The idea that a person’s face has a “good side” is not an unfamiliar concept. Many of us consistently favour one side of our face when we see a camera pointed at us. We are presenting what we believe is our “good side”. But, have we got even our own face wrong?
In this video, portrait photographer Joe Edelman discusses some of the science behind a person’s “good side”. Science, however, can only take us so far. Other factors like lighting, expression, hair and makeup also affect how the camera sees us. Joe expands on these ideas with some of his observations from his time as a portrait photographer.
It’s an interesting topic, and there’s a lot of information about it out there on the web. A lot of the science does seem to contradict each other, though.
No face on the planet is truly symmetrical, and many people have one eye slightly larger than the other.
Joe posits in the video that the smaller eye should be closer to the camera. This gives the illusion that the eyes are the same size. It stops attention being drawn to the fact that most humans have one eye smaller than the other. This certainly makes sense, and is a technique commonly practised by photographers.
Other research, however, tells us that the smaller eye should be further away from the camera. Our eyes and brain are used to having things further away from us appear smaller. We don’t register that the eyes are different sizes and our brain puts it down to perspective. This also makes a lot of sense.
This is where the science can get confusing, and there’s no substitute for actually trying things out for yourself.
In a practical sense, I use both methods, and it basically boils down to two things. The face of the person in question and the angle of their face relative to the camera. In my experience, extreme angles often work best with having the smaller eye away from the camera. Slight angles usually look better with the smaller eye towards the camera.
Many other factors also affect what is a person’s “best side”. The best method after doing all the research and listening to all the theories is to simply observe your subject. Sometimes you can do this while having a conversation with them before the shoot. For some, it may be more useful to simply take shots and see how they look. Using lighting tests is a great way to observe how your subject presents to camera without making them feeling uncomfortable.
But, whatever you do, don’t do this.
What methods do you use to help find your subject’s best side? Have Joe’s comments made you reconsider your own best side? What other tips and suggestions can you offer photographers wanting to shoot portraits? Let us know in the comments.