Traditionally, a cheap and easy way to show that a character is evil is the use of coloured contact lenses in live action, or coloured or glowing eyes in animation. Since the 1990s, however, a new trend has emerged - the Black Eyes of Evil.
These days, when someone is possessed by demons, dabbling in the dark arts, psychically dominated by evil aliens, or gone evil in some other way, their eyes will go perfectly black with no whites at all.
Presumably this perfect blackness indicates the purity of the evil within them and their total lack of humanity. Even if a person's eyes are weirdly coloured, there is still a possibility of human connection, but if his/her eyes are gaping wells of nothingness...
One interesting feature of this trope is that these black eyes will return to their normal state if the demon is exorcised/psychic link is broken/etc.
Alternately, a character's face can be shadowed in such a way that their eyes are completely hidden, or at most reflecting back a glint. Typically, these characters don't actually have black eyes and it's a temporary thing. This version can show up in characters who aren't the ultimate evil, merely sinister or mysterious.
This can be surprisingly hard to tell apart from normal eyes in photos, because if a person has normal-colored eyes that happen to be deep-set or narrow to the point of looking squinty, then there won't be that much light hitting their sclera from most angles. It's easier to pick up on when the actor is in motion, and a lot more obvious in drawn art.
This is a subtrope of Uh-Oh Eyes, which, in turn, is a subtrope of Technicolor Eyes. These are also a specific type of Monochromatic Eyes; sometimes related to Prophet Eyes, which can also be used to indicate a supernatural or evil character, as well as Mind-Control Eyes, which are dull and flat-colored.
Compare Evil Wears Black.
Now in Real Life, scleral lenses worn by persons with light sensitivity will render a person's eyes completely black, but that doesn't tell you if they are evil or not.
Contrast with Black Bead Eyes, where the eyes are simply black dots done as an artistic style. Compare Black Eyes of Crazy, where black sclera plus technicolor irises equals Ax-Crazy, although both heavily overlap with one another. Compare also Excessive Evil Eyeshadow. Overlaps with Ghostly Gape.
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Anime and Manga
Higurashi: When They Cry for the (former) page image, of course. The eyes change depending on the media, though. The anime goes for cat eyes, as do the sound novels. The manga artists change between this trope and cat eyes.
Risotto Nero, the leader of the rogue Squadra Esecuzioni of the Passione gang in Part 5 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, has these.
Lilith (a.k.a. Giant Naked Rei) develops this in End of Evangelion. Prior to that, in episode 23, Armisael had developed a Rei-like protrusion at one end, which also had Black Eyes of Evil.
Combining Dou (anger) and Sei (calmness) ki in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple causes severe damage to the body, which notably causes a temporary blackening of the eyes. One of Ryuto's eyes is now permanently black and he is also wheelchair bound because of this technique. Shou Kanou's right eye also turned black and he implied that the damage wouldn't be as severe in his case. It's unknown if this is actually true or not.
In the manga version of The Big O, Beck gets this after attacking Roger with the Gigadeus and getting blown away by a Chrome Buster. It's especially creepy as the chapter is structured in such a way that it's hard to tell if it's All Just a Dream or not (the imagery is trippy for the series), and the part with Beck's eyes turning black is just a line and a full shot of Beck's head taking up a whole page. The last page. Which you have to turn the page for. And comes out of nowhere, but was hinted at as Beck kept asking Roger what Big O was showing him.
In Fairy Tail, when Gemini takes the form of a human, sometimes, one or both of its eyes transform back into Gemini's original solid black eye. Although not particularly disturbing on Gemini itself, when the eye is on a human...man, it's scary! In the anime, in the scene when Gemini is posing as Gray cackling evilly and transforming into Lucy, Gray's transformation face could qualify as a Nightmare Face.
Aizen's chrysalis stage of his One-Winged Angel form resulted in jet black eyes - no irises, no pupils, not even any visible eye sockets. Nothing. Just black eye shapes on top of a flat face-like surface that didn't even look like it could have eyes (it had no nose or mouth or ears, for example).
As Nodt's black eyes are creepy and black and seem to gain a strange pale sheen at the edges when he uses his power to give them an even more alien look. It turns out to be a clue to the basis of his power which, in Vollstandig, targets the eyes of his victims.
