Catching the Catchlights – Weekly Photo Challenge “Eyes”

“Your eyes are full of language.”

Anne Sexton



This week’s challenge is eyes, which offered such a wide variety of responses I had a hard time narrowing my focus (pun intended!). I decided to restrict myself to some examples of catchlights. For the non-photographers among us, the dictionary defines catchlights as “a gleam of reflected light in the eye of a person or animal in a photograph.” As an example, if you click on the photo above you will see catchlights in the eyes of both subjects. I captured this moment while shooting some dockworkers inΒ  South Africa. I was struck by the world-weariness of the father vs the exhuberance of his son.



β€œThe face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

I loved the quote above by Cicero, and think his idea (as well as the catchlights) is illustrated quite nicely by the photograph of the two young Thai dancers. Clearly the young dancer on the left is having a bit more fun with the moment than her partner 😊.  Catchlights give our subjects an oft-noted gleam or sparkle in their eyes, which often connotes mischievousness or playfulness.



β€œLove gives you eyes.”
Peter Kreeft
Last week I did a photo shoot for a very good friend and her family. This capture for me showed both the personalities of each of the subjects and the love they share. She is one of my favorite people and it seems her children have inherited her ever-present joi de vivre. (Because they are further away, you need to look a bit more closely for the catchlights in this one, but they’re there, honest! 😊)


β€œAn animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

Martin Buber

Catchlights are also important when shooting animals. If you look closely by clicking on the photo above, you will notice that the catchlights actually reflect the photographer (yep, me!). Seeing oneself within the catchlights is always fun for a photographer, including yours truly.



β€œSilent words are heard through eyes.”


For several years I donated my time and photography skills to a local animal shelter for their annual fundraiser. It was a powerful illustration for me that although animals may not be able to speak our language, they can tell us what they are thinking in many non-verbal ways, including the look in their eyes.



β€œThe Artist always has the masters in his eyes.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, I offer an example in the graphic wall art above, which I captured in Buenos Aires.Β  In this case the artist literally painted catchlights into his colorful mosaic. How cool is that?!



94 thoughts on “Catching the Catchlights – Weekly Photo Challenge “Eyes”

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  3. The detail of catchlights is fascinating! You don’t realize how that subtle detail adds the spark of life until someone photoshops the “red eyes” out leaving a somewhat vacant stare if the photo is viewed closely. And thank you for your service to the animal shelter — those animals who have had the benefit of somewhat putting them in their best light often have such a better chance of adoption.

    • Many thanks Kat – I agree on your redeye comment. Happily most cameras today have red-eye control which can be very helpful. As for the animals, I think I got more out of it than they did πŸ™‚

  4. These are just fantastic shots and of course I love it that you worked with shelter animals and could catch their expressions. You are an amazing photographer – in my eyes! πŸ™‚

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  6. This was fun to read tonight! And I learned something new – catchlights! In basic art classes we usually paint in what we call eye highlights – but fun to learn about this in photography….
    And I looked at every single picture close up. Some of the clear images caught in the catchlights reminded me of some Escher drawings – and just so interesting – loved the selfie too.

  7. these are great. thanks for all the info. the term ‘catchlight’ is new to me, however the concept is one i usually try to include in portraits, especially in portraits of animals. for example, some of my favourite clicks of our resident tiger Timmy, has those catchlights.
    and although i believed you that your family portrait had them, i decided to zoom the page and sure enough, lots of catchlights there. you are right – they do add something!
    if i had to choose a favourite on this page, it’s the first image of the father and son. so poignant.
    enjoyed the quotes you included, too. thanks for sharing this inSIGHTful post πŸ˜€

  8. Beautiful interpretation of this week’s challenge. Love the monkey shot and I can certainly see your reflection in his eyes. He looks adorable, as if he is curious as to why you are standing in front of him πŸ˜€ It is so kind of you to spend some time at the animal shelter and help out with their fundraisers. I’m sure you took a good number of photos while you were at it πŸ™‚ Eyes, as the cheesy phrase goes, are the windows to the soul. They convey emotion deep from the heart, as I like to think.

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  10. I always look forward to your posts and your interpretation of the theme. You never fail to impress me Tina. And I have learned something new today, Catchlights. Well I never!

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  12. Lovely portraits Tina . Catchlights together with acial expressions do seem to tell us so much .
    I do hope that darling little pup found a home if he was needing one πŸ™‚

  13. Great shots, Tina. The man with his son…beautiful, but sad in a way. The good heart in the family..evident. You in the animal’s eyes…hysterical.

  14. Your portraits are always stunning. Great interpretation of the challenge, Tina. Before I read your text in the opening photo, I thought to myself this man’s son hasn’t let the world beat him down yet. πŸ™‚

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