In the internal renderer, it's possible to turn off the diffuse on a light source while leaving on specular:

in the light properties in Blender Render

which gives the neat effect of only rendering the highlights on an object:

Suzanne with only that light for illumination

To my understanding, Cycles emulates real world physics in that the object's properties control how light interacts with it and the light itself doesn't play as much of a role. So I'm curious if there's a way to manipulate an object in Cycles so that it only shows highlights of any light source to simulate this effect?

I've seen some questions on the topic of specularity in Cycles, but only about adding it to light sources, not as a hypothetical solo source.

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You can emulate equivalent results with Cycles Ray Visibility flags for the lamp object.

To a similar result to highlights you can turn off all components except Glossy for your lamp object.

enter image description here

Have in mind that this will only work on objects with materials with some sort of glossy reflection component. Purely diffuse, transparent, refractive or translucent materials will likely become totally unaffected by that light siurce

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