How to Catch Light in a Photo Subject’s Eye

As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul. How you capture them sets the mood of your photos. These tips by Dedo Weigert Film will help you capture your subject’s eyes in just the right light:

“Light is an essential ingredient or tool. Light can be found or created in many different characters. Hard, soft, reflected and in many variations of noticeable or unnoticeable shapes and colors.”

How Catchlights Are Interpreted:

Reflections in the eye construe a number of messages.

  • Reflection in the upper part of the iris, not too small, at an angle of about 2 o’clock is one of the most common eye reflection patterns.
  • If the light source is even smaller, resulting in a pointy reflection, it is construed as a hard look—an aggressive look or the James Bond look.
how to capture reflections in the eye

The James Bond look

  • A small, soft light results in a pleasing look. However, the reflection should be on the upper corner of the eye—and most importantly, outside the center of the pupil.
how to capture catchlight

A large source of light creates a pleasing look.

  • A vertical light source produces an interesting effect, but two vertical lights on either side can be a little strange.
  • The reflection of a ring light on the eyes is most definitely alien looking if that reflection is around the center of the eye. If it’s in the center of the eye, it looks quite aggressive.
  • Even a large source of light will produce a small reflection unless you bring that light source close to the model or use a source of light that is sufficiently large.
  • A large reflection toward the upper part of the eye construes a gentler look. A similar large reflection toward the bottom part of the eye is considered pensive.
creating mood with catchlight

The pensive look

  • The cow-eyed look works beautifully when you want a soft look.
The cow-eyed look

The cow-eyed look

Though catchlights seem like a simple concept, it’s amazing how a particular eye reflection lighting pattern can alter the meaning and mood of a photo.

“The reflection in the eye is a very important part of the message. An eye without a reflex, without sparkle can be void of expression, without communication.”

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