An Introduction to Catchlights

Catchlights are the tiny reflections of light in your subject’s eyes. They’re created by the camera’s lens, and they help to give your photographs a more realistic look.

Catchlights can be used to improve a portrait or an image of an object, but they are especially important for macro photography, where lighting is often an issue.

How Catchlights Work

A catchlight is simply a reflection of light from a surface inside your lens onto your subject’s eye. The catchlight will be directly opposite the main source of light in your scene — so if you have one light on your subject’s left side and another on their right side, the catchlight will appear on their left eye.

Catchlights are created by using a small mirror, such as a reflector or a piece of reflective tape. The mirror is placed just behind the subject so that it reflects light back into his or her eyes.

The size and shape of a catchlight is determined by several factors:

Where you position your camera relative to the subject’s face (the farther away you are, the larger the catchlight)

The size of the area being illuminated (the smaller the area being lit, such as a single candle or flashlight, means fewer options for reflecting light back into your lens).

The shape of the catchlight depends on how you aim your reflector — you can make them round or oval, depending on what you prefer. You can also position multiple mirrors to create multiple catchlights in each eye.

If you don’t have any mirrors handy, you can also use other reflective surfaces, like a pool of water, a shiny car hood or even a polished tile floor.

An image without catchlights can look flat and lifeless, but catchlights can make an image feel more interesting, engaging and dynamic.

A catchlight is like a mini portrait within a portrait — it helps make the subject’s eyes stand out and gives them life.

Catchlights are especially important for portraits because they make people look more human. Without them, someone’s eyes can appear lifeless or even dead — which is not something you want when shooting portraits!

Tips to use Catchlights

Catchlights are bright spots that appear in your photograph because the light was reflected off something, such as a window, table top, or other surface. They occur when there is a difference in the level of light between two areas of the photograph.

If you were taking a photo in the evening and the sky had changed to a lighter color than usual, for example, this would create a light source in the middle of the photograph and you could create a catchlight in the sky. Catchlights in photographs can be used to create interesting effects. For example, if you took a picture of a sunset, you could use the sunlight shining through the clouds as the main light source and use the catchlight as a contrast to create a more interesting and effective photograph.

A good photograph is one in which you can see the subject clearly and the light is well balanced. A catchlight gives a photograph a bit of extra visual interest and makes the image more striking.

Look for light in a different place to create catchlights.

Catchlights can be created in many places in a photograph. If you are using flash, the catchlight is created by the light bouncing off something. This can be as simple as a piece of glass or as complex as a reflection in water. When you look in the distance, or at something bright, this light will enter the lens and create a catchlight. You may be able to notice it in the landscape, but more often it’s in an object that has a catchlight.

Photographers often use catchlights to make a photograph more interesting. To make a catchlight in a photograph, look at the subject in another part of the image and find something that reflects light. For example, if you were photographing a flower, you could point the camera at the sun to make the sun rays reflected off the flower appear brighter. If you were taking a picture of a beautiful view, you could point the camera in the opposite direction to make a catchlight in the mountains or clouds.

A photograph with a catchlight is one that is interesting and visually appealing.

Look for catchlights in objects around the room.

When you take a photograph of a room, you may be aware of the light entering from a window or the light reflecting off a wall or lampshade. However, you may not realize that this is also casting a catchlight on the room. The catchlight can make an object in a photograph more interesting.

Look for reflections in the bathroom or kitchen and find ways of making them more interesting. Use a mirror to reflect sunlight onto a room and make a catchlight. Look for a lampshade that casts a pattern on a room and creates a catchlight.

In a well-lit room, it’s easy to spot a catchlight. In a dark room, it can be hard to see a catchlight and you may need to use a flashlight to help you see it. Here, the flashlight has cast a shadow onto a table and a catchlight has formed.