Illuminating the window to the soul: Everything you have ever wanted to know about lighting eyes


posted Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 3:30 PM EDT


German film production and rental company Dedo Weigert's many videos about lighting and lighting gear are all very in-depth, and their latest video on catch lights (sometimes referred to as eye lights) is no different. This occasionally overlooked aspect of lighting for stills and video is critical for creating the right emotion in your work.

The eye is often referred to as the window to the soul, after all, so it makes sense that properly lighting it is hugely important. To capture human expression, eyes need to be well-lit, as so much of who we are is captured through the eyes. And if you're taking someone's portrait, it's through their eyes that much of their emotion and personality is shared in the final image.

You can absolutely light eyes with standard lighting that is being used to illuminate the subject's face, but as you can see in the video below, the results from a dedicated eye light can be dramatically different. Normally, we want both eyes to sparkle and reflect light. It's common to desire a somewhat small reflection in the upper right part of the iris, but an even smaller reflex in the same part of the eye can show a subject as more masculine or aggressive. The more pointed the catch light, the smaller the reflection on the eye. While there are many different ways to light eyes, it's basically universally accepted that a reflection from an eye light should be outside of the pupil. 

I don’t specialize in portrait photography, so I admittedly have never given a ton of thought to catchlights, but I learned a lot from the video above. I had no idea how complex it can be to get the right reflection in the eye for the emotion you are trying to convey.

You can learn a lot more about lighting on Dedo Weigert's YouTube channel, so be sure to check it out.

(Seen via Fstoppers)