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How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

As I was researching topics to write about, I discovered that there really wasn’t an amazing tutorial out there on creating catchlights in your subjects eyes. I decided to put together this awesome guide on how to create those lights in the eyes!

I love catchlights. I use them a lot in my photography. Now, you might be asking…what is a catchlight?

A catchlight is defined as “a gleam of reflected light in the eye of a person in a photograph.” Basically, a catchlight is the light you see in someones eyes. It’s caused from reflected light entering the eye!



I love catchlights because it adds depth and dimension to your subject, it gives your subjects life. I’m kind of obsessed. Just look at all the photos on my blog, you’ll notice a good majority of them contain catch lights.

And now that I’ve mentioned these lights in the eyes, you won’t be able to stop seeing them in everyone’s eyes. Trust me, it happened to me!

Now that you know the what and the why to creating catchlights in the eyes, let’s learn the how. And, thankfully, it’s really easy! It takes a little bit of patience, practice, and eye training, but once you do that, you’ll never be able to stop seeing catchlights! Let’s get started.

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

how to create catchlights in the eyes

I might be biased, but I really think this is the best catchlight tutorial out there. Like I said earlier, I was having a really hard time finding a good tutorial on catchlights. So I really hope this helps you and helps improve your photography overnight. Because, in my opinion, it will!

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

it’s all about the light

I want you to do a little experiment for me. What you’ll need:

  • a person that will sit still
  • a window
  • your camera

Pretty simple material list, if I do say so myself. Alright, next I need you to turn off all the lights in your house. Are you done with that? Next position your person who is so willing to sit still for you, right next to your window. You’ll want the window to be to the left or the right of them, have them face your camera and then have them turn their head slightly towards the window, while looking at the camera with their eyes. Snap a picture (with correct exposure, of course). What do you notice? How are the shadows on the face? How big are the catch lights? What is the catchlights shape?

Alright, next have them face away from the window tilting their head towards you and the window. Take note of the shadows and the catchlights this time. You should have two completely different looking portraits, in the same spot, with catch lights. Am I right?

Next, make them sit a little farther away from the window, but still have them facing the window and tilting their head toward your camera. Is the catchlight bigger or smaller than before? What do you notice about the light?

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

1. have them look towards the light source

My first official tip (the one above was just a fun exercise to observe the light) is to have your subject look towards the light, or in other words, facing the light.

If shooting indoors, have them facing a window or an open door. This would be having the window behind you (the photographer) and right in front of your subject.

When outdoors, find open shade that has trees in the background (behind your subject) and a big open field behind you (the photographer) to help create catchlights. If you are shooting on an overcast day, have your subject look up ever so slightly to create catch lights.

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

2. move your subject around

The best thing about catch lights is you can see them before you ever press the shutter. Just look in your subject eyes. Do they have a light in them? Do you like the way they look? If not, change your perspective or move your subject. Slowly turn your subject until you have the catchlights you want.

Sometimes it’s as simple as turning them a few degrees to the right or left. Just the slightest movement can help create catchlights in the eyes.

How to Use Giant Softbox Photography | Aly Dawn Photography Self Portrait

3. the clock rule

Using a clock as your guide, you should always strive to have your catch lights at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock. I don’t always follow this rule (because, it’s honestly sometimes difficult to get your catchlights exactly right) but instead, I try to do the following few things in each of my photographs:

  • have catch lights in my subject eyes
  • make sure the catchlights aren’t in the middle of the eye (don’t let them cover the pupil)
  • The higher the catch lights, the better (in my opinion) I definitely don’t like them to be at 6 o’clock. The lowest I’d let it go is probably 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock. But Ideally I like the catchlights higher.

Although this is a ‘rule’ it can definitely be broken depending on your preference. This is where practice and patience will come in play. Find out what type of catch lights you like.

4. study photos that have catchlights and those that don’t

One thing that really helped me in understanding catch lights and why it was important, was seeing examples side by side of what it looks like to have catchlights and what it looks like to not have them. I was always drawn to images with catchlights more than the others.

Here an example of that. The below images where taken seconds apart. It was an overcast day, the lighting wasn’t amazing by any means. I had my son look directly at my camera. Notice how there aren’t any catch lights in his eyes? The eyes are dark and unflattering. Then I had my son look up at me and my camera. This created some beautiful catchlights!

Which one do you prefer? I sure hope you say the one with catch lights in it! Because that’s the correct answer. 😉

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes
no catchlights
How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes
catchlights

I really feel like the catch lights add so much to a portrait. By creating catchlights in your images, it will just give it that nice little sparkle it needs to take it to the next level.

