Alright… I will admit I’m being a little melodramatic with the title for this post however, I would like to share my thoughts about the subject. I’d also love to know you thoughts as well. Over the past several years from time to time I’ve seen a number of comments in many popular photography forums about multiple catchlights in peoples photos. Mine included. Not to mention several discussions at seminars and photography group meetings. Personally I’ve never understood why this is such an issue for some? Why is it taboo to think we can’t have more than highlight or catchlight in our eyes at a time? I won’t say I’m not guilty of going over the top on occasion with one to many light sources, and this can be distracting to an image.
Multiple catchlights with odd shapes occur naturally when outdoors. You can see in the example above, there are three reflections of light in the eye. This was taken with the little boy in covered shade. All natural light. The ground and sky are reflecting light back in to his eyes, the shape of the bridge he is under is giving shape to the catchlight as well as the people in the foreground watching him have his picture taken. The trees impact the scene as well.
Another natural light example taken in a shade of a tall tree. You can see here with the introduction of a white reflector to help with the lighting I have more than one catchlight in the eyes. Again, odd shapes and multiples. The white reflector could have easily been a white wall or object in the yard reflecting light.
Now stepping in to the world of flash photography, this is where I think people get a little caught up on only having one catchlight in the eyes. Well… we only have one sun, so it would be reasonable to think we should only have one light source creating the one catchlight…right? Not really, as the other examples will show as the ones above have, our eyes pick up on reflections.
What if you need more light to fill in the shadows? In this image a large softbox was the main light source and I used my reflector panel skin on the floor to push a little more light on to the subject, which is reflected in to the eyes. Does the image suffer from having more than one light source or reflection shown in the eyes? I don’t think so, you might?
What if the only light is coming from a direction which isn’t very natural for a main light source? It’s an odd shape, not coming in from the right direction we are used to seeing?
Multiples but this time, from the side and not from over the top? Odd shapes as well.
These catchlights are really funky! The main flash was fired in to a large wall, I’m being reflected in to the scene and this is creating an unusual shape to the catch light. The light is reflected from the floor as well, creating the second catchlight in the base of the eye.
OMG!! My most recent session which really inspired me to talk about this subject as I had people asking about the multiple catchlights in the eyes. Some people loved the look, others thought there should only be one light in the eyes and asked me to remove the bottom reflections.
You see numerous examples of multiple catchlights in magazine covers, beauty shots, natural light portraits and so on. Again, I’ve never really understood this debate about having one or more catchlights in the eyes.
My final thoughts about the subject. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I’m not one to get hung up on how many catchlights are in the eyes. There are times when I feel they can be distracting. For the most part, as long as they do not detract from the image, I’m fine with multiples. Are you?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and please share your thoughts below.
Video above : Sean Armenta | One Light Beauty Shoot—solid lighting technique and have a look at the catchlights.
Galley below is made up of the image samples above.