How to Find the Best Indoor Lighting Using Catchlights

Updated: March 28, 2017 Mpix Support Guest Post

Lighting, lighting, lighting… Yes, it’s all I ever talk about!

Well… you’ve got me friend. I do talk about lighting a lot, but that’s because it’s one of THE most important things to master as a beginning photographer. Not to mention it’s one of the harder things to figure out. But once you do, I promise, you’ll be rocking your photos big time!

I’ve shared about catchlights in the past but wanted to go a bit more in depth about how to use catchlights to determine whether you have good lighting for your photos.

What is a catchlight?

Catchlights are the reflection of your light source in your subject’s eyes.  Catchlights make the eyes sparkle.

What can I learn from a catchlight?

A well placed catchlight lets you know that your subject’s face is in ideal light to take a beautiful photo.

How do I know if your catchlight is well placed?

A catchlight in the lower half of the eye means that the light is coming from below your subject.  Remember what it looks like to shine a flashlight under your chin?  Scary right?  

This is most often seen when your subject is lying down with feet towards the light source. When you see this you’re going to want to flip your subject around, or you will get crazy shadows on the face. Always light from the top of the head down.

A catchlight in only one eye means that the light source is coming directly from the side of your subject.  While there may be some instances you would want that kind of shadowing, most of the time you will want catchlights in both eyes.  Try angling your subject about 45 degrees from the light for nice shadows and catchlights.  

A round catchlight in the center of both eyes means you’ve used a flash. I am a big fan of finding good natural light and avoiding flash at all costs. Catchlights in the center of an eye can really make a shot look artificial and takes the expressiveness out of someone’s eyes. Personally, I LOVE the depth that comes from being able to look into the eyes of your subject in a photo. So, if at all possible, avoid using your on camera flash!

A catchlight in the upper portion of both eyes means that your subject is in fantastic light. You should grab that shot asap!

Take action!

Finding catchlights is something you need to practice. When you’re out with your husband, playing with your kiddos or having coffee with a friend, I want you to start taking mental note of where the catchlights are…even if you don’t have a camera with you. Then, think through how you might move your subject to find better catchlights. Take some time to practice this with your camera as well, and look at your subject’s catchlights before your photo and on your screen once you’ve taken the picture! Move that subject around until  you’re able to get some great shots with perfectly placed catchlights!

Once you master this your indoor lighting issues will seem a WHOLE lot easier, so play around a bit. The more you practice, the better you will get at viewing things with this new perspective!

Want more practice? Join hundreds of photographers in the Beginners Photography Class!  Watch video tutorials jam packed with tips and tricks focused on improving your photography skills so you can master your camera and shoot like a pro. You will have a community of peers to go through the class with, and me as your mentor the whole way through! So, whatcha’ waiting for?  Sign up here!




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