A Note on Content

The purpose of this blog is twofold: (1) to advertise my services as a photographer, and (2) to provide useful information to people who want to take better pictures, particularly when it comes to photographing children.

Although I have not organized the blog posts in any particular order, I have tried to start with basic information and build from there, so those wanting to learn more about photography and visiting the site for the first time may want to start with the oldest posts first.

If you have questions or comments about the blog, please feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly. I hope the photos and other information presented here help you appreciate the art of children's photography, and inspire you to take great photographs of your own.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The "Eyes" Have It

No doubt you've heard the old adage: The eyes are a window to the soul. Nowhere is that more true than in portrait photography where the human face is the principal subject. Not to say one can't do an interesting portrait that doesn't highlight the eyes, only that the eyes often prove key to a great portrait. Portraits that highlight the eyes have depth and layered interest. They hold one's attention.

So, here's the deal: little white sparkly things in the eyes are good. No sparkly things, not so good. The technical term for those little white sparkly things is "catch lights," and you certainly want to look for them if you are taking an picture of a child's face and their open eyes are part of the subject.

Studio lights--which can be carefully controlled--produce catch lights in studio portraiture. Outside, the photographer often has to make do with what he or she can find. In that setting, catch lights usually come from reflective surfaces of one sort or the other: for example, a sunlit sky or window, the light reflected off a white fence or some other object. (We have a vinyl fence in our back yard, and, when the sun is on it, it produces wonderful catch lights.) All three images above incorporate natural catchlights (in this case, windows). See how those catch lights help the overall image? (Feel free to disagree if you like. I can take it.)

The broader point is to pay attention to those little sparklies. If you can't see them, you're probably too far away to start with. So move closer (which has the added benefit of removing image clutter) and experiment with positioning your perfectly obedient and willing child subject (right!) in different directions until the fairy dust magically appears. Chances are, you'll find both the best catch lights and the best overall lighting in the same place, as all that reflected light illuminates not only the eyes, but the child's face.

One last word to the wise: while image editing software allows a photographer to enhance or bring out the catch lights in a digital image, it's a tool ripe for abuse. Look around and one can readily find children's portraits where something "doesn't look quite right," and the explanation may well lie in a photographer having a little too much fun with the dodge tool in Photoshop.

Photoshop can fix minor flaws, but can't turn a bad image into a great one and can't, realistically, create catch lights where none existed before. So, keep it real.


  1. Great work, Tim. You've got it right on with this post. Couldn't agree more with you.

    Gorgeous eyes!

  2. I am now taking notice in lighting, because of you!! Last night I was taking pictures, and I knew the light was perfect, because the pictures were perfect!! I love your blog!!!