Lewis acid-activation of carbonyl-containing substrates is a fundamental basis for facilitating transformations in organic chemistry. Historically, characterization of these interactions has been limited to models equivalent to stoichiometric reactions. Here, we report a method utilizing in situ infrared spectroscopy to probe the solution interactions between Lewis acids and carbonyls under synthetically relevant conditions. Using this method, we were able to identify 1:1 complexation between GaCl3 and acetone and a highly ligated complex for FeCl3 and acetone. The impact of this technique on mechanistic understanding is illustrated by application to the mechanism of Lewis acid-mediated carbonyl-olefin metathesis in which we were able to observe competitive binding interactions between substrate carbonyl and product carbonyl with the catalyst.