Leanne Knuist Photography

3 Reasons I Love Catchlights

The twinkle in the eye! 

When you watch a movie or look at a photograph the catchlights play an integral role in setting the mood. We all know that when photographing a portrait the eyes should be sharpest and the focus of the image. 

The eyes are the windows to the soul.


  1. Dead or Alive

Catchlights bring your subject to life. When there is a lack of catchlights your subject may look lifeless. 


  1. Tells the story

The bigger the catch light the happier or sad emotion is presented. 

An average twinkle in the eye is basically a happy-go-lucky person.

The smaller the catchlight the less emotion or anger is felt through the eyes.


  1. Cinematography

A great cinematographer uses catchlights to evoke emotions in the audience. 

One of my favourite examples is when King Kong (Peter Jackson’s rendition) slips from the Empire State Building.

As he is busy dying you can actually see the catchlights going from big(emotional) to nothing as he dies.

Also, take note of the several catchlights in Ann Darrow’s eyes to intensify the pain and sadness she is going through.

A person in a high state of emotion has bigger catchlights. For example, kids crying.

The bad guy or monsters don’t have or have very few catchlights. They are regarded as emotionless.

The lighting also plays a big role, but that’s for another blog.


You can get different types of catchlights by using different light modifiers with your lights

  1. Soft diffused Round – Octobox

  2. Solid Round – Beauty DIsh

  3. Square – Rectangular or square softbox

  4. Ring around the pupil – Ring light

  5. Double Catchlight – 2 Softboxes:  Clamshell lighting or two on either side of the subject.

By just looking at the catchlight you can more or less see in a photograph what diffuser was used and at what angle the lights were placed. 

Another important tip is for the catchlight to sit to the left or right just above the pupil. This is a more natural place for the catchlight as the sun or other lights around you are above you.

Ring light Catchlight
Octobox Catchlight
Double CatchLight
Hard round Catchlight
Square Catchlight

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