Saturday, March 7, 2009

Let's talk about "Catch Light"

Definition from Wikipedia: Catch light or catchlight is a photography term used to describe either the specular highlight in a subject's eye from a light source, or the light source itself. A catch light may be an artifact of the lighting method, or have been purposely engineered to add a glint or "spark" to a subject's eye during photography. This technique is useful in both still and motion picture photography. Adding a catch light can help draw attention to the subject's eyes, which may otherwise get lost among other elements in the scene.

In this shot there is a window to my Left and I am using my reflector on the right. Your subject does not have to be looking directly into the light to "Catch" it. But, it does help if you have a reflector.

This photo has been edited with a grainy filter, but you can see with the light coming in from behind that there is NO catch light! You can see how his eyes look hollow. Now, if I would have been able to get my reflector high enough to catch the light coming in from the window behind them you would have been able to get the sparkle. Unfortunately there is not ALWAYS someone there to hold it up for you!

If you are shooting outdoors you need to just turn your subject until you can see the light in the eyes. I know this is sometimes difficult to do with small children, but you can typically position yourself in the right place, call their name and they will "TYPICALLY" look at you! You can STILL "Catch" the light if you are in the shade!

Most of the time you will want your subject looking towards the sun, but there are exceptions. If you are shooting in the middle of the day with the high sun you will more than likely get the hollow eyes. In this situation it may be best to "Backlight" your subject: meaning turn them with the sun behind them and use a reflector .

If you are trying to get the Catch light with Natural light indoors, you DO NOT want to use your flash!! If you have a speedlight or off camera flash you will want to point the flash toward the ceiling and NOT directly at your subject! However, even if you don't have LARGE windows in your house the light coming in from a window is ALWAYS better than using your flash. I almost NEVER NEVER NEVER use my flash! I hate it!

I will be happy to explain a little more if this doesn't help you! If it does help you please comment so I will know that you understand! Take pictures and email them to me so I can see how you have PRACTICED!!


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE your explanation of catch light and the ideas for how to gain it in multiple settings!! especially the idea of moving myself to the right position rather than the boys, and then calling their names! thanks so much!

  2. I LOVE the new look! PBJ- so cute! I also like that you are explaining something that I can try to do. (although it will take me 1000 shots to get a good image!)


  4. I just love your Blog! I have always had a passion for photography, but since I got my 40D last Christmas I have been trying to take more professional looking photographs. I look forward to learning new things by reading your posts!



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