I decided that my post today needed to touch on one of the most basic yet vital parts of photography. Most of you do not aspire to be professional photographers, but I promise that everyone that owns a camera will benefit from this post! Especially when photographing people.
Have you ever heard of a catchlight? Catchlights are highlights in the subjects eyes that add depth, dimension and life to the eye. I know it is such a simple thing, but as simple as it is, knowing how to achieve them will make all the difference between a good image a great one.
So how do you achieve catchlights? I am a natural light photographer and do not even have a flash on my camera so for me, I am constantly aware of the light around me. When shooting indoors, I make sure I am near a big window, preferably facing North or South. Your subject doesn't have to be facing the window to have catchlights in their eyes. Try moving your subject around, but keeping their eyes towards the window. I know for me, I prefer side lighting for more depth and shadows and if you do it right, the catchlights can be gorgeous. Here is an example.
When shooting outdoors there are many ways to achieve catchlights. When standing in the shade, the best thing to do is to face your subject towards the sun. Also, there are many natural reflectors such as sidewalks, buildings or even cars. Try wearing a white shirt while shooting. This will help produce more light in the subjects eyes. Especially when shooting backlit images. I have found that a reflector also works wonders in that type of lighting situation.
These next two images are similar, but if you notice in this image that only one of her eyes is slightly highlighted. To me, this is a much weaker image than the one below it. I feel like her eyes look dark and "dead".
This one is much better and both of her eyes have life in them.
In this particular shot, it was getting late and starting to get dark. The sun had gone behind the mountain so I used what I could to get my catchlights. I had her lay on the ground (which was a natural reflector) and then I had her facing the sun and looking up toward the sky. Even though the sun had gone down it was still lit up and was the perfect reflection of light into her eyes.
The best way I have found to get the eyes all lit up is by standing above my subject while shooting down. Your subject will naturally look up and their eyes will light up from the sky.
Another example of indoor side lighting. Notice his face it tilted toward the window.
I hope this was helpful to someone today. Happy shooting!
Oooh, this is something I need to work on SO badly! Has anyone mastered this concept? Link us to a post (or picture) where you have achieved catchlights..we'd love to see them!
Melynda is a natural light family photographer in Las Vegas, NV. To schedule an appointment with her, visit her site HERE.