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The Importance of Catchlights in Portrait Photography

In portrait photography the most important element is without doubt the eyes of the subject. Lively and dramatic eyes sets the mood of the shot where as a set of dull eyes could easily ruin it. Catch light is the reflection of a light source in the subject’s eye. The highlight thus caused adds depth and dimension to the eyes, giving it life and thereby enhancing the overall feel of your portrait photograph.

Catchlights in Portrait Photography
Photo By Tonymadrid

Size of Catch lights

Catch lights varies in size and shape depending on the size and shape of the light source / sources used and their relative distance from your subject. For example a very large light source when placed far from the subject will only create a small catch light in your subjects eye and vice versa.

Catchlights in Portrait Photography
Photo By Aedo Pultrone

Shape of Catch lights

Depending on the shape of your light source the shape of the catch light in your subject’s eye will also change. When more than one light source is used in a shot there may be a number of catch lights with varying sizes and shapes in your subject’s eyes. In those cases it’s your job as a photographer to decide which ones to keep and which ones to remove in post processing.

Catchlights in Portrait Photography
Photo By Daniel Horacio Agostini

Position of Catch lights

If you look at portrait photographs from the early days of photography catch lights were always placed either at the 10 o’ clock position or at the 2’o clock position. And it will be a single catch light of medium proportion in each eye. Perhaps this was influenced by the master painters of those times who more often than not used such techniques in their work.

Catchlights in Portrait Photography
Photo By Emma Brown

But now days with the luxury of all those lights and studio rigs at our disposal and not to forget our photoshop skills we are free to experiment with as much variations of catch lights the we could think of. Experimenting with different sizes, shapes and their positions will eventually make you an expert in creating the perfect effect that best suits your subject.

In the next article we will discuss about Photography - Portrait Photography - 7 Tips for Creative Portrait Photography

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