Of the most common dog photography-related questions I receive, those relating to photographing black dogs have to be the most common :D.
As much as I absolutely love black dogs, they can prove to be quite the challenge to photograph!!!
In this tutorial, I explore my most commonly used tools for dealing with these challenging fur clients :D.
Early afternoon shot of @jimmythebcollie . The sun was shining over my right shoulder, to get the most light on his face as possible (OK… he’s not entirely black. However, black areas such as these on the face can be treated in the same manner)
TAKING THE SHOT
Although the editing techniques I explored are great to enhance shots of black dogs, they’re certainly no substitute for capturing (at least) a reasonably exposed image to begin with. The hints and tips below are intended to assist set you up for success in capturing great shots to take into the editing process.
My @twocheekymutts , Logan and Leroy. The sun was shining from directly behind me in this shoot, to get the most light on these handsome boys and maintain sky detail.
WHEN should I shoot!?
Without doubt, the very first step is venturing out in an ideal location and time of day.
Where possible, it’s best to avoid intense direct sunlight when photographing your black fur clients/loved ones. The easiest way to do this is to either shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The goal here is to minimise the difference in light intensity between your backdrop and that reflected off your client. As black fur does not reflect much light, you really want to light intensity coming from your surroundings.
…what about LOCATION!?
You can help yourself out a bit more by selecting a location that provides you with some shade and/or filtered light. Parks and nature reserves are typically great options. When shooting in these locations, attempt to find some nice even shade. ‘Patchy’ shade can result in some distracting light patterns reflecting from your subject. Depending on the backdrop, you can experiment with either back or front-lit options. With black dogs, in particular, you’ll need some fairly ‘generous’ light filtering to prevent ‘blowing-out’ your background. Slightly under-exposing your subject (to retain some background detail) and later raising the ‘shadows’ during post-editing (as featured in this video tutorial), is often necessary for back-lit shots. For more tips and tricks for back-lit shots, in particular, check-out my tutorial, “Backlight…Oh, Beautiful Backlight – My Process Explained” at www.johnmuirphotography.net/single-post/2017/01/22/BacklightOh-Beautiful-Backlight—My-Process-Explained.
If you’re stuck somewhere bright and exposed, such as a beach, your best bet is to photograph your fur subject with the light hitting them straight-on (i.e. sun to your back). This will give you the best chance of retaining detail in both your subject and background.
Before and after shots of the extremely cute Yoda and Obi. As you can see, the shot straight out of camera (SOOC) is quite underexposed. By doing so, I was able to retain a heap of colour and detail in both my fur clients and their awesome background.
It wouldn’t be a blog post from me if I didn’t mention something about practice 😉 ha ha. Only with practice will you learn what particular environments you most enjoy shooting in and the limits of your gear. In no time, you’ll be venturing-out with your black fur subject(s) full of confidence that you’ll be able to size-up whatever lighting-situations you encounter!
Thanks again for visiting www.johnmuirphotography.net. I hope you all really enjoyed the post and I look forward to seeing the amazing work you do with black fur subjects of your own.
The gorgeous, Stella! This shot is an example where time of day was the primary method relied upon. The sun was setting right behind Stella. However, it was low and cloud filtered enough that I was still able to retain quite a lot of detail in her face.