Into the void…of black dogs…
Recently, my friend Ruth from the (in)famous @dublindoggos on Instagram officially adopted her very first Land Worm (a.k.a Greyhound) from Dogs Trust. His name is Dash and he’s a very handsome good boi.
Sadly I’ve not been able to meet Dash in pawson yet because of stupid COVID19 but he inspired me to write this blog post because he has one issue. He’s black!
I’m joking of course! Black dogs are seriously the best but when it comes to photography black bois are notoriously hard to photograph, even for a professional photographer.
Studio, ok that’s cool because you’re using professional lighting but what about outdoors? In your home? How do you make your photograph look like a gorgeous portrait of your dog and not a picture of a black hole?
5 tips for taking photographs of your black dog that will help you capture their black magic pawfectly!
1. GET SHADY
Contrary to pupular belief, bright sunlight isn’t great for black dogs. In very bright light your camera or phone is working way too hard to balance the two extremes – the black of your dog and the white of the Scareball (a.k.a the Sun).
If you’re outside, try to choose an area that is evenly shaded in soft light like under a tree. As much as you might not think, a cloudy day is far easier for photographing a black dog than when the sun is splitting the skies. Inside your house, the same rule applies. Choose soft even light every time away from direct sunlight and windows.
Basically, make sure your background isn’t lit too brightly in relation to your dog.
2. BACK IT UP
While we tend to be focused on our dog’s cute smushy face, the background is so important when photographing black dogs. It honestly will either make or break your shot. If you choose a busy background, your black dog is going to lose detail due to its colour.
In the pawfect shot, your background should be soft and minimal. This helps your dog stand out from the environment.
There are two ways you can do this. Choose a less busy area like your garden where there is just grass, plants and a fence or depending on how fancy your phone camera is, change the focus (aperture) so it will blur out the background to bring the focus on to your dog. Karen spoke about using an editing app to apply soft focus to areas afterward in my recent blog post.
A lot of modern smartphones will have a shooting mode in-camera called “portrait”. This usually creates that lovely soft focus in the background automatically and leaves your dog pin sharp.
3. SMISE BOIS!
As pawrents, we know it’s all in those puppy dog eyes! If you have a black dog, this can be key to getting a great shot.
Try to focus on your dog’s eyes. If you are shooting inside you can place a piece of white paper on the ground, or hold it in your hand if you’re savvy! This can bounce light back into your dog’s eye and create a lovely little highlight. Windows are also great for doing this.
If you’re trying to capture a portrait outside, water can be a great way of creating highlights in your dog’s eyes. Water is nature’s reflector! If you’ve no water around like a river or a lake, then you can simply (gently) wet around your dog’s eyes. Sometimes I will just put a large bowl of water on the ground too but that can be a little difficult to work with at times. Especially if you have a splasher!
Have a black dog with lots of fur or a particularly large black dog? Shoot from above to highlight your dog’s eyes and features. Shooting down on your pet means they’re looking up, and what’s up? That Scareball which will bring highlights and light into your dog’s eyes. Careful where you stand though if you are photographing in sunlight. Try your best not to cast a shadow on your dog.
4. LIGHTS, CAMERA…FOCUS PEOPLE! FOCUS!
Your camera or smartphone will usually have a mode where you can set the focus and the exposure.
I recommend using “auto-focus” when capturing dogs, it’s just the easiest way. Using this option will mean that your equipment will track your pet and adjust the exposure accordingly. It can be particularly helpful for those hyper dogs who find it very hard to sit still! Using auto-focus speeds up your shooting process too.
Some equipment will even have an option to “lock” the auto-focus to a certain distance or to a particular subject (a.k.a. your Hairy). My professional camera does this and it’s most useful if you’re trying to capture an action shot.
Don’t forget to use burst shooting for capturing action, it’s just the best way to catch a shot. Usually, you can do this by holding down your capture button on your phone once you are in the camera, but don’t be afraid to explore the settings! You can always go into your camera app and just reset them back to the original camera settings. Put it this way, you won’t break your camera or get yourself in trouble unless you hit the “delete all” button. DO NOT hit the delete all button people!
5. MY PUP WOKE UP LIKE THIS, I SWEAR!
Truth is, most photography you see on social media platforms will have been edited in some way to make it look better. Have a play around with editing after to see what you can do to make your shot even more pawfect.
If you go into your phone’s gallery and click on your photograph, there is usually an option to edit. There are also a number of apps out there for free that will help you maximise your photography.
I tend to bring the shadows up when photographing black dogs. Not too much, but just enough to bring out their eyes and markings. If your background is a bit glary because you didn’t follow Step 2 (oh the shame!) then bring down the highlights. Careful with this one, if you bring the highlights down too much you will see that your whites become a nasty looking grey.
Black dogs the majority of the time in my experience photograph quite “cold”. What do I mean? That the photograph sometimes doesn’t look as warm in-camera as it did in real life. You can adjust the warmth of your photograph either in the “hue” section or one of my favourites on my phone is that I can set the colour tone of the shadows and highlights. I usually set my shadows to a warm tone, like a red/orange/yellow and my highlights to a cool tone like blue. This counteracts the fact that shadows tend to be cold, and highlights warm and brings a nicer even feel to the image. I usually bring the opacity (how heavy that colour application is) down to between 2-10. It’s usually enough. Trust me, put it at 100% and you’ll feel like you’re in a kaleidoscope.
Don’t forget to sharpen your image too, or if you want to go that extra mile, sharpen only the eyes or facial features of your pet. This will draw the eye directly to where you want them to. look;.looking at how gorgeous your pup is!
If you own a black dog, you also have the pawfect subject for silhouette portraits which are just stunning! As always, if you have any questions just reach out.