Lesson from the Shot: Light Brings Life To A Photo by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary

Figure 1
When you look at portfolios of photographers pay close attention to the subject's eyes. We have heard it said over and over the eyes are the windows to the soul.
I had an earlier post talking about genuine smiles and that the place to see if they were genuine was not the mouth, but rather the eyes.
Professional model Tyra Banks said the mistake with many models is smiling with their mouth and not their eyes.
Now if the model is doing everything right the photo can still fall apart. Why? You must be able to see someone's eyes to really connect with them.  A good photographer will know this and do all they can to be sure your audience is connecting with the subject.
There are many photographers who are not storytellers.  They just see your subjects as objects.  They may even be really strong graphic images with great color, but the audience is not identifying with the subject.
Take the time and look to see if the photos you are being shown have life in the eyes. A “catch-light’ is simply the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye. This highlight adds depth and dimension to the eye, and gives the eyes life in a portrait or snapshot.
Not having catch-light is not required and sometimes actually hurts the photo.  If you are telling a story and you need the subject to look sinister or like a vampire, be sure not to have catch-light. You will create that negative tension that you want.  
As long as you know you’re not using catch-lights for some reason that’s OK. It’s when you’re not making a conscious decision that you diminish your message without knowing.
There are times when the process of adding a catch-light is not possible.  There maybe a technical reason it cannot be done without actually creating other problems.  In photography and communications there are often trade-offs.
After looking at these photos maybe you’re now more aware of what to look for when evaluating photos.
These tips are the differences that can take your storytelling to the next level. Not being aware of them, with the audience knowing the difference, can make you look amateurish. And we don't want that, do we?