It’s not uncommon for pet owners to notice that their dogs’ eyes appear blue in photographs, even though they look brown or another color in real life. This optical illusion is caused by a few different factors relating to the anatomy of the canine eye and the way cameras capture images. Keep reading to learn why your pup’s peepers can seem to change color when photographed, along with tips for capturing their true eye color.
The Tapetum Lucidum
One of the main reasons dog eyes can look blue in photos is due to a structure called the tapetum lucidum. This reflective layer of tissue lies behind the retina and helps animals see better in low light conditions. Here’s how it works:
|Light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that converts images into signals to the brain
|Reflective tissue layer behind the retina that amplifies light
When light enters the eye, it passes through the retina to the tapetum lucidum. This tissue reflects the light back through the retina, essentially giving it two chances to be detected by the light-sensing cells there. This allows dogs and other animals with a tapetum lucidum to see much better in darkness.
So what does this have to do with eye color? The tapetum lucidum is iridescent, meaning it reflects a bright color reminiscent of blue eyes. When a camera flash or other light source hits the eye at a certain angle, it illuminates this reflective layer and makes the eyes appear blue in photographs. Even dogs with brown, amber, or hazel eyes in normal light can look like they have baby blues when the tapetum lucidum is lit up!
Red Eye Reduction
Another reason your dog’s eyes may look blue in photos is due to the red eye reduction feature found on most modern cameras. This tool identifies and corrects pet eye discoloration caused by flash photography.
When taking a flash photo, the light reflects off the blood vessels at the back of the eye before the pupil can close. This causes the common phenomenon of “red eye” in human subjects. Dogs have a reflective tapetum lucidum instead of blood vessels at the back of their eyes, so they manifest a “green eye” effect rather than red.
To compensate, cameras use red eye reduction, which can overcorrect and turn the eyes gray or blue. So dogs’ eyes may appear blue in flash photographs thanks simply to this automatic editing feature rather than their natural color.
Angle of Lighting
The angle of lighting when taking a photo can also influence the way a dog’s eye color is captured. Directly flashing a light into the eye head-on maximizes the reflective glow from the tapetum lucidum, making the eyes look especially blue. Photographing from an angle offsets this effect.
For example, taking a picture from above the dog pointing the camera down reduces blue eye flare. Conversely, shooting from below heightens the blue hue. Play around with adjusting your shooting angle under different lighting conditions to see how it impacts your dog’s eye color in photographs.
Correcting Blue Eye Discoloration
If you want to capture your dog’s true eye color in photographs, here are some tips:
|How It Works
|Avoid using flash
|Prevents light from reflecting off the tapetum lucidum
|Use natural lighting
|Shows eye color realistically without flash distortion
|Shoot from different angles
|Changes the way light hits the eye to minimize blue flare
|Manually adjust color
|Increases saturation/warmth to offset blue tone
|Turn off red eye reduction
|Prevents automatic editing that can cause blue color
With some tweaking to lighting and settings, you can get photos that reveal your dog’s beautiful natural eye color instead of anomalous blue coloring.
When Blue Eyes are Natural
While blue eye discoloration in dog photos is typically just an optical effect, some breeds are born with genuinely blue peepers. Here are a few dogs that may have blue eyes without special lighting:
|Blue Eye Facts
|– Common in Huskies, especially with piebald (white & colored) coat patterns
|– Less common than in Huskies but can appear in Merle Border Collies
|– Associated with the Merle gene like Border Collies
|– Iridescent gray-blue eyes are a signature of the breed
|– Uncommon but responsible for “wall eyes” in some Dalmatians
|Catahoula Leopard Dog
|– Often have pale blue “cracked glass” eyes
So if you have one of these blue-eyed breeds, those stunning azure peepers may be real and not just a photographic fluke! But even dogs with naturally blue eyes can still exhibit tapetum lucidum eye shine in photos.
When to See the Vet
While blue-eyed discoloration in dog photos is normally harmless, sometimes a sudden change in eye color can indicate a medical problem. See the vet promptly if you notice any of the following in your dog:
– Eyes turning blue, gray, or white over a short period of time
– Uneven eye colors (one eye changing but not the other)
– Eyes changing color along with other symptoms like discharge or swelling
– Cloudiness or loss of transparency in the eyes
– Increased sensitivity to light
These could be signs of conditions like nuclear sclerosis, cataracts, glaucoma, or progressive retinal atrophy. Catching eye issues early improves outcomes, so don’t ignore strange eye color changes in real life in addition to photographs.
It’s perfectly normal for dogs’ eyes to appear blue in photos even when they are a different color in reality. This optical illusion is caused by factors like the reflective tapetum lucidum and automatic red eye reduction. Adjust lighting and camera settings to get images that show your dog’s true beautiful eye color. Just be sure to see the vet if you notice off-kilter color changes in real life and not just photographs. With a better understanding of this common phenomenon, you can capture your dog’s eyes accurately and make sure they stay healthy.