Useful Photography Tip #115: Have Your Subject Look into the Light for Better Catchlights in the Eyes

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When shooting portraits of someone and using a flash or studio strobe, there is a big secret to getting more details and extra beauty out of the shot. It first starts with specular highlights–which are extra details that are brought out by adding in extra light to a scene. But sometimes specular highlights render something even better: catchlights. Catchlights are usually associated with what you see in the eyes–and they have to do with a reflection of the light usually on the irises. What the catchlights look like vary depending on the light modifier. However, it is generally accepted that umbrellas, octabanks, and ring flashes often deliver the best catchlights in the eyes.

Getting them is fairly simple: simply place the light and light modifier in front of your subject and shoot. But in general, the rule also states that the bigger the light modifier and the closer it is to your subject, the better the catchlights will be. So to get better catchlights, we encourage you to first use a really large light modifier then place it close to your subject. Make sure that the light is in front of them and a little bit above them while facing downward. As an extra tip, we recommend also not moving the light modifier anywhere beyond a 45 degree angle of the subject while they’re facing the camera.

Then just shoot. For the absolute best results, set your flash’s power output to a setting that lets you shoot just slightly stopped down with the eyes in focus.