In Naruto, Naruto's inner darkness has a constant Slasher Smile and eyes that are completely black.
The Tales of Symphonia OVA gives us Kvar. Once thought to be permanently squinty-eyed, Kvar was shown in the OVA to have red pupils in his otherwise wholly-black eyes. With that combination, it's no surprise that Kvar is one of the most despicable villains shown in Symphonia.
Jaki from Gamaran has heterochromia: one is normal, the other is black with a white iris. Later, Ryuho Kibe's sclerae turns black when he uses Juugan, a battle drug.
All of the vampires in Shiki have black sclera and red eyes when their Horror Hunger takes over. The older vampires, namely Shizuru and Sunako, take this further and have solid black eyes. They still have pupils and what not, you just can't see them unless they glow.
Downplayed in Mahoraba. The Occult Research Club President has almost entirely black eyes, with just a sliver of white at the outer edges. They still signify her Evil nature, which is more a case of being unholy than malicious.
Averted with the Super Dimension Fortress Macross character that would become Dr. Emil Lang in Robotech. Although Dr. Lang owes his black eyes to being touched by Vorlons, he remains a personable character. In the aborted Sentinels animation, they did away with them and actually gave him normal eyes. They returned in recent comic book stories. In the original Macross, Lang was a minor unnamed background character and his all black eyes was simply one of the trademark quirks of Haruhiko Mikimoto's character designs.
Baron Soontir Fel was, after Vader's death, the best Imperial pilot. He's not evil, though, and the solid black eyes only show up in one panel, when his eyes are in shadow. But it's a panel where he looks very sinister.
General Carvin, who, in a B-plot in those comics, is part of the Imperial Tribune, which briefly ruled the Empire after ousting Sate Pestage, and served to command and obstruct Ysanne Isard until she dealt with them, was always, always◊ shown with shadowed eyes...until Isard's plans culminated, the other two tribune members were killed, and he was brought before her◊, beaten and bloody, but defiant enough to tell her he wouldn't be her plaything, and she smiled and told him he might become all manner of things once he reached the Lusankya facility.
Dream, a.k.a. Morpheus, eponymous protagonist of the Neil Gaiman comic Sandman, also has completely black eyes, in which, at times, pinpricks of light like distant stars can be seen, as it is said that, by staring into his eyes, you can see the vast emptiness of eternity. He isn't evil, however, or not a typical villain at least, but he can be uncaring (to the point of cruelty) and takes very long to forgive a perceived slight.
During the first exploration of Carl Stargher's mind in The Cell, he manifests as a pale king with gaping black voids in place of eyes.
In The Covenant, the four members of the eponymous covenant as well as the villain, a descendant of a covenant member, all get these at some point in the film. Subverted for the four members, who are all "good guys". Played straight for the villain.
In Finding Nemo, when Bruce the shark gets the taste of blood, his pupils grow to the point where his eyeballs become completely black, like that of a real shark. Up until this point, he lacks irises, but the pupils are surrounded by white, like a common animated character.
Pinhead and the rest of the cenobites from Hellraiser movies always have either black, shark-like eyes or more subdued black eyes with white sclera, depending on the director and makeup artist.
Possibly one of the earliest examples in film was in The Mummy's Hand (1940), in which the mummy's eyes are completely black - an effect achieved by laboriously painting over the film in post-production.
When the Seer is killed and replaced with a doppelganger, his duplicate has pure black eyes (not as much of a giveaway as you might think, since he usually keeps his eyes closed).
Another creature from the same film, this one a female shapeshifter, is a subversion of sorts, as she finds herself unwilling to go through with her mission of killing the main character and gets quite a sympathetic speech before the Big Bad eliminates her for her betrayal.
In Push, whenever the evil pusher uses his powers, his pupils stretch so his eyes turn entirely black. The good pusher, by comparison, will only stretch her pupils so the irises are barely visible.
Though technically literature at one time, the script of Stephen King's Storm Of The Century — sold in book form, before it was made into the film it was designed to be (and likely afterward, depending on the director) — had a Big Bad whose eyes, upon possessing others, turned swirly black.
In X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes, as the main character continues using the x-ray eyedrops, his eyes begin changing colour: at first, they're only silver irises on black, but by the end of the film, they're entirely black.
