Silverstrand Photography Blog

Local photography company in Saratoga Springs, UT. Families, corporate, sports.

Tuesdays Tips & Tricks | Catchlights

One of the most important things that I am constantly thinking of when I’m taking pictures is this:  Do I have a catchlight in their eyes?  It’s amazing how much better you images can be if you make sure you have a catchlight.  Here’s a picture that I love of my cute nephew.  Check out the lighting in his eyes.

This is all natural lighting.  It was an overcast day, and his eyes are reflecting the sky.  Lighting will make or break the image.  If you have good lighting… it will definitely show.

Here is one of my neice.  Great catchlight also.

Here is another picture of my nephew… but with no catchlight.  See the difference? (and that his ear is in focus instead of his eyes… we’ll talk about this for another tips & tricks. 🙂   )

Catchlights are the reflection that the eye gives off of the lighting source.  It gives the eyes depth and gives life to your image.  Catchlights will tell you how big the light source is and what direction it came from.

I found the following info at:

Positioning Catchlights is important also.  Especially if you are using lighting like umbrellas.  The position of a catch light is determined by the placement of the “key” and “fill” lights, and changes as their height and angle away from the camera lens change.  The bigger your light source, the bigger the catchlight you will have.   A studio portrait will show the final product with a single catchlight in each eye, typically in the 10 or 2 o’clock position, created by the main (“key”) light.

Catchlights At 10
Image by Lanbui

The real reason for the conventional placement of catchlights at 10 or 2 o’clock is unknown, but the earliest portrait painters found that the most pleasing balance resulted when either of those positions was used.

Consider that early artists didn’t have the luxury of multiple lights in a studio, using instead the Sun or light from a large open window. The result was a single catchlight and because the Sun illuminated the subject from a high angle, the catchlight reflected from a higher spot on the eye.

Go try it out!  Experiment with Catchlights

Look at magazines.  Look at other photographer’ work.  Study the position and shape of catchlights.  Many times, all you have to do is look at the subject’s eyes in a photograph… and you can tell what lighting source was used, what position the lighting source came from, and how big the lighting source was.  You will find that the more you learn about lighting… your portrait work will benefit.

It’s kind of funny because the only ones who probably really notice catchlights are other photographers. 🙂  There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding catchlights; it’s simply a matter of personal taste and preference. You will see all manner of catch light size and placement in journals and in professional portraits. There is no “better’ or ‘worse” way to place them.

Come back for more Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks next week! 🙂


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