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Photography Question 
Frank Brow

Photographing Animals: Catchlights in Eyes

When shooting animals, I try to avoid "dead eye" with no catchlights. Some photos, however, look great without them. Are catchlights essential? What about a terrific photo with good eye detail but no catchlights? Is it permissible to "Photoshop" a catchlight in post-processing?

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4/21/2005 2:47:50 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Dark eyes will look better with a catchlight than without. As long as the eye of the animal is in perfect focus, a catchlight is more of a bonus than an essential element.
When shooting in a controlled environment - a studio setup with pet portraits - try to avoid multiple catchlights if you are using several lights or strobes. These are almost always distracting to the viewer. (If Fido will sit still long enough, you can position the lights to avoid this.)
As far as using software to add a little sparkle later, that choice is yours. If it's a pet portrait, the client probably won't know (or care) as long as the photo looks good.
If the shot is to be judged in a competition - where technical merit is part of the judging criteria - you should disclose any post-productions.

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4/21/2005 4:03:51 PM

Scott Pedersen   Heres somthing that just bugs me. I have seen some phtographs where the photographer has manipulated some kind of eyeball thingy on the animal in a photo program. Its hard to explain but its round and I guess supposed to represent the "catch lights" Please don't take that route, It looks just goofy. Sparkling or not the eye should look natural. You want to focus on the eye in fact when you shoot.

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4/27/2005 4:21:31 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  I'm with Scott on trying to add it later . . . much better to get it right "in camera." It's a lot less work in the long run and nearly impossible to make it look natural by adding it later as it usually defies the rest of the lighting on the animal (hence Scott's "goofy" observation).

One particular problem with cats is severe "red eye" and with dogs it's severe "yellow eye." Their pupils open up extremely wide. Found I needed to keep the lighting more separated from camera point of view than with humans and working in a space with fairly high ambient (to close pupils down) works better than lower lighting. Does require some work with the ambient so that it's lighting direction is enhanced by strobe (versus working against it and having to try to overwhelm it).

Catchlights don't have to be obvious, they can be subtle . . . particularly in photographs that are more profile. Keep working with the lighting and you'll find what works . . . and what doesn't . . . with experience.

-- John Lind

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5/5/2005 9:31:36 PM

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