The portrait and headshot industry in photography is likely the craft’s most popular niche. As such, it isn’t a stretch to say that there is a multitude of headshot and portrait photographers in every state and country. So, you need to find a way to stand out from the herd. The Westcott Eyelighter is one such way to differentiate from the masses, a unique reflector unlike any other I’ve seen before.
What is the Westcott Eyelighter?
Much like the name implies, the Westcott Eyelighter is curved to mimic the shape of the human eye and illuminate the bottom part of the iris (something that many photographers tend to add in post-production). The eyes are the windows to the soul, and often the very first thing most viewers notice about an image. This highlight creates an eye-catching image (no pun intended).
As all working photographers understand, the more time you spend in front of a computer screen is less time out there shooting. So taking advantage of a tool that creates a commonly edited effect is grand. This product certainly diminishes the time spent at the computer.
What’s in the box?
The Westcott Eyelighter kit features the reflector itself and a carrying case, with additional accessories sold separately. The physical makeup of the Eyelighter includes a durable aluminum frame and a highly-reflective silver surface. Tension rods are utilized to pull this material taut, maximizing the light cast on the subject.
I was quite impressed by the durability and quality of the Eyelighter’s build, this is not an addition that will snap or break easily.
Assembling the Westcott Eyelighter is not much of a task on paper, but can be a bit of a handful in practice. Myself, as a 5’ 5” 98lb female, did struggle to put the Eyelighter together with no help, but it is most certainly possible.
Westcott released a very helpful YouTube instructional video (see below) on how to properly assemble this reflector for those that don’t find the instruction manual helpful. The real difficulty comes from the tension rods as I found it requires quite a bit of strength to put together.
Had there been a second pair of hands to help, the assembly would have been more of a breeze (so photographers that have studio assistants, there won’t be much concern there). On average, after practicing the assembly process several times, it finally took me 10-15 minutes to put together.
Transporting the Eyelighter and portability
The Eyelighter is a rather large piece of studio equipment and really is intended as a permanent addition to your studio. As I did not want to assemble and disassemble the kit every time, I wanted to test to see if I can transport the reflector in its fully assembled state.
From personal experience, I can attest that this product can fit into a car fully-assembled (minus the tripod). I drive an SUV, and I did not need to place the seats down to fit this reflector in horizontally across the backseat. Seats may need to be put down for smaller vehicles, but the height of the kit poses no issue fitting inside of a car.
The Eyelighter does come with a carry case and can be disassembled and assembled, but the assembly does take a bit of time. At least, for me it took a significant amount of time, so I would rather transport the reflector fully-assembled.
Using the Westcott Eyelighter
Using the Eyelighter is rather simple and doesn’t require any advanced studio knowledge. Like any reflector, the Eyelighter works by bouncing light off of its reflective panel.
The Eyelighter is already tilted upon attachment to a tripod (which must be purchased separately). As such, all you need to do is take a large softbox (I personally use an octagonal one for this but a square or rectangular softbox is just as valid), place it directly above the Eyelighter, and aim downwards.
It may take a bit of maneuvering and brief trial-and-error test to find the correct placement of the reflector underneath your subject, but the general consensus is that it belongs below the chest area of your model. This piece of equipment will not affect your additional lighting setup, which allows you the freedom to light the rest of the subject in any which way.
The Eyelighter reflects light toward your subject, leaving a catchlight that follows the natural curve of the eye. If the silver reflector is too bright or causes too stark of a reflection, Westcott has a white sheet available for purchase that will cover that whole panel and soften the effect.
My favorite aspect of this is how seamless the catch light is, there are no odd or unflattering gaps. As well as this, it really does soften the light on the neck and chin. Paired with your other studio lighting kits, this is a must-have for anyone looking to add something fantastic to their collection.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that due to the necessary position to create the effect, this reflector really is for portrait and headshot use only – you won’t be able to catch a whole body image with this.
In conclusion, the Westcott Eyelighter is a fun, eye-catching, and simple to use reflector that can really help you stand out from the competition.
With a retail price of $299, this isn’t the absolute most expensive item in your photographic arsenal but can make a huge difference to your portraits and headshots.