Catch Lights in Photography in 5 Simple Steps

Catch lights in portrait photography bring depth into portraits.

A definition.

What is a catch light? Wikipedia defines it as follows: “A catch light may be an artifact or lighting method, or have been purposely engineered to add a glint or “spark” to a subjects eye during photography”

If you look at the photo of Ice, my dog, he has a catch light in his eyes. This gives the photograph more depth and him a sparkle in his eyes.

Why catch lights?

Catch lights create dimension and depth in portraits. Without it the portraits can seem dull and lifeless. It helps to make the subject feel alive.

1. How to create catch lights.

In natural light position your subject at an 45 degree angle facing the light. If you are indoors that can be a window or a door for instance.

Outside in open shade use reflectors, like a small silver one placed in the lap of your subject to bounce the light into the eyes.

To read more about natural light in photography go here:

2. Catch lights and size.

The closer your subject is to the light source, the larger is the sparkle or light in their eyes. The size and shape of them vary depending on your light source also.

3. Position of catch lights.

Make sure the catch lights are in the same position in both eyes. The best position seems to be at a 10 o’clock or 12 o’clock position.

4. Study and practice.

Study other photographers portraits in relation to the light in the eyes and see what resonates most with you. And then go out and practice, practice, practice.

5. Post processing.

If you dislike the catch lights, but you love the portrait you can fix this easily in programs like Photoshop.


Now it’s your turn: Practice capturing the sparkle in your subjects eyes and comment below.



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