Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Lesson on Catchlight

I am still learning photography, and I regularly make mistakes…

Here is a picture I shot during a photo session. The exposure is right, and the model is photogenic. Nonetheless, I am far from satisfied. Why?

Now, let’s zoom in to model’s eyes. There is one major flaw: No catchlight!

Now, let’s look at another picture. In this one, you can see the catchlight in the model’s eyes.

Catchlight makes a subject look livelier. There are several ways we can create catchlight in the eyes. We can, for example, get the subject to face the sun or light, but this is not always possible. Alternatively, we can fire the flash into the eyes; one possible downside of this approach is that it may render the picture with less 3D-feel. Finally, we can use some white surface to reflect sunlight into the eyes of the subject, but this technique is somewhat cumbersome.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that many photographers dislike flash. But you see, flash can create catchlight in the eyes. It’s not so bad after all.


  1. Good point. I hate lifeless eyes too. If I may add. The first picture's background are too busy. Try use bigger aperture or shifting your angle.

  2. Now, this is something I never though about but you are right, catchlight is important and can make or break a portrait. Good point!

  3. ooh, thanks for that trick.. now i know there must be catchlight in the eyes to make the subject livelier.. but how to do that ah??

  4. and pardon me, but the first photo looks a bit funny to me.. the focus doesn't seem to be the model herself, but then wheel on her hand - maybe it's the angle and frame you took the photo..

  5. Lesson learned, thanks for sharing.

  6. That shows how little I know about photography. I never heard the term "catch light"

    I enjoy your blog. Terima kasih

  7. VanillaSeven
    Thanks for your comment.

    wenn, Zhu, Grass

    The 'how' is described in the 2nd paragraph from bottom.

    Thanks for dropping by :)

  8. Oh I didn't know that's called Catchlight. I read from Xiaxue's blog that she used a Ring light to create the circle of light in her eyes in pictures. Looks like Japanese anime girls!

  9. Indeed, catchlight does enhance the photo. Thanks for the hilight.

    Oops! I thought the first photo looks kinda funny with that pinwheel. I thought it was added on to the photo. My bad.

  10. I agree that catchlight does make the eyes look livelier. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Wow...very technical ler. I don't think I will be able to snap beautiful photos like you shutterbug o. :/

  12. great post!! thanks for sharing... the girl does look lot more 'lit up' in the last photo..

  13. Can we create catchlight using Photoshop?

  14. Jasmine
    Possible, but I haven't tried that.