Catchlights 101

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I used to take good pictures on accident.  Every once in a while I would really look at a portrait I had taken and think “something about this just makes it look really special”.  Upon learning what a Catchlight is I realized that a lot of the portraits I loved had Catchlights.  

What is a Catchlight?  It’s a reflection of a light source off the eye.  The Catchlight is a direct mirror of that light source.  This can make all the difference between a Catchlight that adds to a photo and one that detracts from the photo.  You can remove or add Catchlights in Photoshop (or other editing software) I’m going to get into that tomorrow.  It’s all a matter of personal preference but in my opinion, they add a lot to the photo.

In professional portraiture you’ll notice a very clear light source, the glimmer in the eye will be a defined circle.  But most of us (at least I’m assuming, correct me if I’m wrong) are taking shots of our family, friends and our kids so we’re not working with professional lights.  To capture Catchlights you’ll need to have some light source facing your subject.  

Let’s look at some examples that I’ve shot over the past few months.  In the below photo you can see that light hit her eyes at an angle, it happened to be from my bedroom window.  I think that the glimmer adds something to this photo.  
CassJustCurious 2008-12-30 (1)

Now in this photo (who happens to be my daughter, so you’re welcome to comment on her cheeks!) the light source was coming from a door that was to her left – this is seen in the photo by the Catchlight on the right of the photo (her left) being much larger then the one on the left. 

CassJustCurious 2008-12-16

This cutie pie was packing up after our shoot and was standing with the door to his left where the sun was beating in.  The exposure here is tricky because with the light source being so directed to one side of his face I had to over-expose a touch in Photoshop.  The Catchlight in the lower right hand corner of his eye really adds that something special. 

CassJustCurious 115

Now this next picture is one of my favorites….but in truth, I hate the Catchlights here.  This is my nephew and he was very busy watching The Backyardigans and I called his name and this is the face I got.  I like the shimmer in his eyes but the Catchlight off the TV is very distracting to me.  Until I really looked at this shot I hadn’t considered a TV a light source.

CassJustCurious 30

So go out there, catch some light in Catchlights.  And if you catch ones you don’t like or if you didn’t get it quite right come back over tomorrow and I’ll show you how to fake it.

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