The Dark Queen in MirrorMask sports pitch-black eyes, as does her daughter. When Helena is used as a replacement for the Princess and given an appropriate makeover, her eyes turn black as well.
Although it seems to take a while after the onset of zombification, the titular Zombie Strippers eventually develop pure-black eyes. Their flesh also begins to rot and their fingers turn black and sharpen into claws. Because the virus in the film affects men and women differently, this only seems to happen to female zombies.
In the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film, a temporary version is used when Lord Blackwood is talking to Holmes in his cell. He's standing just out of the light, so that the areas around his eyes are completely shadowed and all that is visible is the evil glint.
In Ink (2009), the Key Master Incubus has eyes that are pure black and they occasionally flare white with interest.
In Oliver Stone's Nixon, CIA director Richard Helms' eyes appear to turn completely black for a second due to a coincidentally-timed light reflection, right after Nixon muses that there are things worse than death, and right before Nixon continues that there's such a thing as evil. Needless to say, Helms' real-life relatives had some issues with that scene. Although Helms definitely was a ruthless bastard in real life, implying he was a soulless force of pure evil may have been pushing it. The scene was removed for the theatrical release and only viewable in the Director's Cut.
In From Hell, when Sir William Gull realizes he has been found out as Jack the Ripper by Inspector Abberline, his eyes turn black as he goes berserk and attacks the Inspector. Seeing as Sir William is a normal (if deranged) human being, this seems to be just for shock value. Possibly a reference to the comic, when during his death Sir William has a long out-of-body-experience that carries him all over the world and across time.
The first Halloween (1978) has a quote that directly details the antagonist's eyes - and this is before Michael Myers dons that mask, which has nothing more than the two black, gaping, deathly holes for eyes.
Shivers the Clown from the Fear of Clowns duology has a disorder that causes his eyes to appear almost completely black.
Bennings-Thing had pitch black eyes. This is commonly used in fannon and fan art involving Jed.
Prophet's House has the incestuous, theocratic Rassianus family who sport black eyes when exercising their prophetic powers.
The Big Bad of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth books has these as part of being a Dream Walker. If that wasn't creepy enough, everyone knows when he's looking at them, even though his eyes are effectively black spheres. It's never explained.
In Garth Nix's early novel The Ragwitch, the eponymous villain is described as having "black, black pupils." The horror.
In The Elder Scrolls novels, Sul describes Umbra as having eyes "like holes into nothing." However, Vuhon's eyes are pure white, instead.
Infected people transforming into the monstrous vampires in Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro's novel The Strain gain "dead black" eyes, among other things. In the case of a Goth-Metal singer, people didn't even notice at first, they thought he still wore his pale make-up and black contact lenses...
Though the most prominent character with black eyes in the Modern Tales of Faerie books, Kaye Fierch is not evil. A lot of the other Fair Folk have black eyes and evil traits.
The villain of Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box has eyes that look like they were scribbled out with a black Sharpie; another character refers to the black blotches as "sunglasses of the living dead".
In Lawrence Watt-Evans' Lords of Dus series, the eyes of the King in Yellow are always hidden in shadow by the hood of his robe, although, occasionally, a brief glint is seen.
In The Demons Lexicon and the books that follow it, the eyes of demon-possessed people turn black. Nick also has black eyes, because he's a demon who's been possessing a human body since its birth, but he's an Anti-Hero.
The nameless unmagic mage in Magic Steps. Unlike the people who removed his legs and got him hooked on a powerful drug in order to make him help them with their crimes, he's not evil, but he's certainly no longer sane and has become very inhuman.
"When had all the white vanished from his eyes? Now it was like staring into two vast pits. She turned dizzy, as if she might fall, when she met his gaze."
The evil creatures in David Nickle's Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. The cover is especially creepy.
Arpazia and Coira in White as Snow have "cold water eyes" normally, a color that's not quite blue or gray, but when their pupils dilate, their eyes appear to be black. With Arpazia in particular, this is taken as a sign of witchcraft, or at least insanity.
Babylon 5 was one of the first to use this trope, although the characteristic came from the Vorlons, which until the end of the Old Ones Myth Arc were generally viewed as the good guys, if misguided. When telepath Lyta Alexander makes psychic contact with the Big Bad Shadows, her eyes turn pure black, but return to normal when contact is broken. After prolonged contact, she also began to weep black tears.
