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Portrait Tips: Vitreous Eyes (Even With Hats)

Vitreous is a great word. It’s used to describe something that looks glassy or shiny. It comes from the Latin word that means glass. I think one of the most important things you can do in your portraits is to make sure that your subjects’ eyes look alive, glassy…vitreous.

The best way to get vitreous eyes is to make sure there’s a catchlight in them. A catchlight is simply the reflection of the light in the eyes. It’s easy to do this with a flash because you just position the light so it shines in the eyes. But sometimes it’s harder to get a catchlight outdoors.

How to Find the Catchlight

The best way to ensure you have a catchlight in your subjects’ eyes is to stand where you want them to be and look at where you want the camera to be. If you can see the sky, your subject will probably have a light reflecting in their eyes. If all you can see are trees, then there won’t be that bright highlight in the eyes. You may also find a light colored building or a truck that reflects the light in the eyes.

Those catchlights ensure the eyes look lively and vitreous.

What About Hats???

Hats are designed to keep the light out of people’s eyes, so how do you deal with them to still get vitreous eyes? This happened to me just the other day. We were making portraits early in the morning, and both my subjects arrived wearing hats. I don’t think it’s ever happened to me before that both were wearing hats (of course, I was wearing a hat; I’m always wearing a hat).

I thought hast and realized that if I stood slightly uphill of my subjects, then they would lift their faces to look at me and I’d still get the catchlight in their eyes. Sure enough! It worked really well and their eyes look lively and sparkling.

Conclusion

You need catchlights in the eye to get vitreous eyes. Stand yourself in your subject’s spot and look for the bright light shining from the horizon. If they’re wearing hats, try standing higher so they look upward and catch a little light from the sky under their brims. Ensuring you have catchlights will make sure your subjects look bright and lively.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.

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