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!

Count me in!

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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 Pictures of Your Everyday

How to Take Pictures of Your Everyday

There’s something so satisfying about photographing what you do everyday. Before I had my son, my everyday was very boring. It consisted of work, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. My weekends were exciting. But anytime my photography friends wanted me to do a Day in the Life … I couldn’t! I couldn’t figure out how to create images that showed my everyday. If you have kids, it’s a different story! There’s plenty to do and plenty to take pictures of to show your everyday. I am going to give you some tips to taking pictures of your everyday. And yes. It is possible even if you work a full day. Don’t be discouraged! You can still make time for photography. Let’s dive in.

new to photography? check out my 3 Tips to Get Started in Photography post

How to capture your daily life

Have your heard about my new course? It’s all about how to Capture Your Everyday Life and Create Art. In this course you will learn:

-Simple compositions to use everyday
-How to use and see the light
-6 Creative Exercises to help you capture your everyday
-5+ Editing videos
-Tips on taking Self Portraits featuring your everyday
-And MORE!

Be sure to sign up below to be notified of when this course will air, early bird pricing, and what else will be included. I’m so excited about this course!


day in the life

Honestly, one of the best ways of photographing your everyday is taking place in a day in the life. A day in the life means that every hour (it could really be flexible … every two hours, twice an hour, at least 30 photos in the day, etc.) you take a picture of what you’re doing, essentially. These photos don’t have to be amazing. But they do have to show what you are doing throughout the day. This is a great photography project to try, if you haven’t already! (I should do one … they are really fun. I’ll do one if you do one!).

So, why would we want to take pictures of our everyday? Honestly, sometimes we might find that our everyday is boring. We are so used to what happens on a daily basis, that it could become a routine. So, why would we want to photograph it? Here are a few reasons …

  • it makes your everyday exciting again!
  • it challenges you to take something simple and make it amazing! How can you photograph breakfast and make it exciting??
  • it gets you out of your comfort zone.
  • it (hopefully) gets your creative juices flowing.

Alright! Are you ready for some down to earth tips on how to photograph your everyday? Ready? Set? Go!

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how to take a picture of your everyday

First and foremost … what does your ‘everyday’ look like? Is it super busy? Is it relaxed? Does it change from day to day? I want you to write down what your typical day looks like.

Planning your shots make it so much easier to get the exact shots that you want. Write down what you do daily and how you could make the daily stuff exciting.

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1. take a picture daily

There’s something you do daily. Whether it’s put on makeup, making breakfast/lunch for your kids, taking a walk, playing with the dogs, getting ready for the day, etc. This is the type of thing you want to capture. If you think it might be boring, that’s ok! Try to capture it anyways! Something I love to capture that happens daily is nap time.

The reason you might want to capture this daily stuff, is because it might be daily right now, but years down the road, your daily life might change and you might forget what it was like. Nap time might turn into play time, and eventually those littles will be out the door (insert sobbing face here!!!!), so capture those sweet moments and memories. They might not seem like much now, but they will later in your life.

2. it’s OK to stage the scene

So … what do I mean by stage? If you always have a perfect scene in your house, you will see me bowing down to you … teach me your ways! If you are a mom of littles, I know your house is not always picture perfect! You can set the scene up to make it look like it’s perfectly clean. Simplicity and cleanness make your images look more professional.

That being said … sometimes the mess adds to the story. Folding laundry? Being buried alive? Leave the laundry piles in and show your exasperated face!

Set the stage by cleaning up the scene, but this could also mean bribing your littles to get the photo you want. Are they playing with a board game in horrible light? Move them (ever so sneakily) to a place with beautiful light and have at it! Think before you shoot. Set the stage before you shoot!

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3. take your camera out in public

So when I did my first day in the life … I was working full time! I decided to take my camera to work and to photograph what I do throughout the day. I was so scared. Nobody asked me what I was doing, but I was so self conscious. I didn’t get the images I wanted because of it. Don’t do what I did. Instead, be brave! Now that I’ve actually shot more in public I am here to tell you that no one is watching. And if, for whatever reason, they are, it really doesn’t matter! This is your work. This is your day in the life. If your day in the life includes a trip to Target, take that camera with you! Do it. If your day in the life includes going to a public park, take that camera with you! Sometimes people ask me what I am photographing … and I’ll tell them and that’s that! They really don’t care, and you most likely won’t see them again. So, who cares? Be brave!

Take your camera to Target (I love Target pictures!) take your camera to the park! To the Library! To Kroger! Always have your camera with you and don’t be afraid to take it out. Mom’s are constantly taking pictures with their phones, so what’s different about a big camera? I used to be terrified of taking pictures with my big camera out in public. I once got asked why I had my camera with me and I just simply said, ‘You never know when a moment will happen!’ They legit thought I was crazy!! Now I’m totally fine with having my camera out. It doesn’t bother me if I get looks (but to be honest, I very rarely get looks, everybody is worrying about themselves). I take the pictures I want to take!

How to capture your daily life

4. don’t be afraid to jump in the frame

I mean, you are part of your daily routine, I would hope! So don’t be afraid to get in the frame with your kids. If you don’t have kids, don’t be afraid to jump in the frame! Getting in the frame adds to the feeling of ‘day in the life’. These images don’t have to be perfect. They really don’t! They just have to showcase exactly what you do each day. And later down the road, your children will be so excited to have pictures of you!

If you are new to taking self portraits, you’re in luck, I have a self portraits post you should check out!

My number one tip is to set up a tripod (or put your camera on a flat, safe surface) and to set up an interval timer. You will want to pull out your camera’s manual to see how to do it for your own camera. If you have a remote for your camera and want to use it for self portraits, I recommend putting your camera on a delay so that you don’t get pictures of you pointing a remote to the camera. Been there, done that.

5. capture nap time

So I always say when you are new to photography, you need to practice on subjects that don’t move. And what better subject than your own sleepy kid! They’re so cute and definitely photo-worthy! Practice getting different images each day with nap time. Think of new ways to capture nap time. One day you could focus on the details, like their sweet closed eyes and their long lashes. Or their cute toes. Or the way their mouth looks when they’re relaxed. The next day you could practice framing them using doorways or the crib. Think of how to use the light creatively. There’s so much to do with nap time!

Pro tip: the camera’s shutter can be too loud and wake your child. That’s no good! You don’t want to interrupt their nap time! Some camera’s have a quiet shutter option. Look in your camera’s manual to see if you can turn on a quiet shutter. It makes your shutter a little softer and hopefully won’t wake them up.

Daily Life Photography Tips

put the camera away

Once you get the shot, put it away, and really spend time with your family. There was one time that I was itching to take a certain picture … but I could tell that my son just wasn’t having it. So, instead of giving myself a headache, I put the camera away, picked up my son, and we played and had a great time. Do that. Family is way more important than the images you take. Trust me. Spending time with them is exactly what they want. Giving them a break from the camera could actually get them more comfortable in front of the camera (could we call that reverse psychology?).

Just remember to have fun and make sure your children know you aren’t just having them to take pictures of them. :’) Happy shooting, mama’s!