5. notice the difference in catchlights

Depending on your light source, your catchlights will have different shapes to them. For example, a window or a softbox will have more of a square shape, whereas an outdoor catchlight using the biggest light source there is (the sun and sky) will create beautiful even catchlights. If you use an on-camera or off-camera flash, it will create tiny catch lights. These are my least favorite type of catch lights and I try to avoid them.

If you use a ring light, you will create those neat circle catch lights you so often see in YouTube videos. I personally like the more natural looking catchlights, but this is a cool technique I’m interested in trying out.

Let’s dive into the different types of catchlights to really understand them.

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

overcast skies

When photographing in overcast skies, your catchlights will be more spread out as opposed to concentrated to one area of the eye. This is possibly the most natural looking of all the catch lights. It is even across the eyes.

Remember that to achieve catchlights on overcast skies, you have to have your subject look up just a little bit, to help the eyes capture the light. If you have them looking straight at the camera, you won’t get much catchlights (as you can see in tip number 4).

How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes

sunny skies

For a few different reasons you’ll want to find open shade when photographing on a sunny day. The best time to photograph on a sunny day is an hour before sunset. When finding a location, I like to have treelines behind my subject, blocking the sun (the sun will be behind your subject) and an open field behind me (the photographer). By doing this you’ll allow the light behind you to bounce back on your subject and act as a kind of reflector.

Since there’s a lot of light bouncing around, you will get some beautiful catchlights!

How to use Catch Light Reflector

window light – overcast skies

Using window light on an overcast day is one of my favorite ways to get catchlights in my subjects. The light that comes in is softened because of the overcast sky, but then it’s even softer since it’s coming in through the window. It creates my favorite type of shadows and I love the look of my images when I shoot indoors on an overcast day.

The catchlights produced from overcast days indoors will be bigger and more concentrated depending on the size of your window.

when light isn’t ideal for catchlights

There are a lot of instances in capturing my daily life where the light just isn’t working out for capturing light in the eyes. When this happens, I focus on something else. I usually tend to photograph faceless images. Or I’ll take a picture of my son asleep. It’s ok to not always have catchlights, sometimes it adds to the mood.

The most important thing for you to do is to be intentional with when to not include catch lights. You want your viewer to understand why there isn’t a light in your subjects eye (for example, if they are crying and the mood of the overall image is a little darker).

Slow down, think about how to achieve catch lights, how to turn your subject, where to have them look. It’s not a race. (Well, sometimes it is with toddlers). Be intentional.

Did you start practicing using catch lights in your photography? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!



The Best Beginner Photography Tutorials

The Best Beginner Photography Tutorials

One thing I love about photography is that there is always something new to learn! And I love learning about photography from other photographers. There is always something to learn from those more experienced, the same experienced, or even some beginners. You can learn from each and every photographer. I firmly believe that.

I wanted to put together this list of my favorite Beginner Photography Tutorials.

I’m always on the lookout for good tutorials and so I wanted to provide you with ones that really will help improve your photography.

Here’s a fantastic list of the best photography tutorials and resources out there! They are in no particular order, as I love them all equally!

The Best Beginner Photography Tutorials - Improve Your Photography Now! | Aly Dawn Photography

the best beginner photography tutorials

I can’t wait to dive right into my favorite beginner photography tutorials, but real quick, have you heard about my course? I am writing a course on How to Capture Your Everyday Life and Create Art. If this sounds like a course you’d be interested in, please sign up below for news and information on when it will come out, early bird pricing, and beta testers. I hope to see you in the course really soon!

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Now on to that list I promised.

photography gear tutorials for beginners

10 PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR ESSENTIALS FOR BEGINNERS by FilterCrave

I really enjoyed reading through this gear list! I think it lists some great things for beginners. It’s a must read if you are just starting out.

MY FAVORITE PHOTO GEAR, TOOLS, AND RESOURCES by Aly Dawn

Couldn’t leave my own favorites off this list! If you’re interested in what I use and love, check out this post then!

THE BEST LENS TO BUY FIRST by Aly Dawn

I also wanted to include what I think is the best lens to buy first (don’t buy those kit lenses! Buy this lens instead!).

MONITOR CALIBRATION 101: HOW TO AND WHY by Click it Up a Notch

This is an excellent article on how to calibrate your monitor and why it’s important! If you’ve never even heard about why you might need to calibrate your monitor, this tutorial is definitely for you!

