Catch Light Issues

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by kkamin, Dec 6, 2009.

  1. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Hello, I've been having catch light issues forever. I get a few too many 'dead eyes' imo. Looking for advice:

    To simplify things, assume my main light is set at a standard 45°/45° (Rembrandt).

    1) Sometimes the model is looking slightly downward or is looking away from main light. This could be a nice candid shot between poses or a spontaneous pose from the model. The shot is nice but it has dead eyes, and adding catch lights might look funny. How do you deal with this?

    2) Once in a while I have a nice catchlight in one eye but in the other it's in the white of the eye, the corner, or missing. What am I doing wrong?

    3) I learned in school that having a double catch light is something to usually avoid. But if I am shooting with a fill light close to the camera, I think it is unavoidable, right? Do people just remove one of the catch lights in post?

    4) I've been shooting a lot of Asian dancers lately and a lot of them have very small eyes. So many dead eyes. If I ask them to open their eyes wider than normal, there face looks slightly strained and unnatural. How do you make adjustments for this? I'm of Asian decent so this question is no longer racist. : )

    5) How high do you set your main light? Does the bottom of the box or umbrella come close to the top of the model's head? I think this might be one of my issues too, having the main light too high up.

    Thanks for reading.

    Kkamin
     
  2. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    Two points:

    1. It has always been the practice to remove extra catchlights, even in the old film days.

    2. It is often necessary to add an additional light positioned and adjusted to produce a catchlight. You can't always rely on the main or fill lights to perform this task. This additional light is ususally relatively dim and small. Dim enough so that it doesn't significantly alter the lighting and doesn't cast any detectable shadows. It needs to be small enough to produce a small catchlight that doesn't swamp the whole eye.
     
  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    With the main light so far off to the side, you will have one-eye catchlight issues, dead eyes,etc,etc. I'm not sure about the use of Rembrandt lighting--I think a Paramount style lighting setup might make your life much easier. Rembrandt lighting is a poor choice for dynamic posing--the position of the subject's body and face is very much tied to an exact main light placement and aiming. A lighting scheme with the main light closer to the camera axis would be easier if you want to be able to catch spontaneous, free-form poses and in-between moments; Rembrandt lighting works great on one-shot, slowly-posed, perfectly-aimed-mainlight portraits where setup time is ample and the subject will be shown at one,specific angle.

    For people who want eye catchlights, especially on females, a clamshell type of lighting setup will provide them. As far as one catchlight, or two catchlights, I think times have changed significantly,and many people prefer multiple catchlights. Not always big, specular ones, but softer, more-diffused catchlights, like those produced by having an under-chin reflector angled upward to reflect an overhead main light which is angled down. I do not believe in "rules" like removing catchlights--that looks fake many times, and totally unnatural. I do not beleive in the rule of no more than one catchlight,and neither do many famous fashion and glamour photographers. This isn't the 1950's...many photos shown in high-end publications show multiple catchlights, and I think it's mainly photographers who look at them with intent concentration.

    When you asked if the bottom of the softbox comes close to the top of the model's head, that makes me wonder how high you are positioning the main light; with a softbox, I would almost always have the bottom of the softbox at the level of the sitter's bust--much,much lower than your question would lead me to think you're setting up. But then, I don't like Rembrandt lighting all that much, preferring Paramount, butterfly, or clamshell-type lighting more for women. I don't worry about two catchlights; I in fact, actually prefer a lower-eye catchlight made by a reflector to one made with an on-axis fill light. Something like a square Larson metallized silver 4x4 footer, for example, or a 4x4 foot white-painted steel reflector on a precisely angled hinge setup would be my choice.

    As in so many things, there are no "rules", only guidelines, and even there, those vary from person to person.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
  4. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for both replies. Very helpful. Very insightful to suggest shooting paramount style to avoid some of my issues; makes sense that I would be square in the middle of the family of angles. I do like the catch light created by a large reflector too when shooting paramount style.

    1. Is it okay if the catch light extends from the iris into the whites? (half and half) I've been using larger softboxes and strip softboxes closer to the models lately and have been getting this result. It doesn't look bad, but I want to be aiming for a professional standard.

    2. People who who shoot photojournalist style and have no control of their subjects, how do they deal with catch lights?--since the relationship of the subject with the light sources could be in constant change. Do they add them in post if they are missing?

    3. For Rembrandt lighting, I set up a the light at a standard 45° angle from the camera and a 45° angle pointing downward. When the subject looks straight to the camera, the triangle is visible. But I don't shoot subjects straight on usually, I'll pose them with their head turned, looking towards the light, producing short lighting. Should I be moving the light again to be at a 45° to the orientation of the subjects face (imagine a straight line shooting out from where their nose is pointed)? Do you know what I mean, most people don't shoot faces straight on, but the lighting seems to be calibrated from that position. confused.

    4. This picture isn't that great but its a good example of dead eyes and problems with someone's smaller eyes.
    [​IMG]

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Don't be afraid to move your light around until you find what works for you.
    My portrait lighting instructor was always tweaking the light position, or the subject's pose, until she got what she wanted.
    If the light was too high to give a good catchlight, then she'd move it.
    I don't remember if it was her, but someone told me (or I read somewhere) that you know your light is in the 'right' spot when the catchlight is at 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock.

    It is good to have a 'professional standard', but I think you often need to look past what the texts books tell you, and just go with what works. I don't know any clients who would say "I don't like it because it's not quite a Rembrandt"
     
  6. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Mike. I know what you mean and when I am actually shooting I use standard set-ups as a foundational springboard and then just let things go in the directions of whatever looks good. But I am the type that will incessantly research and test if I can't wrap my head around something that's bugging me, even small things. :study:
     

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