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Thread: Catch light

  1. #1
    Ross's Avatar
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    Catch light

    Hi everyone

    Someone said: “Vermeer (Johan Vermeer was a Dutch painter) added catch lights to his portrait. You can, too, with Photoshop Elements”. In my mind: Are there some rules to do catch lights artificially? Please give me your opinions about this portrait in example. Thank you very much.

    My tool: Lens: 70-200 f4; PTS: CS5, composition net: Fibonaci

    Catch light

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Catch light

    Ross

    I'm no portraitist, but there's one issue I can see re the suggestion of adding in catchlights in a photograph.

    If the lighting set up you used to capture the image (be that natural or artificial light) did not of itself throw catchlights onto the eye(s) of the subject, the the addition of catchlights via a post-processing technique is essentially going to be 'wrong'. Because the light is going to be coming from one (or more directions) and you're going to introduce the illusion of light coming from yet another direction to give the impression of a reflection having been present, it's surely is going to look 'wrong'; i.e.unbalanced.

    If you want a catchlight in the image (and I think that's a basic tenet of portraiture) then you need to get the lighting set up right so that it's there in the capture.

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    Re: Catch light

    I don't often add catchlights but I often brighten up existing catchlights that are there. If you want to add them then you need some artistic ability or they will look wrong as Donald points out. However you don't need to be Vermeer! I think that if people don't know you added them then they will generally not notice. Here I added a catchlight in the left eye - should I / shouldn't I ? - well as we all know there is no answer in photography or economics - just differing opinions. In your portrait if you added those well I would not know if they were added or not or just tweaked a bit. For me they add something to the portrait.

    Catch light

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    Re: Catch light

    I don't usually add catchlights to human portraits because I have tried several times and have been unsuccessful in achieving natural looking catchlights. However, I frequently add them in animal portraits. My Maltese have large black eyes which look somewhat dead without catchlights and for some reason I can make the catchlights look natural in the dog portraits.

    Normally, I will use a fill-flash or several studio flashes anytime that I shoot a dog's portrait and these will provide the needed catchlights. There are sometimes, though, when the shot is just a grab and I don't have a flash on the camera. I will then add a catchlight in Photoshop. I don't have any specific system for placing the catchlights, I just experiment.

    When I shoot wildlife or zoo animals, I will most always use a flash; even when the distance is too great for the flash to accomplish any fill. Even at a distance, the flash will provide catchlights in the animals eyes which might not have been there without the flash.

  5. #5

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    Re: Catch light

    Because I nearly always shoot with studio strobes or portable flashes I tend to get catchlights anyway (in fact, if I weren't getting them I'd probably be taking a 2nd look at my lighting setup). I do enhance them if required (if they're occuring in the wrong part of the eye, or if there are distracting multiple catchlights).

    If you're in to "faking it" it's pretty easy to add a custom shape in Photoshop.

    Catch light

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    Ross's Avatar
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    Re: Catch light

    thanks a lot, Donald

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Catch light

    Quote Originally Posted by tihsgod View Post
    ~ Here I added a catchlight in the left eye - should I / shouldn't I ? - well as we all know there is no answer in photography or economics - just differing opinions. In your portrait if you added those well I would not know if they were added or not or just tweaked a bit. For me they add something to the portrait.

    Catch light
    Hi Neil,

    I agree you don't need to be Vermeer and I don't do it often either, and even then, as Richard, often to animal shots.

    If you are going to 'fake it' like this and provide an artificial light, then you have to ask, given it might be a believable catchlight from an under exposed fill flash, why isn't it also (more) visible in the other eye? At that angle of head, apparent direction of fill and the eyeball curvature, I believe we should see one there too. I'd also question the 'double dot' nature of it - a little rectangle, ideally plotted as if onto the eye's curved surface would be better.

    As an alternative - given the apparent direction of the warm fill to camera left (model right), something less small and sharp, and of a colour temperature to match the fill, might have worked better.

    Just seen the EXIF 1/250s at f/1.2 - I see you got the focus right

    That's enough waffle from me, cheers,

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    Re: Catch light

    Hi Dave,

    yes you are right it is not technically correct. I just looked for a shot where I had added a catchlight, maybe i should have found a better one (if I have any ) What I tried to do was just to brighten that eye for compositional sake. Fact is I usually just dodge existing catchlights so I need to get better at making real fakes

    However, I used to paint and I recall reading someone who wrote that you don't paint trees you paint symbols of trees. The mind will interpret the symbol and create a tree. So if someone looks at a photo as am image then I do not think they will see anything out of place but if you look at it from a technical aspect then you course will see how rubbish it is

    cheers, neil

  9. #9
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    Re: Catch light

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    If you're in to "faking it" it's pretty easy to add a custom shape in Photoshop.
    I do believe kelby training has an example on exactly that

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