Moline Pet Photographer Chats About Light, Part 1

One of the things that I teach my students in my Quad City photography classes is to embrace their main light source and use it to:

  • Provide impact so people take notice of your image.
  • Tell the story of your subject.
  • Create an emotion.  This can range from happiness to rage.
  • Push yourself creatively by creating light patterns.

By using a variety of  light sources, light patterns, and light manipulation, you can create images of your favorite subject that you will cherish forever.

In part one, I will be focusing on catchlights and how they create life in your subject and a very simple light source that you can find everywhere and it doesn’t cost you a cent.


Catchlights are specular highlights from a light source that can be found in the eyes of humans or animals.  They give life and depth to your image and assist you in creating a spark as you tell your story.   They are especially important when you are backlighting your subject.  If you do not fill your subject with a reflector or flash, eyes will look dark and sunken.

In humans, try to place your catchlights either at the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock position.  This gives them a more natural look.  Since animals eye reflect and absorb light differently than humans, their catchlights will not always be in those positions.

As a personal preference, I prefer to have only one catchlight in my images. dsc_3547  I look at the eyes to determine which ones are most flattering to my subject; and the remove the rest in photoshop. Once again, I feel it gives the eyes a more natural look.

Round or rectangle?  The catchlights will reflect the shape of the light source.  For example, in my studio, you will see that the catchlights are rectangle because of the shape of my softboxes.  However, when I am outside, they will be round.  They will also be round if I pop my on camera flash.

So when you are out and about, start looking at catchlights and where they fall into the eyes of animals and people.  This is the very first step to really start noticing the direction of light that is falling on what you are photographing.


Window light is one of the easiest light sources to work with when you are capturing images of your favorite subject.  Depending on where you place your subject, the light can create a beautiful story as it gives you image a three dimensional look.

Window light can give your image a harsh or soft look.  It just depends on what emotion or story you are wanting to tell.


Take a look at Santa.  This image was taken in the early afternoon.  Since it was a cloudy day, we call this lighting directional-diffused.  This type of lighting gives you a definite direction of light.  The clouds are diffusing the light so that it scatters and creates a soft look.

Had the sun been shining through, the shadows would have been much harsher and the light more direct.  Thus taking away the story that I wanted to tell.

But the good news is that you can replicate this lighting when you are out and about.  You just have to look around.


0047This is a portrait that I made during a senior session in downtown Dubuque Iowa. The image is taken in an alleyway.  By moving her back a bit, I was able to replicate the light that you see in the Santa image.

In the image below, we used diffused light coming into the barn as my main lighting source.  Once again, the shadows are soft.

In Part two, I will writing about how to manipulate light by bouncing or reflecting it when you are using available light.   We will also look at how you can use artificial light such as lamps and flashlights in your photography.

0051Then in Part three,  I will introduce you to lighting patterns and how you can apply them in both natural and artificial light settings.

Don’t want to wait for parts two and three?  Join us in the Elements of Photography Class this Saturday, September 24th.  We will spend a little time covering composition techniques and then jump right into lighting.  You will want to bring your cameras as you will have lots of time to practice the lighting skills that are covered in class.

Call Lisa at 309.269.5013 for more information or register here:



About lisafrancescon

Lisa is a portrait artist who uses photography as part of a process to capture the personality of animals and the special relationship they have with their owners. Based out of Moline Illnois, she travels throughout the Midwest providing timeless images of family pets. Her fine art portraits can be viewed at various pet businesses throughout the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities. Lisa holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Western Illinois University and taught in the public schools for many years. She continues to teach photography classes in her studio covering a wide range of topics. Her class sizes are small so she can offer her students a hands-on experience and individual attention. Lisa is a Certified Professional Photographer and has been awarded the Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees through the Professional Photographers of America. She is a member of the American Society of Photographers, one of the most prestigious photographic associations in the world and an association that must be invited into through photographic achievement. Among her many awards and accolades, Lisa has been recognized as one of the top 10 photographers in Illinois in both 2015 and 2016 from the Associated Professional Photographers of Illinois.
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