How to use catchlights to make your portraits more powerful
Catchlights may be a small detail, but they’re very important in portrait photography. In this video from Light Club, you will learn why these little reflections of light are so essential and what they can do to make your portraits more powerful and help you send a message.
We often hear that the eyes are “windows to the soul.” When looking at people, as well as at a photo of them, the eyes can tell you a lot about the emotions. And when it comes to photos, it’s not just the eyes – but the catchlights play an important role, too.
You can see early examples of catchlights in some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings. In modern day, photographers aim to capture them in their subjects’ eyes, too. And there are basically to ways two do it: using natural light or studio lighting. You can rely on window light, either direct or with the help of a reflector. On the other hand, you can go with studio lighting and make all sorts of catchlights (even star-shaped).
Strong catchlights make the eyes “pop.” Using a ring light can give your subject a surreal, super-natural look. Catchlights in the lower half of the eyes can give off a little “creepy” vibe. In the video, you can see plenty of great examples, and Martin Schoeller is among photographers who create really prominent catchlights in his portraits. As a result, you feel like you can “stare into the soul” of his subjects.
A little editing can make the eyes and the catchlights more prominent, too. With some dodging and burning, you can make the eyes seem livelier and more emphasized.
But what happens when you take a portrait without the catchlights in the eyes? Well, this makes the eyes seem lifeless. Working out the prominent catchlights can humanize the subject. But on the other hand, eyes without the catchlights (or with very subtle ones) can create a cold distance between the subject and the viewer. It all depends on what you want to achieve.
The video concludes with the words: “The power is in your eyes. And it’s in your hands.” So, think about the eyes and the catchlights just like you think about the other aspects of your shoot. And if you need a handy trick to figure out the light and the catchlights, you can use a simple marble.
[The key to powerful portraits: the Eyes | Light Club]
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.