THE BEST LENSES FOR PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY by Two Blooms

One last quick one on what lenses are best to use and when. I agree 100% with everything this article says.

photography editing tutorials for beginners

LIGHTROOM TUTORIAL FOR BEGINNERS by Dana Nicole Designs

This is a very simple and easy to follow tutorial on getting started in Lightroom. I would pair it with the tutorial below for an even better understanding! Lightroom can be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from learning it!

HOW TO GET STARTED USING LIGHTROOM – A BEGINNERS GUIDE by Live Snap Love

This beginner tutorial is amazing and takes you step by step on how to get started in Lightroom!

LIGHTROOM SHORTCUTS YOU SHOULD KNOW by Aly Dawn

This is a great resource on how to use shortcuts in Lightroom.

INSTALLING AND USING LIGHTROOM PRESETS AND ADJUSTMENT BRUSHES by Morgan Burks

This is a great video tutorial on how to install and use Lightroom presets – definitely a need to know! And it’s great that there is a video to show you exactly how to do it (I love videos!).

WATCH ME EDIT SERIES by Aly Dawn

I have a Watch Me Edit series I’ve started. If you have a photo you’d love to see me edit, then let me know in the comments!

photography beginner tutorials

THE 4 STEP GUIDE TO SHOOTING IN MANUAL MODE by Cozy Clicks

Learning manual mode is a must for beginners! If you haven’t learned manual mode, this 4 step guide is the perfect starting place.

6 SIMPLE TIPS FOR SHARPER PHOTOS by Cole’s Classroom

Getting sharp images is really important and will help take your photography to the next level! This tutorial has some great tips for sharper images.

3 TIPS TO GET STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY by Aly Dawn

This is my super simple guide on how to get started in photography!

UNDERSTANDING THE RULE OF THIRDS IN PHOTOGRAPHY by Simple As That Blog

By going from a center composition to understanding the rule of thirds, your photography will improve overnight! This is an easy fix and can help you getting prettier and more professional looking images in no time!

6 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS TO HELP YOU TAKE PICS LIKE A PRO by Completely Chelsea

This tutorial has some excellent tips on how to improve your photography!

HOW TO TAKE BETTER PICTURES FOR YOUR BLOG by Aly Dawn

These tips can be applied to more than just your blog!

THE EXPOSURE TRIANGLE – WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO KNOW? by The Lens Lounge

This is an excellent beginner photography tutorial on the exposure triangle. The examples in the tutorial are really helpful.

more beginner photography tutorials

I’m always on the hunt for more tutorials! If you came across this post and feel like you have a great tutorial that should be included here, comment and let me know! Thanks for stopping by!

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

I’m really excited to share with you how to take better pictures of your kids today. I find sometimes it’s easier to take pictures of other peoples kids and then we get to our kids and…we just aren’t getting what we want. OR you are a newer photographer and find taking pictures of your kids frustrating. Whatever your story is for being here…I feel you.

My son hates to get his picture taken sometimes.

He’ll even go so far to tell me ‘No camera, mom!’ and will push the camera away.

He’s two.

So I feel you. I understand. And I’m here to help!

Let’s get started!

have you heard of my course?

I’m creating a course called ‘How to Capture Your Everyday Life and Create Art’. If you’re interested in finding out more about this course and when it will air, please subscribe below! I promise to only send updates regarding Aly Dawn Photography courses.

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How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

how to improve your photography

Before we dive into how to take better photos of your kids, let’s review how to improve your photography in general, with any subject.

have good gear

I’m a firm believer that you can become a great photographer with whatever gear you have. However, I do recommend having at least a DSLR. Or any camera that allows you to use manual mode.

turn off flash and use manual mode

First things first, turn off your flash, always and forever. Don’t ever use it. If you are still using auto mode, I highly recommend you switching to manual mode.

Learning manual mode was a game changer for me and I got 10 times better photos after learning it! I didn’t get a new camera or lens, I just simply learned how to use my camera and how to get the settings I wanted. Manual mode took time to learn. After learning it, it took a few months of practice for it to finally click and make sense. Keep that in mind. It’s OK to go your pace and to learn it as quickly or slowly as you need, just as long as you learn it!

what to have them wear

So sometimes, I get it, you can’t always get your kids to wear what you want them to wear. But I would recommend simple, plain shirts. I also would stay away from white and black, although sometimes it just can’t be helped. My husband wears those colors all the time and I still love the images I get with him.

