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How To Create A Catchlight With The Flash

What does the built in catchlight panel on camera flashes do?

To quote the flash user’s manual:

"With the catchlight panel, you can create a catchlight in the subject's eyes to add life to the facial expression."

Flash units from major camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon have two built in panels, one of them is a white panel which is roughly the size of the flash head.

How do Use the Flash Catchlight Panel?

Gently pull out the wide panel

Built in panels in camera flashes
Built in panels in camera flashes

the catchlight panel will also come out along with it. Now push only the wide panel back in.

Camera flash catchlight panel
Camera flash catchlight panel

How does the flash catchlight panel work?

When bouncing the flash off ceilings the flash head is pointed upwards in a 90° angle. This means light from the flash only reaches the subject from a high angle. This might cause dark shadows under the eyes, even worse if there are not any other light sources present in the shooting location the subjects eyes will be devoid of any catchlights.

How does the flash catchlight panel work?
How does the flash catchlight panel work?

Your flash unit has a built in catchlight panel to help you out in such situations; just pull out the catchlight panel and it will reflect a small amount of light straight towards the subject reducing the harshness of the shadows and creating catchlights in your subjects eyes.

Tips for using flash catchlight panel

  1. Point the flash head straight towards your subject and then upward by 90°. The catchlight will not work if you rotate the flash head left or right.
  2. To get the best catchlight effect, stay within 1.5m / 4.9ft of the subject.
  3. If you're using direct flash, then there's no need to use the panel, because the main beam itself will create a catchlight.
  4. If you're bouncing off a wall, the panel will probably be at the wrong angle to work.

What if my flash doesn’t have a catchlight panel built in?

DIY Catchlight Panel
DIY Catchlight Panel

Need not worry if your flash unit does not have a built in catchlight panel; just take a nice white stiff card, like an index card, cut it to fit the size of the flash head and attach it with a rubber band. It will work like a charm and best part is that you could do this to third party flashes as well.

Related Reading

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  4. How to Trigger your Off Camera Flash
  5. Understanding TTL Flash – Flash Terminology, Anatomy, Functions and Features
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