Use Gaffers Tape to Customize the Catch Lights In Your Subject’s Eyes


Photographer Nick Fancher tells us that he recently came up with an interesting way of customizing the catch light in subjects’ eyes. If, in your portraiture, you place white or black foam boards to control the amount and direction of bounce light, you can also use white and black gaffers tape to control what goes on in your subjects’ eyeballs!

Here’s a lighting diagram showing the setup Fancher has been using:


By applying white tape to black board and black tape to white board, Fancher is able to create some pretty interesting shapes in the eye lights of his portraits. Here are some behind-the-scenes photos of the boards followed by the portraits they helped make:









Fancher has packaged a number of these lighting tips into a $10 eBook he recently published, titled “RGLR, The Run & Gun Lighting Resource“. You can also find more of his portrait work here.

Image credits: Photographs by Nick Fancher and used with permission

  • Steven Alan

    That is awesome! Can’t wait to try some of these

  • assa


  • Daniella Koontz

    I cut out a shape in white foam board and bounce some light off of it and get a similar effect

  • Tim Shahady

    cool stuff. Bought the book just to support that coolness!

  • Mansgame

    There might be applications for this in artistic or commercial photography.

  • Samcornwell

    Simple and effective. Martin Schoeller’s portraits would have taken an entirely different meaning if he’s done this with his.

  • kendra

    as opposed to what, space photography? thanks for the obvious.

  • G

    Don’t really like the result personally, but fun enough I guess. To go off topic: what an extremely unflattering focal length for close up portrait the photographer used on these!

  • mrbeard

    love the triangle one

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Nice idea.

  • Samuel

    Would some kind of elasticated sheet the size of your soft boxes with black tape over do the same job ?? It seems less elaborate but I’m no expert on studio lighting

  • sam

    Nice images and nice catch light,
    off topic a bit, is the camera too close to the subject? and making them center area fatter…

  • kpfoto

    And I just thought he picked people with big noses,…….

  • agour


  • pakla

    I guess he had to be close, to be able to shoot trough the hole, because
    the card-board needs to be close to the model, to create the

  • G

    You’d still be close enough (tight enough to be more specific) with a longer lens, which more suited for close up, portrait work. A 35mm, on what I assume is full-frame, is not a good lens for head shots.

  • pakla

    I agree with you

  • Mick Orlosky

    When your significant other leans in for a kiss, do you say “Oh how unflattering, you’re too close!”

    My point in making this comment is to point out that conventional notions of what is “flattering” are changing, and hopefully as we evolve, just because things look different that what we’re used to from the “old masters” doesn’t mean it is necessarily ugly. I find photos of people doing cruel things to be unflattering. I find truthful images of human faces to be fascinating, these included. Our aesthetic notions should be able to change to accept and enjoy honest new things.

    Are these unconventional? Yes. Are they unflattering? I don’t think so.

  • E

    When your loved one leans in for a kiss her/his face doesn’t distort like it does when shot close with a wide-angle lens. It will appear differently than when viewed from a distance, but still appear normal. The problem isn’t “being close”, it is in the execution.

  • Hugo Cuellar Rodriguez

    Creative and super low budget fix. Doesnt look right in a professional photo studio but you can always make it look prettier than that. Customers love fancy looking stuff.