Custom Catch Lights or Eye Lights

Lighting Exercise: Custom Catchlights

50I’ve always had this thing for unusual catch lights in people eyes, something other than the usual rectangle or dot.  Catchlights, also referred to as eyelights, are generally understood by photographers and videographers to be important; people’s eyes seem a little dead when there’s no light reflected in them. Not coincidentally, the times there’s no light reflected in someone eyes is usually when there isn’t any light source in front of them, so they’re usually a bit backlit or sidelit anyway, which might lead people to feel that the person looks a little gloomy.

Exhibit A: No Catchlight

51Grim selfie with no eyelight

The notion of using customized eyelights to give some sort of special meaning to an image was inspired by something I saw once in a comic book. Somehow through the years I still have the comic book.

Exhibit B: Creepy Eyelight

Kalibos the nasty psychic robot is invading our hero’s brain and stealing the secret he most wants to protect. Kalibos’ eye is sporting a creepy cross as he’s reading Grimjack’s mind
******** MISSING PHOTO ********
52Grimjack having a rough day after having his mind abused
I don’t know what that little cross in the eye meant, if anything, but the image stuck in my head over the years. And much appreciation to Steve Pugh the artist and First Comics.
Anyway, back to the topic.  Catchlights are important in videography and photography.  Why not exercise all the options available and make them extra cool?

Why not have a shape appear in their eye?

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She’s not going to invade your mind, she promises.

Or how about a word?

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Hmm, what’s she like?  Oh right, she’s NICE.  It says so right there on her eyeball.

Or while we’re at it, why not put a company logo on a pretty girl’s eye?

******MISSING PHOTO********
It’s really simple how to do it.  You need a large luminous object and some opaque black material.  I used diffusion marked up with black tape, slid into the front pocket of Airboxes mounted to LED panels. The logo I printed out black on white paper.  This takes a lot of toner, beware. It could be any luminous flat object though.  A 4×4 frame of diffusion with a light behind it would work well, and make custom cutouts out of black tape and blackwrap.  Light your subject from the front using this source with the black cutout, fiddle around with the placement to get the catchlight where you want it, and call it done.
These are the tools I used:
55sheets of 250 in the front pocket of an Airbox Model 126
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Airbox Model 1×1 with a printout of our logo in the front pocket

Remember that words will be reversed in the reflection, just like a mirror.  You have to put the words in so they appear backwards.
Good luck with all your lighting experiments!
Tom Guiney

by Airbox lights

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