Catchlights in the eyes will make your portraits look better

Professional photographers with camera and laptop computer working at studio. Photographer with assistant sitting in office and looking at camera. Team of photographers working together.

While taking photographs, many dental photographers focus only on capturing teeth correctly in terms of the technique.

If you want to create great portraits, you can’t forget about the eyes and what is reflected in them. Catchlights in the eyes usually look attractive and make your portraits true eye-catchers.

“The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reveal the truth about the human” – you have already read or heard something like that, haven’t you? Because it’s a rather risky statement on a blog for dentists, I’ll say that apart from a pretty smile it is the eyes that are most important in a portrait.

When taking portrait photographs of their patients, most doctors concentrate on the correct focus setting. Usually we focus on the eyes or the teeth and more and more cameras are equipped with the function of their automatic detection. But not only the focus is important – the light reflected in the eyes of the person matters too.

Leonardo da Vinci applied catchlights to make the people he painted look more vivid. The ability of setting up and selecting light appropriately, will give your portraits extraordinary character. The light will be reflected in the eyes differently depending on if it comes through the window, from the softbox, or from the ring lamp. Remember about this while taking photographs and take time to set up the light or the model right.


The simplest way to achieve a pretty catchlight is to use the reflector.
Below you can see a few shots from our session held while recording with Carlos Ayala. We photographed our model, Michelle, in such a manner that the reflector can be seen in her eyes.


In our daily routine, we don’t notice the light reflected in human eyes because this is something common. A person appearing in a photograph without catchlights might look unnatural. Catchlights can be additionally enhanced in post-production, which doesn’t require advanced skills. The video below presents photographs by famous photographers, thanks to which it’s clear how much difference is made by these small reflections (or their lack).

I hope that this article has encouraged you a bit to experiment with lighting.
If you want to learn more about portrait lighting, I recommend the following lessons:

Portrait with Speedlight


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