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There are several ways to make your subject appear more "alive" and add some energy to an image, but one of the best ways is to simply make sure that the subject has catchlights in his or her eyes. It is generally best to have the catchlights placed at either 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock on the subject's eyes, but as with any art, it's all about personal preference.

This first photo is my sweet little man. Because his eyes have dramatic catchlights, my eyes are drawn straight to them when I look at this photo.

The size and shape of your subject's catchlights will depend on the size and shape of the light source (or reflection of the light source) that is lighting his or her face. In this case, the light source was a very large sidewalk that was on the ground in front of him. I have found that things like concrete, nearby buildings, etc. can produce amazing catchlights, and amazing light for the photo in general. These objects can act as a reflector and bounce light back into the subject's face.

To get the full effect of the "reflector," you will want to make sure that you place the subject fairly close to where the sun is falling on it, without actually having the subject in direct sunlight.

Here are a few more images with catchlights. Some of them are more subtle than others. :) This is my beautiful little sister-in-law. We went out and took these photos of her at the end of January, and there was LOTS of snow around us - it was a fantastic reflector and bounced some beautiful light onto her face.

When I am taking pictures and I don't feel like there is quite enough light in the eyes for a particular shot, I will ask the subject simply to look at the sky. That is almost always enough to add some life to the eyes.

So, when you're with friends and family, look at their eyes. Watch the way that the light falls on them, and notice the location and shape and size of the catchlights. The more that you do this, the better you will be at creating catchlights in your portraits.


Sarah said...

Good tips, Alexis, thanks! Your sister-in-law is super pretty. her pictures look great!

Carey said...

Thanks for this! I really like the suggestion to start paying attention in regular life to the catchlights! I'll be doing that!

Holly said...

Those are great shots! Thanks for the tips!

Julie said...

Thank you. I always have problems with light, either to much, to little or just not in the right spot. Thank you. I just found you tonight and am a follower and am wanting to learn as much as I can from you. Thank you so much.
Take care and God Bless!!!