Photographing Beautiful Catchlights in the Eyes

October 8, 2012

in Dana Suggs, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

Learn How to Photograph Catchlights in the Eyes | Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

As most of you know, from reading my other photography tutorials, I may be a tad long-winded, and may find humor in everything.  Today’s probably won’t be any different.  If you don’t have the time for the long-winded or humor…..in a nutshell:

Find the light.

If you do have time for long-winded, humor, and probably some funny-looking drawings, then sit back and grab a cup of joe and continue on.  Just no spitting on your screen, that’s just gross.

One of the MOST asked questions I get is “How do you photograph such beautiful catchlights in the eyes?”

Find the light.

To Capture Beautiful Catchlights:

1. Find your light source.

In any photo shoot…whether professional, hobbyist, or just a Mom-with-a-camera…this is your first step.

Where is your light coming from?  Look around.  Are you outside?  Are you in open shade?  Are you inside?  Where is your light coming from?  (I’ll wait a minute while you look around you.  You know you did.  😉 HAAA!  My light source is a computer monitor at the moment and an ugly fluorescent light from the ceiling fan.

Here are a few examples of my favorite areas where I can find the perfect light for beautiful catch lights:

  • Open shade:

    (Angie has done a GREAT series of tutorials on this if you’d like more information about open shade:  Utilizing Open Shade Effectively and Finding the Light in Open Shade)

    This photo was taken under a covered walk way, with her facing the sun.

    Light source: sun, filtered by the shade of the walkway.

 

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Photo taken inside a garage, with her facing the open garage door.

Light source: sun, filtered by the shade of the garage.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Photo taken under a carport, with her facing out toward the sun.

Light source: sun, filtered by the shade of the carport.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

  • Open Sky:

    Photo taken in the evening, facing the sun.

    Light source: sun, filtered by the distance of the sun in the evening light.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Photo taken in the evening, facing the sun.

Light source:  sun, filtered by the distance of the sun in the evening light.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

  • Cloudy Sky:

    (Don’t miss this great tutorial from Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman: 5 Reasons I Love Taking Photos On Cloudy Days)

    Photo taken outside in the snow.

    Light source: sun, filtered through the clouds, light bouncing off of the snow on the ground as well.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Photo taken outside in my back yard.

Light source:  sun, filtered through the clouds.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

I do want to add for this particular light source, cloudy skies, the amount of catch lights is directly affected by 2 things:  amount of cloud cover and direction they are facing.  In the first photo, it was very overcast (LOTS of snow that day), and there was more light coming from the snow than from the sky.  In the second image, it was very overcast again, so I stood above her and had her look UP at me.  By facing the sky, I was able to still obtain those much-sought-after catch lights!

  • Window or door:

    Photo taken inside, facing the window.

    Light source:  sun, filtered through the window.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Photo taken inside, facing the open door.

Light source: sun, filtered through the open door.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

  • Flash:  

    Taken in a photo studio (isn’t she FUN?)

    Light source:  beauty dish flash

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Even if the subject isn’t looking directly at you, if they are turned to the light source, you can catch those beautiful catch lights!  (I think my flash was a touch too hot.  I was practicing.)

Light source:  Alien Bee strobe diffused in an umbrella

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Now, after you have FOUND the light…..you need to:

2. Face the light.

In all of these settings, it would have done no good to FIND the light, if I did not face the subject TO the light!   In the very beginning of learning this photography trick, I actually took my subjects by their shoulders (yes, even a client or two) and looked intently at their eyes and physically turned them in circles until I saw the light appear in their eyes!  (To all my clients I have done this to, I apologize for my creepiness.  I may have scared a few of you.)  But now, I just find my light source.

And here is where my wonderful stick figures come into play….

In the Open shade examples, it is important to FACE your subject where the light is coming from.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

(My cute little chunky has to REPRESENT!  Hail to the chunky!)

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

(I know you’re so jealous at my stick figure ability.  Be jealous. HA!)

I have beautiful light in my front doorway every morning and early afternoon.  So, I use this light to light my subject whenever I have to shoot indoors, and by doing that, I capture that beautiful light in her eyes.

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

Let me show you:

Facing AWAY from the open door

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

I have this hazy glow from the window in the living room, I have light in her eyes, but I also have shadows on her face.

But, when I turn her around to FACE the doorway where all of my light is, everything lights up!

Learn How to Catch Light in the Eyes - Photography Tutorial via I Heart Faces

It’s the same room, same cute girl….but the lighting has completely changed.

