TP2B: Playing with Catchlights

When researching Headshots I came across the work of Peter Hurley, an american photographer specialising in this area.  He has a rather distinctive catchlight in many of his shots which is essentially a square of light which surrounds the pupil of the subject’s eyes.  He uses the set up in a similar way to a ringflash where he shoot through a pool of light centred around his lens.  To achieve this he uses constant lights for his subject and flash for any background lighting that he chooses.

So Sam and I attempted to recreate the look with whatever we had around.  With no constant lights we opted to use the modelling lights of the flash heads and with each fitted with a softbox we tried to set them up in a rectangular shape through which we could shoot.  Using a constant light allows for the careful placement of the lights and knowing exactly what the catchlight is going to look like.  We actually couldn’t manage a true square/rectangle of light as our softboxes were all different sizes so it was impossible to get them all in the desired position.  Also, the catchlights we did produce went beyond the iris of the eye and squared-off the pupil which wasn’t a good look.  An adjustment of the lights relative to each other or putting a little more distance between the lights and subject would fix this issue with a little trial and error.

Using the modelling lights allowed us to open up our apertures and as a result create a shallow depth of field which is something I use on external portraits but not in studio with the brightness of flashheads. The modelling lights also produce a much more orange light than the flash heads themselves so we had to compensate for that with our white balance.

While the experiment itself was limited it does interest me and I think a set-up involving a series of LED bulbs would possible work quite well to produce the desired catchlight.  I do want to look a little more at dropping the depth of field in studio.  I have read about using ND filters on either the lights themselves or on the camera to reduce the output of the lights once set up to allow for wider apertures to be used.



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