When photographing portraits having shaded half of the model's face (for example having him/her stand close to a window casting light on one side of their face) it's almost unavoidable to not capturing the model with different sized pupils. Is there a trick dealing with this?

The problem can partly be solved by having the model close the eyes and take the shot just when they open them again. Another is of course to use flash. Is there anything obvious (or less obvious) that solves this problem other than these methods?

Clarification: Of course you can enlarge/shrink a pupil in post production, but I'm looking for a technique that don't require any post production.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting question, but I've never noticed this in practice. Can you post a sample photo? \$\endgroup\$
    – feetwet
    Mar 12, 2015 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ extreme photography; level "excessive"... administer aapos.org/terms/conditions/43 or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropicamide to one eye (just to clarify; this is not a serious suggestion) \$\endgroup\$
    – db9dreamer
    Mar 16, 2015 at 13:59

3 Answers 3


As you mentioned, flash works well, using low-power modeling lights to get the desired lighting ratio.

The most "desirable" images of people and animals have dilated pupils, which we see as attractive. Contracted pupils indicate anger. High-speed flash is faster than the contraction reflex. You can experiment with flash sync if there is much ambient illumination, see http://www.scantips.com/lights/flashbasics5.html.

Of course, the more dilated the pupil, the greater the risk of red-eye, so keep the flash well separated from the lens to avoid retroreflection.

As mentioned above, in ancient times, belladonna extract was used to make women appear more attractive (it's used today in the form of atropine for ophthalmological examination). It is not recommended for casual photographic use, though.


If you don't care for dilated pupil, that might make people look more friendly, you can always expose both eyes to strong light, since the pupils take longer to relax than to contract, when one eye is shaded the pupil will still have almost the same size.


Post production maybe? If there is a annoying difference and you spot it after taking the photo, you can Photoshop it.

If you want to make it in studio, maybe triggering the in-camera flash just before taking the picture will make both eyes to get about the same amount of light and the pupils should shrink to a similar size.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course you can do that, but I'm looking for a technique that's not requiring post production. I've edited the question accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hugo
    Mar 12, 2015 at 13:23

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