Battlestar Galactica has this occur in a deleted scene of the episode "The Farm". Starbuck has a nightmare where she sees Anders with black eyes. Considering what he is revealed to be, it is interesting.
This seems to be one of the standard side effects of using powerful Black Magic, as primal energy fills up the body of the caster and then is released through the spell. When the black eyes don't fade after the spell is done, something's generally wrong.
When Willow Rosenberg goes overboard with magic, she gets these, most notably in her Dark Willow phase. In season seven, she gets these when she invokes powerful magic. They fade when the spell in question ends. The dark arts also darkens her hair, causing to complain that she can't get any work done without getting dark roots. Interestingly, she also becomes a Jerkass while she is using such magic. In one scene, while using a powerful barrier spell to stop a demon, she tells the woman she is protecting to stop whining. After the demon leaves, she apologizes.
Catherine Madison, the first witch actually seen on the show, got these as she casts a powerful spell. As does her daughter, Amy.
Oz's eyes turn solid black as part of his transformation into a werewolf and are usually one of the first things to change. Black eyes are not a standard werewolf trait per se though, as Veruca's turn bright blue.
Caleb's eyes turn black when he is merged with the First, which also turns his blood an oily black.
Carnivàle: Brother Justin, Henry Scudder, and Sofie all have obsidian orbs when they tap into their innate evil.
Demons sometimes sport these. The Source of All Evil adds licks of hellfire in them for effect.
Beings possessed by the Nexus or the Hollow also sport black eyes, though these powers are technically neutral (in the same way that an Eldritch Abomination doesn't care about the struggles of morality).
In the 2008 Christmas special, the Femme Fatale gains pure black eyes when the Cybermen forcibly "upgrade" her to be their new Cyberking (noun/gender agreement notwithstanding). As befits the trope, her eyes return to their normal colour when The Doctor talks her into looking as a human at what she has become, leading her to suicide explosively and take the Cybermen with her.
In Farscape, the mysterious representative of the Ancients (nicknamed "Einstein" by Crichton) appears to others as a tall, impeccably-dressed human with pitch-black eyes. However, Einstein and the Ancients remain neutral throughout the series.
Inverted in Grimm, where it's the titular monster hunters who are seen this way by the Wesen when they woge in front of them. The Wesen see the Grimm's black eyes reflect their nature back at them.
On an episode of A Haunting, a devil or demon is shown to look like a regular man, except for the black eyes...which made the actor look [bleep]ing scary.
In Heroes, Maya's eyes turn pure black with tar-like tears running down her face when her powers activate. While she's not really evil, her ability—to kill everyone around in a matter of about a minute using what amounts to some sort of psychic poison—is.
The BBC's Jekyll uses this as one of the warning signs that Hyde is about to show up, and they're one of the few cosmetic changes made to show the difference between the main character's two personalities.
Kamen Rider Kuuga. When protagonist, Yuusuke Godai, first receives visions of his Ultimate Form, Ultimate Kuuga, the coloring of his eyes are pitch-black, symbolizing the risk of his becoming evil should he transform into Ultimate Kuuga. In the penultimate episode, Yuusuke does, in fact, transform to Ultimate Kuuga, but due to his self-control, manages to retain the red-eye coloring of his normal Mighty Form. The risk of slipping into 'Black-Eyed Ultimate Kuuga' is not entirely eliminated, however, and Yuusuke, in fact, tells his partner, Ichijou, to shoot him should it happen.
It's not presented as evil (at least insofar as stealing a person's soul and free will is presented as "not evil"; the show's basically taken the route of "types of magic aren't evil, it's what you do with them"), but whenever a Confessor uses her power, there is a close up of her eyes (and the eyes of her victim) turning pure black for a few moments. Can somebody confirm whether this is also the case in the original books?
There's no mention of eyes changing when the Confessor power is used in the book, but Emperor Jagang's eyes are noted as being black and swirly portals...or something. Point is, they're weird eyes and he's bad.
In Lexx, solid black eyes represent possession by His Divine Shadow.
In Sanctuary, when Nikola Tesla's plans to rebuild the vampire species go awry, all of his former patients who have been killed turn into vampires way before schedule and exhibit completely black eyes.
