outside of the iris (like the eyelid slices that were probably part of the original selection). Now you're ready to do magic.

Create an adjustment layer that only affects the eye layer. You'll probably find that a Curves adjustment is the most useful here, since it will let you adjust the gamma (contrast) curve as a whole (leaving the pupil black, bringing up the midtone brightness, and keeping the highlights under control) and playing with the color channels individually to enhance or reveal the eye color that your original image failed to capture. You will want to make these adjustments with the base/background layer turned back on so you can see the overall impact on the image.

If you want to go the SFX route, you can duplicate and multiply the eye layer to your heart's content, but it's not something I'd want to do unless I was trying to sell myself as a poor, misunderstood artiste in a world of corporate Philistines.

You can make it an action/macro in most programs, with stop points for you to make the selections, use the eraser and set the color curves, but it only saves you a couple of keystrokes (or clicks) and the process is really very quick once you've done it once or twice.

When I've done something like that, and after I've gotten a break from the image so I can look at it with fresh eyes before making a final judgement, I usually merge (flatten) the completed image and save it as a new file -- PSDs (or .pspimage files, or whatever working format the editor uses) are huge in comparison to a low-compression JPEG or a TIFF or PNG. I always keep the original.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry about the repeated edits -- I'm not trying to "bump" this, but it seems I can't spell anything right today (and my misspellings all result in real words, so there's no funky underlining to warn me). \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Mar 31, 2011 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ To add to this, you can lower the contrast/saturation/clarity/etc of the background to draw the eyes to the eyes. Also, no need to apologize about edits. \$\endgroup\$
    – eruditass
    Apr 1, 2011 at 1:31

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