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Thread: Creating Natural Looking Catchlights

  1. #1
    Publisher Arthur Morris's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Indian Lake Estates, FL
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    Default Creating Natural Looking Catchlights

    Perhaps the easiest way to create a catchlight in the eye of a bird
    photographed in low light is to use flash as fill, setting your flash to
    between -1 and -3 stops of underexposure while setting the correct ambient

    But using flash can be a pain: batteries, brackets, cords, and the rest. And
    with amazing ability of digital to capture color and detail in low light I
    have found myself using flash less and less each year.

    Here are some tips for creating natural looking catchlights in the eyes of
    birds photographed in low light (without flash).

    1-Use a tiny Clone Stamp. Increasing the brush Hardness to 50% is an option
    as long as you remember to put it back to zero when you are done.
    2-Choose a white area in the frame as your source.
    3-If you take a close look at a natural highlight, you will see that they
    are always irregularly shaped and that the most prominent one is almost
    always in the top half of the eye on the side where the light is coming
    from. (There are often two catchlights even when flash has not been used,
    one directly from the sun, and one from a reflected sunlight (often from the
    water). Many times there is a faint highlight in the eye that is visible
    only at high magnification. In those cases, be sure to create your highlight
    at that spot.
    4-After carefully considering the placement of the highlight, use multiple
    clicks with the Clone Stamp with the Align box unchecked while moving the
    cursor a small bit with each click to give the highlight an irregular shape.

    Many times it may be best not to create a catchlight.

    Feel free to post an image here where you have created a highlight. I will
    do the same as time permits.
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  2. #2
    Axel Hildebrandt


    This is a good topic and thanks for sharing your workflow. I usually stay away from fill flash and lighten the eye if necessary and use the clone stamp to accentuate the pixel that looks the brightest. That way it is in the most 'natural' position.

    Here is an example:

  3. #3
    Forum Participant
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Toronto, Canada
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    Thanks for the tips here. Axel I like what you did here by accentuating the brightest pixel. One for the PP workflow.

  4. #4
    Life Time Member Doug Brown's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
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    I tend to dodge the midtones in the reflection in the eye; works pretty well. I use CS4.
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