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Project 52 Week 4: Catchlights

“He speaketh not; and yet there lies a conversation in his eyes”.  These wonderful words were those of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  These words represent how i feel when I meet each every shelter dog that I photograph that is looking for a forever home.  They all have a story to tell in their soulful eyes.  It’s my job to capture this.

This week’s 52 Week Pet Photography Blog Circle topic is “catchlights”.  Catchlights are simply the reflection of the light source that show up in the eyes. They add “life” to the eyes so they don’t appear dull. When photographing outdoors with natural light, early morning and late in the day are perfect times to get the catchlights hitting off center in the eyes.  Slightly overcast days work great as the sky creates a giant diffuser!

This past week I photographed some adoptable dogs at the MSPCA in Methuen, MA.  As I was driving over to the shelter at noon – smack in the middle of the day – the sun was shining bright and i was thinking that this was not going to work so well!  But when I pulled into the lot, the clouds came – perfect timing!  And they know me well when one of the volunteers said, “Darlene is going to be so happy these clouds rolled in!”  Now we had a gigantic soft box!

First meet adoptable brindle pit bull mix, Sydney.  I love the brindles!  This handsome guy is 8 years old. Shooting with the wide open sky I was able to get fuller catchlights that make his eyes sparkle.


Sydney Soul Mutt MSPCA 1 of 1


Next up available for adopt is “Shadow”.   Yes, you probably would have guessed by the name that this dog will be ALL black!  And this guy even has DARK eyes – definitely a challenge!  I was able to get the eyes to shimmer – making sure I got low on the ground and his head was not tilted down.  I love the added snow on the nose!


MSPCA Adoptable Dogs


Next I’m going to share this handsome guy, Roscoe, since he’s been at the shelter for quite some time.  He and a shelter staff member are taking a Basic Manners dog training class with me on Wednesday evenings.  He has completed 2 weeks – woohoo!  I love when I have shelter dogs in class learning!  It’s a wonderful opportunity when we have volunteers that will take the time and do class with these amazing dogs to better their manners which in turn, helps them become more adoptable!

I wanted to give an example of catchlights with artificial lighting and this next image wast taken right before the holidays.  I prefer natural light photography, especially for the outdoors, but studio can be fun and I love dabbling!  I have an AlienBee B800 with a medium rectangular soft box.  Softboxes come in all shapes and sizes from round, square, octagon – I would say it’s a personal preference and I love the “rectangular” catchlights.  When setting up just one strobe light (which I use)  it’s best to place it in front of you at a 45 degree angle, above and close the dog.  I tend to set up the strobe camera left.  The catchlights should be “off center” of the eyes.

This busy boy was a challenge to photograph!  Notice where the catchlights are and that they are “rectangular”.  This was a quick capture from using a “coyote caller” noisemaker where I was able to get a look in my direction.   It’s not always easy,  but I was thrilled we got this 1!


Adoptable Lab Mix


Thank you for stopping by our blog circle this week!  Please consider adoption when looking to bring a pet into your home.  There are so many amazing animals looking for love out there!

Next up in our blog circle is Blue Amrich of Beyond the Fence.   She has an adorable new puppy and I wonder if she just might be including photos of this cutie!  Have a great weekend!


44 thoughts on “Project 52 Week 4: Catchlights”

  1. Great job with the photo of Shadow, getting him properly exposed along with the snow.

    I have a soft spot for black dogs, so I hope this gives him some attention he needs to find his forever home.

  2. Gorgeous images, and I need to know where you got your coyote caller! I’ve seen it on an app (but alas, i have no more free hands to operate it!), but if I have a 3rd person, that one’s always a winner! I’ve been looking for it in a “mouth” version.

  3. I love that quote! And you’re images are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing about your artificial light set up. I have yet to dabble……and am always keen to hear what others use. Thanks.

  4. I love photographing at shelter too! It’s so vital for us to really captivate and draw in potential adopters with those beautiful, bright eyes. These images are lovely; it looks like you captured their unique personalities.

  5. Agree with all of the above! Great images and more need to step up and adopt! Nice work with these guys getting them long loved homes

  6. Lovely photographs – I like the blend of natural light and studio – question – for Shadow, you mentioned you ‘added the snow’ – do you mean in post processing? If so, curious about how – I have no snow to start with here in Florida…..Interesting that the shelter has Roscoe and he has been waiting for his home for some time as the rescue I work with has two male dogs, both large, similar to Roscoe and they are in the same situation – definitely ours appear to be a “man’s dog” but seems there should be some guy looking for a dog out there!

    1. Thanks, Linda! For Shadow the snow was already there … i must have meant that we were fortunate to have “added” snow that day on the ground that we threw around! 🙂 Roscoe is still there. Hopefully they will all find homes soon!

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