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Add catchlight in Photoshop

When the light source reflects in the subject’s eyes, it forms a catchlight. A catchlight adds sparkle to the eyes and thus life to the subject's face. More importantly, it draws the viewer's attention to the eyes.

If the photo does not have any catchlight in the eyes, the subject’s eyes appear dull or zombie like... Although it is better to have it in camera, don't worry, Photoshop is here to the rescue. In the tutorial below, I will show you how quickly you can add catchlights using Photoshop. The trick is that you have to be subtle in every step below.

  1. Zoom in closely on the eyes.
  2. Select a soft-edged brush with hardness 0% and opacity at 40%. 
  3. Press X to reset foreground to white and background to black
  4. Change the brush size ( [ ] ) to be slightly larger than the catchlight
  5. Create a new empty layer
  6. Click ONCE in each eye to create the catchlight. Try to mimic the same direction as the strongest light source. Usually top right or top left will do the trick. 
  7. Now change the brush to hard edged and opacity to 100%
  8. Add a white layer mask
  9. X to switch to black foreground and paint over catchlight to produce the shape you want. A square shape will mimic the window or softbox light and a round shape will mimic the umbrella or reflector sources.
  10. Reduce the layer opacity to 70%
  11. Create a new empty layer 
  12. Change the foreground color to white (X). Reduce the brush size to half its size and click once in the center of the catchlight
  13. Go Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur. Reduce the Radius just enough to soften the edges. 

The end result is a nicer portrait with catchlights that sparkle the eyes. Go ahead and practice this technique on your photos and while at it, please remember that it is very important that the catchlights must correspond to the natural direction of the light for it to appear natural. If the light is coming from the right, the catchlights should be on the right side of the pupils, just slightly above the center.

Our starting photo. No catchlight as the flash was pointing at 45% on camera axis. 

Hide areas using a black brush to mimic a square window catchlight 

The end result is a nicer portrait with catchlights that sparkle the eyes.