A little shout-out to our forum member Liz, she’s posted a photo with catchlights that was just fantastic! Today’s tutorial is to help the rest of us get those same results using Adobe Lightroom. If you are new to this series of tutorials, please start with our first post: Lightroom: Add a Photo. This series of photo editing tutorials is part of our 100 DAY Project in the forum, please join us?

What exactly are catchlights? Catchlights are a gleam of reflected light in the eye, usually of a person, in a photograph. Without them photos look flat & dull. Frequently we capture catchlights, but they are subtle, faint, hard to see. Again, Lightroom to the rescue! We can accent them with the stroke of a brush. First, let’s start by opening a photo. This is my niece, Aeden & her cat Griffe (aka claw/talon).

I’ve gone ahead & done my basic edits, introduced in my second Lightroom post: Lightroom: Fix a Backlit Photo. Now it’s time to accent those highlights. Start by opening the Masking panel.

  • Click on the Masking (M) icon

Once the Masking Panel is open, we need to Create a Mask. We are going to do this using the Brush tool.

  • Click on the Brush icon

When you click on the Brush icon, you create a new Layer in Lightroom. This new layer is above our photo. It is automatically selected.

  • Note the blue line indicating the new Layer is selected
  • Note the Layer is black
    • This indicates it currently has zero effect on our photo
    • We will paint in white to add effects to our photo
    • We will adjust our Sliders to create those effects

We are working on a small section of our photo. The eyes are not large. It will be easier to paint on our photo if we zoom in. There’s several ways to do this, here’s one way:

  • Click on View in the top menu
  • Click on Zoom In
  • Repeat as necessary

It’s time to paint on the eyes! Unless you clicked somewhere, your adjustment Layer is still selected, and the Brush panel is still visible.

  • Adjust the Brush size to the eyes in your photo
    1. I’ve already brushed on her left eye, as indicated by the brush icon
    2. This is my current active brushing area, the brush looks like two circles with a + in the center
      • The + and circle around it indicated the paint area
      • The second circle = the feathering area

Now that I’ve painted on both eyes, you can see it’s noted with a faint red overlay. I am no longer painting, but I can continue to paint with the Brush. My Brush is still selected.

  • See the red overlay on both eyes where I painted
    • The right eye was originally brighter, I’ve painted less on this eye so it’s a lighter red overlay
  • I’ve updated my Sliders to the “eye” Mask
    • I’ve increased Highlights, Shadows and Whites
    • Play with your sliders to get the look you want
      note: the red disappears as you adjust the Sliders

You can toggle between the Original and Edited version of your photo by clicking on the Show Original button.

  • Click on Show Original (\)
  • Click on Show Original (\) again to see Edits/continue editing

I feel the bottom lid of Aeden’s eye is a little too bright with the Mask applied. I can erase some of my paint easily.

  • Click on the Mask
  • Click on the Eraser icon, next to the Brush
    • Adjust the size as needed
    • I made mine smaller than the Brush I painted with
  • Erase on the photo to edit the Mask

The difference is minor, but I’m happier.

I’m now going to add another Mask Layer and edit Griffe’s eyes (the cat), as well. I could continue to paint on the same mask, however then the Slider adjustments would be the exact same for both sets of eyes. I want to make slightly different edits to Griffe’s eyes, that’s why I create a second Mask Layer.

  • Click on the Blue + circle to add a second Mask Layer
  • Repeat the steps above as necessary

I’m very happy with how my painting on Masks accented the catchlights in both Aedens’ & Griffe’s eyes. I encourage you to find a photo of your own & accent the catchlights using these techniques. Come join our 100 DAY Project and show of your work!