Sapphire And Steel: This happened to Sapphire when she was channeling the Darkness in the second serial.
The obscure (but apparently cult-ish) 1988 SF-horror miniseries Something Is Out There, starring ex-Bond Girl Maryam D'Abo. Those who are being controlled by the evil alien cannibal parasite are shown to have pure black eyes.
Shortly after his resurrection, Owen Harper of Torchwood experienced moments when The Grim Reaper possessed his body: during these moments, his eyes would turn black and he would start chanting "I shall walk the Earth and my hunger will know no bounds."
In True Blood, people under Maryann's control have totally black eyeballs.
Windom Earle gets this for a brief moment in Twin Peaks.
In one of the most effective applications of this trope, the show had the black oil. This living substance violated your organism through various orifices. Eyes turning black meant the substance took over.
"Blackest Eyes" by Porcupine Tree is a song about serial killers with the lyrics "Swim with me into your blackest eyes".
2D from Gorillaz has these, although this case would be some sort of subversion, since he's generally nice and often a source of comic relief. Also, the trope is justified, because they're apparently not really black eyes, but eight-ball fractures, caused by having them dented into 2D's eye sockets, which gave him his nickname (2 Dents).
"Spectrum" by Zedd features a music video that shows a woman (presumably from outer space) with pitch black eyes who falls in love with a man from Earth. They have a romantic relationship and wear sunglasses in order to hide the uncannily human alien woman's black eyes from the public. Here, watch it for yourself.
The "Mother Maiden" Character from the eponymous music video by Dutch rock/metal band Within Temptation is revealed to have eyes just like this.
The woman on the cover of Diary of Dreams' Elegies in Darkness.
Dark Fantasy and Modern Horror roleplaying games from the 1990s onwards love this trope, from Old World of Darkness to the German game Arcane Codex (where this is actually a trait buyable at character creation called "Eyes of Hell" that indicates the character is a half-breed who has demonic blood).
The Excrucians of Nobilis have a variant on this. Falling stars drift through their otherwise-black eyes.
This was a symptom (along with greasy black tears) of the Phyrexian oil in Time Spiral. Naturally, the people living in black-aligned places got the worst of it.
This is also averted with normal Space Marines descended from the Raven Guard. A defect in their gene seed causes most of them to become Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunettes. Also notable are the Cacharadons whose eyes are also completely black, and tend to be a bite more... violent and brutal than the other loyalist chapters.
Karzahni from BIONICLE was first described as having empty, black eyes. Later, a book illustration gave him brightly glowing yellow eyes (and took other liberties with his colors), and his eventual figure sported red eyes. The change is somewhat justified in the figure's case, as it represented his mutated form, which didn't look anything like what his original description suggested. There's also the fact that Karzahni constantly rebuilds himself, so he may have possibly changed his eyes...
Inverted with the Asari, Liara, from Mass Effect. If you choose to have her as your romance partner, her eyes will turn black while you're having a roll in the sack with her. Her eyes also turn black when activating telepathic linking powers - something observed in another Asari, Shiala, an Asari Commando, who links with your character during the Feros mission. If you look closely, they aren't solid black, but have faint star-like lights in them.
Played straight when Morinth does it - that an Asari's eyes turn black just before sex has a whole new effect when the Asari in question is an Ardat-Yakshi, especially since they lack the faint lights seen in other asari.
Mitsuo Kubo from Persona 4, a really creepy loner whose most prominent feature is his black fish eyes. He eventually killed resident Sadist Teacher Mr. Morooka over a grudge and attempted to claim the murders currently taking place in Inaba.
Subverted with the Lady of the Forest from Dragon Age: Origins. Although she possesses pitch-black eyes, she is not evil, only inhuman. In fact, she wishes to end the curse that has been placed upon the werewolves of the Brecilian Forest, even though doing so will require her death.
M. Bison from Street Fighter has all black eyes, except for the irises (normally black), which are white. That was in his early designs. Averted afterwards, when his eyes were changed to be completely white.
Your father, Bhaal, has many forms in Baldur's Gate, but one thing remains the same in all of them: his pitch-black eyes. In the same vein, a couple of your prophetic dreams have you looking into a mirror or body of water and seeing your reflection with a Psychotic Smirk and the same black eyes.
