Fill shadows and make eyes pop with this reflector

A couple of years ago, I started studying photography. I had been taking photos since I was a kid, but it was only recently that I really started honing my craft and improving my skills by taking a serious interest in the field. One of the elements of photography that held me back was the gear. Don’t get me wrong – I love playing with new gadgets. My issue was that some of it was intimidating as professional photography was new to me. Nowadays, that fear is gone and I instead look at new gear as an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge of the field of photography. 

In January 2020, I was able to attend ImagingUSA. While I was there, I saw lots of new equipment to play with, but I was particularly drawn to the CatchLight reflector by Angler. One of my major interests and areas of focus in photography is personal portraits. With that in mind, the CatchLight, a curved reflector that is designed to improve highlights around the eyes and face, quickly moved to the top of my gear wishlist, and thanks to the people at Angler, I was able to get my hands on it. 

DETAILS

The Angler CatchLight is a curved reflector that is designed to minimize or completely eliminate harsh shadows when taking photographs. The main uses of this reflector include portraits, fashion, and beauty photography. Designed to be positioned beneath the chin level of a subject, the CatchLight reflects a beam of light from the key light and creates a seamless, curved light that matches the shape and contour of your subjects eyes. The surface of the CatchLight is a highly-reflective silver material that can be replaced with a white fabric reflector instead (not included with the CatchLight). 

The CatchLight was designed with a user-friendly assembly in-mind. All the parts for the reflector are delivered in a protective soft-sided case and no special tools are required for assembly. The reflector panel is held together using tensioning rods and then positioned with a swivel/tilt bracket that can be attached to a standard lighting stand (not included). The CatchLight’s frame is constructed from aluminum so that it’s both sturdy and lightweight. The reflector can be used with any light source — continuous tungsten, LED light, flash, or even natural sunlight. 

MaterialReflective silver fabric
Aluminum tubes
Metal rods and bracket
AdjustmentsSupport bracket tilts
Dimensions24 x 58.5 x 13.5 inches
Weight5.5 lbs
In the BoxAngler CatchLight Reflector
Silver Reflective Fabric
Tilt/Swivel bracket
2 x tension rods
6 x curved tubes
6 x attachment knobs
Carrying case

THE SET-UP

As mentioned above, the reflector does not require any special tools to assemble. The instructions are included in the kit and they are fairly easy to follow. The first step is to make sure you have all the parts. Once they are laid out, you connect the tubes that will then be slid through the outer loops on the reflector fabric. This part is easy, but the tubes are connected together with pop-out tabs and those can get caught as you are trying to push the tubes through the loops. After the tubes are in place, you will then attach the assembly onto the swivel/tilt bracket which should be placed onto a lighting stand. Then, you will connect one of the tension rods to one end of the tubes.  Finally, you will connect the other tension rod. This is where it gets a little ‘tough’ in the assembly process. Because the tubes and the tension rods pull the fabric tight, the second tension rod has to be pressed into place and in order to do that, you have to fight through the tension created by the rest of the assembly. So, even though the steps aren’t difficult per se, getting all the parts in place can be hard. 

In addition to the set-up being a little awkward the completed size of the CatchLight is 58.5” wide. That’s nearly 6 feet in length. Needless to say, it takes up a lot of space. If I had a studio where I could leave the reflector set-up all the time, it wouldn’t be a hassle, but since I’m primarily using this on location when I shoot portraits, the set-up and tear down can get cumbersome with repetition. I would love to see the main portion of the CatchLight be more like a pop-up tent or a foldable backdrop. That way you don’t have to fool with connecting the tubes or extension rods each time you want to use it. 

SHOOTING WITH THE CATCHLIGHT

Less than two months after ImagingUSA, everything came to a crashing halt with my photography business due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its grip on the U.S. population. Even though I had this amazing piece of equipment to work with, I found myself suddenly without any option to connect with people outside my family. It was only a couple of weeks ago when I finally had the opportunity to try the CatchLight out with a friend who had been equally as careful about the virus as our family. We were able to conduct a low-key photoshoot (complete with social distancing) outdoors. 

We did a few different set-ups around my property that included natural backgrounds as well as a backdrop. The first set-up was between my house and our neighbor’s house. I wanted to make sure that direct sunlight was blocked out as much as possible and the houses helped with that. In this shot, I used a foldable backdrop and two flashes — the Godox AD400 Pro and the Godox AD200 Pro with Extension for Flash Head. The AD200 served as the rim light with a Glow EZ Lock 12×56 Strip softbox attached while the AD400 was positioned as the key light with a 60” Octa softbox (also by Glow) attached (shown in the photos above). I had a stool set-up for the model to use and then the CatchLight was sitting directly in front of her (approximately arm’s length away). The photos below show the difference that the CatchLight makes when shooting a photo like this. The photo on the left is not using the CatchLight and the photo on the right is (you can see the frame of the reflector in the shot). These photos are unedited with the exception of cropping so that you can see the exact difference the CatchLight reflector makes with lighting a a subject.

I was immediately surprised at exactly how much light the CatchLight reflector was able to capture. It not only filled the shadows under her neck, but it also filled in some shadows on her face while creating a beautiful “C” catchlight in her eyes. This really allowed me the ability to make her eyes pop when it came to editing the photos. The next set-up was in front of a tree in our front yard. This area was more exposed to sunlight, but we were able to maintain the control of our lighting set-up thanks, in part, to the CatchLight.  Again, you can see from the examples below that the CatchLight really helps her face to have a nice, natural-looking glow to it. The photo on the left, while it’s lit properly just doesn’t shine as nice as the one on the right, which has the help of the reflector. And as in the photos above, these are unedited with the exception of cropping.

Even though the initial photo taken with the CatchLight is nice enough to stand on its own, I did some touch-up and highlighting work on a couple of the poses I captured in those set-ups. The final products are shown below.

CONCLUSION

I feel that for most people in the photography work they are going to love having this as an addition to their gear. It takes a subject and enhances them with minimal effort after the set-up of course. In my opinion, the CatchLight is a smart investment and it will pay for itself in one shoot. My portrait photography has and will continue to improve greatly due to this one piece of gear.

For more details, visit ANGLER