Why cats eyes glow white when photographed with Flash
While teaching a Wildlife Photography Workshop at the Singapore Zoo recently, I decided to use a little fill flash to brighten this tiger portrait.
To my surprise, the tiger’s eyes glowed white – a very unattractive portrait!
Curious, I decided to do a little research to find out why. I discovered that this effect is typical when photographing cats using flash. Cats often hunt at night and their eyes are adapted to help them see better in the dark. There’s a special reflective layer behind the retina which acts as a mirror, reflecting light so it can be reabsorbed by the cone cells of the retina. This is what causes the ugly white glow in the eyes.
If you’ve photographed a cat using fill-flash and want to get rid of the ugly white eye effect, use a cloning tool.
In Lightroom, I used the Spot Removal Tool to get rid of the white glow in the tiger’s eyes. I enlarged the spot until it covered the pupil, and used the dark jungle background as the source to replace the white retina area. I left a tiny bit of the white glow so that it looks like a natural catchlight.
The result is a significantly improved portrait. Though in hindsight, I would have saved myself the trouble and not used flash to photograph the tiger.