I know, it is not ALWAYS possible to do this, but whenever it is within our power to do so, this will help our portraits sparkle just a little bit more!

(Eyes were NOT enhanced in any of the photos outside of the regular editing of the photo.  Since I’ve learned this trick, I haven’t needed to!)

Be kind and always keep learning!

Dana Suggs is an on-location photographer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, specializing in Children and Seniors photography.  She’s been married for 20 years and is the mother of 3 natural-born children and proud foster-parent (soon-to-be ADOPTIVE mom) to 3 more.  She believes that her insides are filled with sparkles and glitter and that’s why it’s a little chunkier than everyone else.  HA!  You can find her on her Photography website, Facebook Fanpage (she LOVES stalkers Likers) and, of course, she is a PROUD member of our Creative Team for I Heart Faces!

 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly H-Y August 27, 2015

Wonderful, easy-to-follow tutorial … and love your sense of humor!!

Reply

Ken August 27, 2015

Dana,
I really appreciate the way you give great visuals and describe how you found the light for each pic. Glad you see you also share your life and love through adoption. Our son and his wife are doing the same.
Thanks again!

Reply

Heather Carslake July 9, 2014

Excellent tutorials, in nice “bite size” portions! Will keep following you as I feel I am learning a lot. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us all.
Heather

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Beth March 20, 2014

Just shared this with my mommy play and learn camera group. It is a great overview. Thanks for posting!

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Andrea January 7, 2013

Verdaderamente bello! Gracias por tan valiosa informacion!

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Laurel C. October 16, 2012

I love your beautiful pictures! I’m still trying to capture catchlights in my photography, but here’s my problem: when I face my subject toward the light, I’m usually in between the subject and the light. Which, of course, places my shadow over the subject. What should I be doing differently?

Reply

Scarlette October 12, 2012

I enjoyed your post… I have learned so much in getting the perfect angles filtered from different sources of light. This is a great tutorial and very helpful for individuals like me who are amateurs in photography.

Reply

Boris Rasonja October 11, 2012

Photographing Beautiful Catchlights in the Eyes http://t.co/l9iTvRFQ #photography via @tvarne

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Photography Office October 10, 2012

Photographing Beautiful Catchlights in the Eyes http://t.co/ZZYVltoi #photography

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Natalia Gómez C October 10, 2012

¿Cómo capturar el brillo de los ojos en un retrato? Aquí, algunos consejos http://t.co/eOdQThKq (vía @brasonja) #photo

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Boris Rasonja October 10, 2012

Photographing Beautiful Catchlights in the Eyes http://t.co/l9iTvRFQ #photography

Reply

Declan Mc Glone October 9, 2012

Photographing Beautiful Catchlights in the Eyes #photography http://t.co/pUKvEYPk

Reply

Bethany October 9, 2012

Awesome kind of photography I love it..

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Ana October 8, 2012

Great information, thanks! I love your stick figures. I have about the same ability. :) Also, it was great to meet you this weekend at the IHF conference!

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Dana Suggs October 8, 2012

Larry……that is a good question.

If the subject is looking into harsh light, then yes, they definitely will be squinting. I don’t ever shoot in full sun or in that noon, harsh light.

The sample photos, the light was always diffused by something, either objects or just by the distance of the sun in the sky.

If you are shooting and the subject is squinting, try a turning them a little, so they still have the catch lights, but they aren’t having to squint. Because everyone knows squinting is just NOT attractive. 😀

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Larry October 8, 2012

Informative and very useful article but if the subjects are facing the sun, how do you handle eye squint?

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skeller October 8, 2012

ahhhh, I always love beautiful eye sparkle. and what I love nearly as much? Dana humor. :-)

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NiceMatters October 8, 2012

Beautiful photos! I am learning to be the biggest fan of natural light but need skills. This helps much!! Thank you. :)

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Susi October 8, 2012

Love, love this tutorial and want to try it out this afternoon. I’m learning so much from this community. Love Dana’s photography.

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Tina October 8, 2012

Thanks Dana! Great article.

(from a fellow Tulsan, actually BA :)

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Becky October 8, 2012

Dana, you are amazing! Thank you for the tips!

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Snekcip October 8, 2012

TOTALLY LOVED THIS TUTORIAL!!! Very informative and very entertaining!! Now what do I do about a cute dog that eyes TURN eerily green like something from a horror film. DO I turn her to the light, or just stick to photographing humans? Ha!!!

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