Avoid shirts with graphics on them. Again, sometimes it can’t be helped. In those situations I will normally turn an image black and white, avoid the shirt by focusing on their face, or simply embrace the childhood shirts.

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

type of light

The type of light you use in your photographs are really important. It depends on what type of mood you are going for in your images. But, from now on, I encourage you to use natural light. Using artificial light is very tricky when you are first starting out. So, turn off all lights in your house. Go outside. Avoid artificial lights while you are trying to improve your photography.

When you are first starting out, I would recommend photographing your children on overcast days. I personally love overcast days and find that I love the images I get when I photograph on those days.

If you want sunny images, I recommend photographing an hour before sunset for the best, warmest light. This is often called golden hour light and is the favorite type of light for most photographers. It can be a littler trickier to use than overcast light. I recommend blocking the light with trees or buildings. Let in a little bit of sun for just a little bit of haze. One last tip is to expose for your subject – it’s OK if some of your background is blown out.

how to take better pictures of your kids

Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s get started on how to take better pictures of your kids! I know that if you implement these tips into your photography, you will start to love the images you get.

Just remember, it takes practice and it takes patience!

1. get on their level

While I’m taking pictures of kids, whether my own or clients, you will often see me squat down to get on their level. This creates a connection with your viewer. They will feel like they are toddler height! It will also give you a different perspective than your own. The image above was achieved by crouching down. If I had been standing at my full height, I wouldn’t have gotten such a nice reflection and you would have mostly seen his head instead of his face.

2. engage with them

And I’m not just talking about saying ‘cheese’. Please don’t tell your children to say cheese! Instead, ask them if they like peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Ask them to tell you about their favorite super hero or cartoon character. Ask them if they can see a bunny in your lens. Ask them what their favorite ice cream is. Ask them to play peak-a-boo with you.

I find this works for literally any age group. If you want genuine smiles, you can’t just ask them to smile for you. You will get fake, no emotion smiles. But if you engage with them and give them prompts, you will create connection and get those smiles and laughs you so dream of photographing. Doesn’t matter if they’re 2 or 103! This trick works for all ages.

3. ask them if it’s ok to photograph them

This works best for older children, but I’m starting to do this with my son. His answer is usually ‘no’. Ha! But if I ask him and he says no, I respect that. I won’t photograph him. I will instead give him attention and love. If they are older, definitely ask them from time to time if it’s OK to photograph them. Tell them why photography and pictures of them are important to you.

You want to create trust with your children when it comes to photography. You don’t want them to roll their eyes every time you pull out the camera. Respect their space if they tell you they don’t want their picture taken.

Another take on this is to show them the finished projects when they are done! If you take on a project where you turn your kid into a superhero (don’t ask me how to do that, that is some advanced Photoshop voodoo! Haha!) and show them the finished project. You might find your children asking (or begging!) you to do a photoshoot of them. Especially when they see how beautiful or handsome they look.

4. avoid clutter

Or, in other words, clean up your clutter before taking a picture. An image that is clean and free of clutter is usually prettier. There are some rare occasions where you might want to include the clutter as part of the story. But for the most part, I always try to tidy up a bit before taking an image. This helps me focus on just my son and makes the focus point him. I want to draw my viewers straight to my subject: my kid!

Start training your eye on what else is in the frame besides your kids.

5. capture the story

Sometimes there are tears involved. Capture it, embrace it. It’s part of childhood. I want to remember the good and the bad. And right now, my toddler has lots of breakdowns that we have to work through each day. But, that’s OK. He’s learning how to use his emotions. And I know I will want to remember these days in the future.

Aside from capturing all ranges of emotion, you can also focus on a photograph series. This is when you capture a whole scene that tells a story in multiple shots.

6. search for the light

Out of all the tips I’ve given so far, this one might be the most important. Search for the light and use it. I often find that I love to photograph indoors when it’s an overcast day. This brings in nice, soft light into my apartment and makes for some dramatic images that I love.

One exercise I highly recommend you doing is to observe the light in your home. Make a light journal. Put what kind of day it is outside (sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy, rainy, etc) and watch the light throughout the day. Write down certain times and what the light looks like in your home. Use this to find the best light during the day for better images.

7. increase your shutter speed

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: shoot at a higher shutter speed for children. Of all ages, those young children and teenagers can move fast! I typically light to have my shutter speed at around 1/250. But honestly, that is sometimes too slow and will give my son blurry hands! When I’m capturing children, I tend to set my shutter speed around 1/400. This will ensure that the kids are sharp and in focus!

