How to Illuminate Eyes When Photographing Kids

Illuminate eyes using any camera when photographing kids

The saying goes, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.  Well for moms, light is a girl’s best friend.  You may be thinking, “Sure, if I’m fishing a lost toy or binky from under the couch.”  Well, momma dear its good for more than that.  Let’s talk about photographing your kids.  What if I were to tell you it’s possible to capture stunning pictures of your child no matter your camera type?  Yep, great pictures are possible even on an Iphone or android.  Here is How to Illuminate Eyes When Photographing Kids.

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We all love those striking images of children and their bright seemingly glowing eyes.  Why not achieve that same affect in your own photos with no special equipment or computer program.  Yes, you can achieve this draw dropping effect with the camera you already own.  The term for this secret weapon you will be using is called catch light.

photographing kids for bright eyes light

You Need But One

You will need one small tool to find your catch light.  Most photographers use a black marble.  However, If you don’t happen to be an avid collector of solid hued marbles there is an alternative.  Use a dark grape.  That’s right, a grape.  If you have small children, then there is a high probability you have a grape.  Perhaps under the fridge even. (Ew, it happens)

photographing kids using grape tricks

Simply give it a rinse and shine until the surface puts off a nice sheen.  Then, to resemble the surface of your marble, rub a super thin coat of olive oil over the grapes surface.  Seriously, you don’t need a lot.  If you do find that you have over greased your grape, wipe it over with a paper towel and it should be spot on.

This technique for seeking catch light will work just as well with your grape than if you use a marble.  However, the marble is a more permanent solution.  Now, to find the light, hold the grape in the center of your curled forefinger and thumb.  As though, you are making a little eye in your hand.  This is your third eye.  You will use the reflection within the grape to judge where the light will hit your child’s eye best to achieve that illuminating effect.

photographing kids light sources trick

Choose a window nearby that you would like to use as your official light source while snapping photos.  Now, angle your third eye toward the light source to get an idea of how the light is flowing into the room.  Move around and experiment with differing angles and distances from the window to find the sweet spot where light falls into your third eye to illuminate it the most.  This will be your focus point when photographing kids.

Lets Compare

The image below shows the light shining in from slightly behind the child.  There is a slight illumination. Yet, that radiant glow is not quite achieved.  For a shot that is truly epic, this little one will need to be facing further into the direction where light is present.  This should allow the light more range across the features giving that angelic glow.

side lit photographing kids

This next image is from that same day at the exact same time.  This image is NOT PHOTOSHOPPED! I’m in love with how well it came out in camera.  See how bright those baby blues are?!  Just a simple adjustment of angle made a massive difference in these two shots.

photographing kids with light outside

Now, to prove that you do NOT need a Photoshop program to capture an amazing image.  Here are two versions of this image compared side by side.  Photo one is not edited and appears just as it was shot.  Photo two shows the same image only enhanced for details in the eyes, and face softened.  Even though Photo Two is Photoshopped, the first photo is still just as stunning as the second edited version.  There you have it, you CAN take amazing pictures using this trick!

photographing kids eyes compare

Photographing Your Kids using a DSLR

Now, it’s time to compare the results with a fancy schmancy camera verses a phone camera. These images were taken on a Canon EOS Rebel T2i.  Even the camera isn’t the latest and greatest on the market.  Photo One is shown just how it was shot through the lens.  No editing whatsoever.  In Photo Two, a few adjustments were made to highlight details but stay true to the original photo. They are both remarkable photos.  You don’t need an extravagant Photoshop program to capture great images.  Just go find some great light!

photographing kids eyes bright light

Here is another DSLR image to compare.  Photo One is unedited and RAW.  Photo two has been enhanced only in the eyes.  The third photo is sharpened, skin softened and eyes brightened.  Again, the first image is still just as captivating as the other two.  It really makes a difference when you find that catch light!

photogrpahing kids for bright eyes

Photographing Kids using your Phone

Many mothers, well, people for that matter, take for granted the power of their phones.  That device is quite sophisticated. Not as advanced as an SLR perhaps, but still effective.  This is why I want to show you how you can achieve a powerful image using only your phone.  No filters!  This first shot (Photo One)  is just the Iphone camera.  No special app, just the camera.  However, I do prefer to use Camera + for it’s in depth photography settings.  Nevertheless, Photo One was taken without any settings or filters.

Please excuse the baby clutter in the background.  Normally, not my style.  But this image was a great example and babies move A LOT!

phone photographing kids

To compare just how powerful your phone can be, there is an edited version of this photo on the right
(Photo Two).  Not a huge difference!  The only improvements made in photo Two are sharpening, skin softening and brightening of the eyes a touch more.  Even with these changes, photo one is still stunning!  On a side note these images were taken using an Iphone 5!  If you have an updated version, imagine how great your images will turn out when photographing kids!

Prep Yo Set

You don’t want to be in direct sunlight while shooting.  You are simply using the luscious soft gleam from the light through the window, not the direct rays of the sun.  It’s a “shaded light” if you will.  If there happens to be direct rays flowing in, just wait until they shift as the sun moves through time.

christmas photographing kids

Be sure to set up in advance.  It can be quite an obstacle photographing kids when you’re not fully prepared.  Clear the area of clutter.  This will keep your image focus on the child rather than the toys in the background.  Have the blankets laid out, chair in position and props ready and available.  Be sure your camera is on, focused and if you’re using an app for your phone, be sure it’s open and ready as well.

OK, now you can get the kids and position them as best you can where your grape caught the catch light the most.  You will have several off shots and that’s OK. If you find yourself struggling to obtain a shot of those glimmering eyes, a trick to locking in that light is to have the kids look up.  The light source illuminates their eyes well when they are gazing up.  For babies, try to set a stuffed animal on your head and snap a shot.

Get Outdoors

photographing kids for bright eyes

Catch light can be obtained when photographing kids outdoors too.  It can be a bit tricky to get it right, but with practice you will begin to see a pattern and learn to spot it immediately.  The image above shows the catch light illuminating his eyes, although there is no direct light.  Since the image was taken at the beach, I used the bright sand below our feet to bounce light off the ground and into his eyes.  (Gotta love the sand on his mouth)  Yes, you can use your surroundings to catch that light.

As you begin to master this little trick when photographing kids, you may notice one side effect.  Your photos are going to look AMAZING!  I mean, they will be striking.  Therefore, I apologize in advance if your friends begin to envy your rock star photo skills and beg for your secrets.   Have fun catching the light!


Want to know more motherhood hacks that will change your life!?!!!  Check out this Mom Hack to Organize Your Child’s School Papers For Good.  NO FOLDERS NEEDED!

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How to Brighten Eyes when Photographing your Kids- Even on a Phone! This photography secret will transform the way you photograph your kids. Learn exactly how to take bright creamy photos with bright eyes every time! Click here to discover the secret to great photos of your kids!

How to Illuminate Eyes when Photographing Kids No matter Your Camera Type- Learn how to manipulate catch light to brighten eyes when photographing kids. Using this technique, with no special equipment, you can find the catch light to make your photos look stunning. You will never photograph your kids the same way again. Click to reveal the secret to illuminate eyes when photographing kids!

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  1. I’m loving learning new tricks with photography. Diamonds in the eyes make stunning photos. And yes, finding the light is key!

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