The magic of catchlights

Catchlights make any portrait come alive,  with just that glitter of light in the eyes,  your portrait takes a whole new dimension. But the tricky question is,  how to get them?

Well,  if you’re in studio and have control over your lighting, then,  that’s easier. Take a test shot, position your umbrellas or reflectors so the catchlights look natural,  pros suggest a catchlight placed at 10 or 2 o’clock (imagine the eye is a clock).   A catch light at the bottom of the eye is not as appealing.

What happens though if you are  (like me most of the times)  shooting in natural light?  Find a light source or a reflective surface.    Sky,  have your subject lift his/her face a bit towards the sky so a glint of light appears in the eye.    Water, snow,  sand,  and of course,  a window.    Try your hand at catchlights,  and have fun doing it!    Try placing your subject facing the light source or have the light source slightly on his/her side,  you will see the difference in the eyes.    Have your subject look up,  or down and see the results.

You may not get them everytime,  especially if you are shooting children,  they like to be free to move around and aren’t always in a perfect catchlight position. But when they do,   try and make the most of it!

I never add catchlights  in Photoshop afterwards,  I did try once and found that I couldn’t get a result that looked natural enough for me.   You know some of these catchlights often reflect  other things like the shooter itself,  buildings, shapes of trees,  etc.   And that,  I cannot replicate in Photoshop.

So,  go ahead and have fun!    Capture those catchlights and feel free to share your thoughts,  or results,  here or on the Facebook page 🙂

P.S. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway hosted by Angie Arthur Photography at The Arthur Clan,  you can win lots of goodies!!

Get your entries in!


Oh and btw,  Halloween will be here soon!  Have fun everyone and stay safe!  Here’s last year photo of my little ninja (with catchlights,  I had to find one that serves the purpose of this post!).  Happy Halloween!


Frequently asked question about texture work

Hello everyone!  It’s been a while!  I was on vacation 🙂  And it was good!  Only problem is summer never lasts long enough, back to school is upon us, days are way shorter and the nights are cooler…

I thought I’d post a tutorial about THE question everyone asks: How do you remove the texture from faces or skin and keep the tint?

It’s not that difficult you’ll see.  I use two methods that can erase the texture details but preserve the tones, one is faster,  the other will require a bit more work.  But both will come in handy at times.

Let’s start with the first one.

1. Open both the photo and the texture you want to use in Photoshop (For Elements same steps apply for all this tutorial)

2. Drag the texture (or copy and paste) over your photo,  select it with the rectangular marquee tool, then right click and use Free transform to stretch it so it covers entirely your image.

3. With your texture layer in Normal mode at 100% opacity, use the Dropper tool and select a mid-range colour from your texture, not too light, not too dark.  (This is where it gets a bit tricky, if your texture has very strong colours and a wide range of colours, then the second method maybe better for you.)  Just like in the circle, for this particular texture.

4.  Once done, reduce the opacity of your texture to around 60%, so you can see underneath and still see some texture detail ( still in normal mode).

5. With a big soft brush, at around 40 to 50% opacity,  paint over the areas you want to remove the texture detail, when done this is how it should look (screenshot#5)

6.  Blend your texture in the desired mode now, I used Overlay, you decide what you want.  And adjust your opacity, I went with 80% for this particular texture.  That’s it!  You’re done!


For the second method, follow steps 1 to 4, the change will be in how we remove the texture detail.  So at step 5 instead of painting we will use the Magnetic lasso tool and select an area around the face.  Click on your mouse and make your lasso tool follow the edges of the face, click when you have made a full selection, to activate it.  It will look like in step 5 below.

When your selection is active, go to your top menu bar and select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur  Run a blur at maximum value, 250.  You will loose all details but will keep the colouring.  This method is useful when your texture has a lot of mixed tones and you are not able to select a mid-range colour easily.  Now, blend your texture in your favorite mode and opacity, here Overlay at 80%.  Done!!  Not that hard wasn’t it?


So here is the before and after, texture used was “Tiziano” from the Renaissance set.



Understanding the Exclusion blending mode – Or getting a Retro or Vintage haze on your images

Many of you probably know by now that adding a solid blue color adjustment layer and blend it in exclusion mode to around 40% will give you a vintage haze layer over your image. It’s very useful, you can pick any kind of dark blue and see the difference in the resulting tint. But do you know how it works?

What the exclusion mode does is inverting the base color values.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the color spectrum and the complementary colors, so here is some basic info. The “true” primary colors are Yellow, Red and Blue (RYB). And the secondary ones a mix of those, so Orange, Green and Violet. That’s how I learned my colors when I studied arts. That is when you consider the colors for mixing purposes. BUT our cameras and software have another set of primary colors, the RGB ones, where the mixing of colors in based on how light affects our vision of color.  So for Photoshop purposes, let’s stick to the RGB ones 🙂

So if you look closely at the color spectrum in your software, you’ll see that the primary colors are Red, Green and Blue (RGB).  The secondary colors are the colors created by a mix of those primary colors, resulting in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow (CMYK) (remember, we are talking about mixing light, otherwise Red mixed with Green would not produce Yellow…).  The K stands for black. In theory if mixed perfectly Cyan, Magenta,and Yellow should produce Black. In theory, if you have pure colors.  Two colors are called complementary if, when mixed in the proper proportion, they produce a neutral color (grey, white, or black).

The complementary colors are opposite each other in the spectrum. So pure Blue has pure Yellow as opposite, so complementary. Green is complementary to Magenta, and Red to Cyan. Anywhere in between will give a derivative from these colors. I won’t go further in naming the tertiary colors and so on… I think you get the point.

We’re a long way from where we started, but this info will come in handy in your editing process.

When you select a color in your spectrum in Photoshop, and blend it on Exclusion mode, it will tint your image with it’s complementary color. So depending on where you pick your blue, the coloring will go from yellow to orange, just select the tint that pleases you most and reduce opacity. You now have a vintage haze layer.

You can do the same if you want to have a Retro tint. Pick a purple (Magenta) color, and blend it using Exclusion mode, you will get a Greenish tint. Reduce opacity and you get the retro finish.

When you’ve done it a couple of times, you will know where to pick the Blue or Magenta that suits your images. It’s a fast an easy way to get a moody haze on your photo.

Cool tips for using your textures…

You may not know but all the textures you use can be easily modified to suit your photos. How often have you liked the look of one texture, but the coloring when added to your own photo’s color doesn’t give the best results? It happens to me often, and I always end up using the same technique.
-First, open your texture, and desaturate it. You may add lightness if you wish so it fades even more.
-Then add a new layer, Go to Edit->Fill Fill it with a color that matches your background (or subject) by using the color picker tool.
– Adjust the blending mode and opacity to your liking, and you have a new texture that fits your photo.

When I designed my set, I kept this trick in mind, because I use it often. That’s why a couple of textures are subtle enough to be easily converted to a whole new color range.

Try it, be creative!

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