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Avoiding "raccoon eyes."

Many photographers love shooting portraits on overcast days. I get it. The sun can be challenging. If you do it wrong, the sun can create harsh shadows on your subjects' faces. Or, the sun can create unexpected lens flare. Or, the direct sunlight can overexpose your background and overpower your subject. Overcast days can simplify things with the light coming only from directly overhead.

The problem is that the light is coming only from directly overhead. Most humans' eyes are recessed a bit. If the light source is directly overhead, you'll get "raccoon eyes." Here's what it looks like.

There are a few ways to handle this. First, you can pose them so that your subject's face is tilted upward. This will allow the light coming from above to fill in their eye sockets.

Another solution is to simply place your subject under something like a balcony or thick, leafy branch or anything that will block the light from coming from directly above.

A third solution is to use a flash to overpower the light coming from above. I'll always have a speedlight with a small soft box with me on an overcast day.

This problem is even more challenging when you're photographing a man. Typically, men's forehead/brow is thicker which will exacerbate this problem! You'll make your subject look ominous with their darkened eyes. Unless you're literally attempting to make your subject look like a villain, don't create raccoon eyes!

My most common way to fix this is to get them underneath something. Here's an example of how much difference it can make to simply move your subject ten feet to the side so that there is something overhead. Here's an example of two pictures that were taken two minutes apart. I just had her take a few steps so that a balcony blocked the light from directly above.

What a huge difference a ledge can make! Moving her under a ledge improved her appearance by 100%!

Next time you're shooting under an overcast sky, keep this in mind and be on the lookout for those infernal raccoon eyes!


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