If you are trying to reach the happy ending in Afraid Of Monsters, you have to fight your Doppelgänger, who has completely black eyes.
Ōkami subverts this. Ammy is the hero, but has pitch black eyes. Can become terrifying if you look at her face when using the "Realistic Wolf" karmic transformer.
The Outsider, the resident Eldritch Abomination of Dishonored has completely black eyes. However, he's not so much evil as simply a disinterested entity who enjoys observing humanity and the chaos they can create, occasionally granting powers to rare individuals that gain his interest.
Celesto Morgan from Dominic Deegan has a case of this whenever he uses his dark Seer powers.
Found on Captain Vole of Girl Genius, an ex-Jagerkin (no, we're not sure how that works either) who is hell-bent on killing any Heterodyne that comes his way, including Agatha.
Bloody Mary from Flipside has these, though she does still have visible pupils, allowing us to somewhat connect with her as she transforms into The Woobie.
All the titular characters in Goblins have this, whether hero or villain.
Zimmy from Gunnerkrigg Court is initially presented as this: she's antagonistic and seems to have dark holes where her eyes should be. However, subsequent chapters make her The Woobie. Dark Is Not Evil, indeed. Also, it turns out she does have eyes: they're just perpetually/stylistically covered by black gunk.
Subverted in Homestuck. Sollux winds up with these after a duel with Eridan goes badly, but he's actually much more relaxed now that he doesn't have to deal with his psychic powers anymore. As a half-ghost in the farthest ring, he has one eye that's solid black, and the other that's solid white, to indicate he's not entirely alive or dead.
A Tale Of Fiction: Sneaky's eyes are always black, no matter how much shapeshifting he does. Subverted, though, because he's a nice guy and the protagonist. While shapeshifted into human form, he usually wears sunglasses to blend in.
In Sam and Fuzzy, the heavy metal band Noosehead (which has 15 members) has several members with monochromatic black eyes of evil. This includes their front man, Sidney "the Sicko", and main guitarist, Nicole. As it turns out, when they end up taking the stage during the "roadies" arc, they are a subversion: all of them are really nice (if a little eccentric) people who treat the heavy metal life as a job.
S.S.D.D: Robert. While not evil, he admits his eyes make people feel ill and scare children.
In Last Res0rt black eyes with red irises are an undeniable sign of being a Djinni-si, or "dead inside". Vampires are capable of hiding their "dead" eyes though. Also a bit of YMMV on whether that automatically makes one evil too.
Spina Cage has a race of human eating faeries with completely blacked out eyes.
But they also avert the trope with SCP-134: a harmless young girl whose black eyes happen to be vistas into an uncharted region of space. SCP personnel have actually been reprimanded for getting too attached to "Stella".
In the Foundation's sister site, The Wanderers Library, they're alleged to be a symbiotic pairing of a spirit and a child that had a near-death experience.
Cecil in Welcome to Night Vale describes Kevin as having black eyes and says "he must be wicked, this man'', despite Kevin describing Cecil as having "eyes like mine"; though since Cecil's had all of his mirrors covered since he was fifteen, he might have similar eyes and not know it.
Not so much "real" life, but a popular urban legend/modern day campfire tale: people have reported encounters with "black-eyed kids" (also known as "black-eyed beings" and "black-eyed children", or just BEK), which are pretty much exactly what you would expect—creepy kids with pure black eyes who are said to mean humans no good at all. The original BEK tale can be found here.
Aniridia. You lack an iris, the colored portion of your eye. As a result, you can't see very well, if at all.
Hyphema, better known as an "eight ball hemorrhage", where blood pools inside the eye and blacks out one's vision.
In 2007 the first case of scleral tattooing was reported. This procedure makes it possible to tattoo the whites of your eyes black. Possible side effects include: a permanent black eye as the ink migrates into tissue surrounding the eyeball, terrible headaches, blurry vision, seeing black specks (basically floaters made of ink), extreme light sensitivity, glaucoma and even blindness.
On a non-squicky note, it's a matter of light, shadow, and positioning to appear to have these, if only for a moment, with both eyelids and eyebrows shadowing the eyes themselves. This can look creepy, especially in non-flash photographs.