Film Photography with Strobe Lighting

Lesson 12/26 - Catchlight In The Eyes


Film Photography with Strobe Lighting


Lesson Info

Catchlight In The Eyes

We know that the size and shape of your modifier affect the light on your subject. The size and shape of your modifier also will affect the catchlights in your subject's eye. If you're a portrait photographer. So when, at the beginning I said that when I went in and I was trying to learn all of this, one of the things that I did was I studies those catchlights. Of course the catchlight is the little bit of light that we get in our subject's eyes. There, so I studied those catchlights, and I was like, "What is it about those "that are so appealing to me? "What do I love about them?" And for me, I love that big, chunky catchlight. I want a big one in the eye. But I also noticed the shape of the catchlight. So I work in a studio, I work with window light. And so my catchlights with window light are square. Because I'm using a window, and windows are square most of the time. And so I wanted to create that same looking catchlight with a strobe. This is one of my early, early images when I w...

as still trying to figure all this out. And I was able to create with the shape, the size and the shape of my modifier. Now just a quick word, I know this is an opposing class, but as someone who looks at other people's work all the time, I just, I can't get up here and not say this because it's a pet peeve of mine. So let's talk about catchlights for just a second. So a good catchlight should always be in the top part of the eye. You always want the light coming this way, it should be in that top third. A lot of times, especially when people are working with babies, you'll see accidental lighting from below, and you'll see a catchlight in the bottom part of the eye. And why this happens with babies is because a lot of times what people do, I should get Betty. Could someone hand me Betty? Here she comes! This is exciting! (laughs) I can do it. Okay, this is Betty. And let me move these so people can see. So when you're talking about catchlights and working with babies in particular, people often time there'll be a window here, or a strobe here, and they'll lay the baby down on the bed like this. Right? So baby's here. What happens with that is that all of a sudden the baby's being lit from here up and it looks like a horror story, horror story baby even more than she already does. (laughter) You don't wanna light your babies or your subjects ever to make them look like they're sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories. So you always wanna make sure that catchlight is at the top part of the eye. And you just do that by making sure that light source is always coming from above. We'll put Betty here. So I know that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with strobe lighting but it's very important. But the size and the shape of these catchlights is controlled by your modifier. So a square modifier is gonna give you a square catchlight. That totally makes sense. And a round modifier is going to give you a round catchlight. So again it depends on the kind of work you're doing and the look you're looking for. I always say my whole goal with my work is to recreate that natural light look that I get with window light. And so I want more of a square catchlight I want that soft directional light. I want it to look like a window. But maybe you shoot outside. Maybe you're shooting at a wedding and you are using, like we talked about before the break, light for fill or something. In that case, if you're outside and you're clearly outside and then you have somebody with a square catchlight that looks like a window, that could look really weird. Because outside light isn't square. When you're outside most of the time you're being lit by the sun, those catchlights are round. So then you would want a round modifier. I wanna show you the first modifier I bought. I really wanted those big square catchlights. I wanted a big modifier because I wanted soft shadows and I was trying to recreate natural window light because I was a self-taught photographer, I had only ever worked with natural light. I really understood windows and I would just tell myself what I've told you, light is light. If you can do it with the sun in a window you can do it with a bulb and a soft box too. So I actually went out and I bought a portable window. I'm gonna show you (laughs). Pardon me while I wrestle with this. This is the Westcott 50 by 50 Apollo soft box. And what's great about this is a couple things. First of all, it opens just like an umbrella. Give me a second, it's hard to do this gracefully. So you open it up. Sorry guys, sorry Creative Live. There goes my hair. Do I need help, do I look like I need help? (laughs) I have totally got this under control. This is the fun part. Okay here we go. So it opens up like an umbrella like that. And it's a rectangle. So you put it on your light and it suddenly is a portable window. So for my brain, trying to learn this, it kind of fit all those needs. (laughs) So big modifier, so I'm gonna get those soft shadows that I want. Square, so I'm gonna get those square catchlights that I want. And it literally looks like a window. So for me, when I was trying to learn all of this and I was like, "I don't know what to do with modifiers." I knew what to do with a window, so I could just look at this and just tell myself, "It's just a portable window, you're fine. "It's the same thing, same rules apply." This is what I used in the beginning. I don't use this anymore. Gonna put this over here. Whew, that was exciting. So I've gone on to use, like I said, those big giant octodomes. And as far as catchlight goes, when you're using an octodome or any kid of a modifier that is that octagon shape, it's going to give you an octagon shape catchlight. But because those are so big, I can create that rectangle window light shape even with using the octagon. So to me those catchlights still have that chunky square-ish look that I get with window light. Plus, thighs! I love that baby (laughs). So, want a soft, natural light look. If that's what you're going for, you're trying to recreate what you can get with windows, with your strobes in your studio lighting, this is what you need to know. We're just recapping here. So you're gonna turn the power down on your strobes. 'Cause that soft light, you want low power on your strobes. You're going to bring those lights in close to your subject. Because the closer your light is to your subject, the brighter it is, which is another reason why you wanna turn it down. But also the softer it is. And then you're gonna wanna use a big modifier. Because the bigger your modifier, the softer your shadows. Now this is the look I'm going for. Maybe it's not the look you're going for. And that's fine. Just know how all these things work together. So if you want more drama in your work, if you don't necessarily want soft, maybe you're doing fashion photography and you want it to look like strobes, great, you know how to create that now. If you want more drama, bring in a softer modifier. Get those harsher shadows. Maybe want your light a little brighter, maybe you do wanna be shooting at f8, you don't wanna be shooting it wide open like I do. So play around with it. Just know this is how all of these things work together.

Class Description

To get the best portrait straight out of camera you need to control your light. Family and Newborn Photographer, Sandra Coan, walks through how easy it is to use lights with your film camera for the most control over how your image ultimately looks. In this course, Sandra will talk about how to approach your photo shoot by thinking about not only your subject but also the film and the light you want to create.

You’ll learn:

  • How to sync the flash with your film camera
  • How to meter for your subject and the light you’re adding to the image
  • How to choose the best film based off what you’d like the final image to look like

Throughout history, photographers have been using flash with film cameras. In this course, Sandra will cover everything to give you the knowledge to start taking portraits with your camera and strobes.


a Creativelive Student

Wow! with a lot of online stuff out there one can become rather overcome with too much information, however, the way Sandra presents her courses is just perfect! Her honest and simple and easy to understand approach was just what I needed. Not once did I think she was just going through the motions, she really loves what she does and it shows. To be able to rewatch and rewatch was also a key for me. Since I have dyslexia I have to take things one half step at a. time. After completion of the class I had a new found confidence when using strobes. A must have.

Micah Hewett Images

Out of all the classes I own on Creative Live, Strobe Lighting with Sandra is my FAVORITE! She is an incredibly kind and gifted teacher. She explains everything on a simple level and then gradually build to more complex issues. I am 100% happy with this course. Thank you Sandra!!

Gabby de Janasz

Sandra Coan is a lighting genius! I loved watching her high-energy and super informative class. I learned way more about studio lighting than I ever thought was possible. I'd definitely recommend this class to literally any person in photography, not just studio photographers. Thanks Sandra!!