The Blog

Catchlights in the eyes

I’ve been obsessed lately with catchlights. I suspect my readers may have never heard of catchlights and do not know what that means. Admittedly, in my early days of photography neither did I. It wasn’t until I started self-

senior portrait shows catchlights in eyes

educating myself that I heard of the concepts of catchlights. When I first heard of this concept, I didn’t know either what it meant.

A catchlight is a spark of light in the eyes of the subject being photographed. Achieving this spark comes from putting the right amount of light on the subject. I look back on my early photographs and many times do not see this spark of light. In my current work, I am determined to achieve this in my photos.

Why? If you compare a photo with vs. without catchlights, you should see a difference. The photo with them have more life. Look at the recent senior photo I took of Skylar in this post. Look closely at her eyes and you will see a spark of light, and as a result life in her eyes.

In my view, the best way to capture these catchlights is to use a light source like a flash or a strobe. You can also achieve it by positioning the subject toward a window and let the natural light create that sparkle.

I’ve been asked why I use strobe lights in my outdoor portraits when it is already light. One reason is to get light on the subject’s face. The main reason is to get catchlights in the eyes. As I photograph subjects around the city, I sometimes see other photographers doing work as well. Very rarely do I see these photographers using additional lighting. I suspect that many of the photos they take do not have catchlights.

To achieve this sparkle in the eyes in natural light, a subject needs to be positioned just right. Using a reflector also will bring these lights to the eyes.

I suggest the next time you hire a photographer, ask him or her about how they achieve catchlights in the eyes. See if they even understand this concept. It should help you determine which photographer to hire.

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