Portrait Photography | How To Get a Catchlight


© 2010 Wazari Wazir | Portrait Photography | Catchlight

What is Catchlight? Catchlight is a Photography  term referring to the light that is caught by the eye. In a professional portrait, the catchlight may be from a strobe light or a natural light source, such as a window. Catchlights add depth and life to the eyes of your subjects, without catchlight, a portrait seem to look uninteresting, as usual when looking at a portrait of a person we will look into the eyes and catchlight attract our attention the most, without catchlight, the eyes will be lifeless.

Before I go any further, let me tell you this, all of my portrait of my son where there is a visible catchlight are original, it was there in the first place, I never ever add or create a “Catchlight” in Photoshop, I just enhance it a bit but never add “fake” catchlight in my son eyes. If you look closely in the picture of my son above, you can see that I was standing there taking picture of my son. I took this shot just outside my house and those white line is a sky. I took this shot between two house, my house and my neighbor house, that’s why you see the lines.

I got a lot of email asking me how to get a “Catchlight”, actually I really don’t know how to answer that because it comes natural for me, I mean I never plan where to shoot but it comes naturally. First my son is not a model where I can position him wherever I want, he keeps on moving running here and there, the only thing that I can share with you is this, I captured my son portrait when I see a beautiful catchlight on my son eyes, and when that happen, usually I will shot in a burst mode rapidly because when my son looking at other place, the catchlight will no longer be there.

There are few guideline to follow if you just starting out, wondering where to get the catchlight, I will share with you how to get catchlight with natural light here, I think there should be no problem getting a catchlight if you are shooting with flash or in the studio. If you shoot with natural light, you must know where the the light source coming from and if possible position your subject facing the light source. Like in my son picture above, if he doesn’t look above the sky and just look at eye level without looking up, his eyes would not catch the “catchlight” and his eyes will be dark without any white spot or catchlight, so when my son look up to the sky, I shot it quickly before my son turn the other way around.

If you are shooting a model or adult where you can position your subject, just ask them to look at where the light source is coming from, I mean a brighter light source, it may be a sky, a neon light at night or anything that is brighter in front of the eyes. If that is not possible, I mean if it is not possible to “direct” your subject, then you position yourself, where in certain angles you might get a catchlight in the eyes of that person. Very easy, find the source of the light, position your subject and captured it.

Why “Catchlight”, what is so interesting about catchlight? Catchlight will add depth and life to the eyes of your subjects. Without Catchlight a portrait will look lifeless. A portrait without catchlight will not be completed. Sometimes in photography or in life, there is a small-small things that make a big difference. A “Catchlights” is one of those things.

One more thing, to get the color or The Tone like the picture of my son above I use a technique in my eBook, The Photoshop Secret of The Tone. In the eBook, there is a tutorial about how to get the tone with Curves and RGB Channels. Get My eBook HERE

Get The Secret HERE


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