Out of all the settings on your camera, watching your shutter speed when photographing children is the most important. Set that first before you set any other setting.

If you have been having camera shake, you might be using a shutter speed that is even lower than 1/250. BUMP IT UP! Don’t be afraid of having a higher shutter speed. And it’s OK to have a high ISO (which could introduce more grain) as long as you expose properly in camera, you will reduce the amount of grain.

Letters to My Children | 23 Months + 24 Weeks (In My Belly)

Letters to My Children | 23 Months + 24 Weeks (In My Belly)

June 12, 2019

Dear Babies,

Summertime is officially here and I am loving every minute of it. The warm weather, the rainy days, the days at the beach, the days at the park, I’m excited for it all and to spend it with you. I feel as though time is flying by….but at the same time, I feel like it should already be Christmas time. I don’t want it to be Christmas time, I’m not ready to have to buy gifts for two kids yet! But I am ready to meet baby girl and for the two of you to play and laugh together. It’s going to be so cute!

To my oldest:

You are so talkative lately, it’s adorable! Sometimes you’ll say a recognizable word, followed by a bunch of gibberish, and then another recognizable word at the end. You are trying so hard to form sentences, and, I feel you! It’s hard sometimes! But, I know you’ll get there in your own time. I can communicate with you really easily. And you are starting to say actual sentences like “more yogurt please” or “thank you so much” but one of my favorites is “I love you mama”. I’m proud of you for all the things you’ve been learning lately. And for putting words together, you’re so smart.

Your loves right now include Lightening McQueen (you call him ‘a queen’), building blocks with mommy and daddy, Dora the Explorer, and eating non stop yogurt. You also love Spider-man and Hulk and watching any movies associated with those two.

What you’re learning this month is the alphabet and counting. You can count to six by yourself (sometimes you need a little help at 4) and you can sing along with mommy to the alphabet song. You are also learning some fun nursery rhymes like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and you will sing along to those as well. You love singing and sometimes I catch you doing it all by yourself and I just sit there and smile! I really hope you keep it up because it is adorable.

Oh my adorable little son, I can’t tell you how blessed I am that you are in my life. You make everything fun and worth while. Even those days where you may be having a bad day, I still can’t help but feel so blessed. And I’m so excited to see you jump into the role of big brother, you’re going to do so great.

To my youngest:

You are moving around so much! And I’m starting to be able to feel your kicks when I place my hand on my stomach. However, you always stop kicking when I get daddy to feel. You’re already a little trickster!

At our appointment this past week, when the midwife was trying to find your heartbeat, you were kicking the doppler so much and moving away from it. It took so long to find your heartbeat! The midwife said, “I know you’re OK in there! I just need to find your heartbeat!!” You were also moving so much you were making my stomach move. I love it when that happens and I’m looking forward to it happening more as you get bigger and stronger.

As far as I’m feeling with this pregnancy, I’m feeling great! I’ve actually been working out more the past two weeks and I feel amazing. I may not lose any weight or get any skinnier, but at least I’ll be healthy to give birth to you. I think the only complaint I might have about this pregnancy so far (aside from the morning sickness in the first trimester) is trouble sleeping! I have been waking up at 3, 4, 5 am every day this past week and can’t go back to sleep! So….I wake up and blog. Haha. But really, other than that, I am feeling really great. On occasion I have some aches and pains, but that’s to be expected with my growing, beautiful belly. I’m really just so blessed to be pregnant with you.

We’re so excited to meet you!! This next week daddy and I are going to buy you and your brother chest of drawers and toy organizer to set up your room. I’m excited for you two to have your toy room that you can play in together. I can’t wait to get it all set up in the next week or two!

I can’t wait to meet you, but you keep growing and being healthy. We love you so much already. And, although your brother might not know it, he’s going to love being your big brother, too!

I love you both so much. You have both taught me how to love more and how to be more selfless. I am forever grateful and blessed to be your mama.

I love you both.

Love, Mama

Courtney Family Session | Louisville KY Family Photographer

Courtney Family Session | Louisville KY Family Photographer

I had so much fun capturing this sweet family! When we first got there, I was worried the clouds would cover up our sun the whole time. But it came through and we got beautiful light!

This sweet family had never done a family session with their sweet daughter before. She was definitely in charge and we just let her do what she wanted. But isn’t she just adorable!?

And her eyes had me swooning.

I loved capturing this family! Take a look below!


Did you come here looking to book a family session?
Look no further! I’m located in Louisville KY.