The catchlight is a little, likely overlooked trick that will make your portrait photography extra eye-catching.
One of the first lessons we learn when it comes to portrait photography is to make sure that the eyes of our subjects are in focus. To take things up a notch and make your snaps even more powerful and striking, you can add this simple trick to your portrait photography arsenal: use a catchlight to illuminate the eyes of your subject. If this is something you’re hearing about just now, we’ve found a quick video tutorial that demonstrates it.
“The eyes are the windows of the soul,” so the popular saying goes, and it applies even more to portrait photography. As the central element to your photo, the eyes draw the viewers to your subject, and give them a glimpse of the mood, emotion, and personality you captured. By using a catchlight, you don’t only put greater emphasis on the eyes, but also use it to create various effects on your portraits.
Let the quick video below by Light Club give you an idea on how it works:
There you have it. First, the catchlight, simply put, is the light reflected in the eyes. Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the first artists to use it to draw the eyes of the viewer to an image to create the look of soulful portraits. This turned out to be perfect, especially for close-up shots.
The video tells us that the catchlight can be produced both by natural light or studio/artificial light. By producing strong catchlights, you can make the eyes pop and bring your portraits to life. Certain lights and techniques create specific effects: use ring lights to give your portraits a supernatural vibe, while catchlights placed at the lower half of the eyes give off a eerie look. Big lights put close to the subject create very strong catchlights that make viewers want to stare straight into their eyes — and soul.
One final trick when you’re finishing your portraits in post is to dodge the iris and burn the pupils and the eyes’ outer ring.
Want more tips and tricks for using catchlights? For starters, check out our tips on the easiest way to get catchlight in eyes and getting your subject to look into the light for better catchlights.
Check out and subscribe to the Light Club YouTube channel for more of their photography tips and tricks.
Screenshot image from the video by Light Club