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photographing dark-faced dogs


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#21 Root Beer

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 11:31 AM

Dark faced dogs have eyes? Dean isn't sure about that!!

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The two things I've found helpful.

1. In generally, photos taken outdoors in sunlight are best.

2. Get in as close as possible.

Speedy has eyes outside and up close.

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Maddie's are quite lovely!

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There must be an art to using a flash correctly! I've never gotten a good picture with a flash - even outside!!

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#22 Krambambuli

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 11:38 AM

Have it out ALL the time. ALL the time. Make the camera part of her life and she will eventually get used to it, or even look forward to it, if involves (say) cookies.

The downside is you could easily end up with a Mr. Woo who, when he sees someone with a camera, runs over and poses for them. Just in case they wanted to give him a cookie for doing so :)



You are right, that's what I should do. You do realize I will be crawling under the bed after my dog now all the time with the camera to at least pretend to take pictures (because I don't want to scar her for life with the flash)??? :) And Mr. Woo cracks me up! I'm quite sure Sky will never ever pose for just anyone in hopes of cookies, but that's ok.

And yes, equipment is only part of the whole magic. You need that special touch, too. Kids don't worry about the technical side too much (though some do, I'm sure) and focus more on what they see. My daughter has a great eye (and she isn't even a Border Collie, hahahaha -- sorry), and takes wonderful off-beat and interesting pictures of things most people don't even notice.


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#23 Krambambuli

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 11:48 AM

Underexpose the shot, then lighten the result afterwards.

How: Most digital cameras have a way to adjust "exposure compensation", usually measured in something called "EV" in steps of 0.3 or 0.5. To underexpose, set exposure compensation (EV) to a negative number, say -1.0 to start with. This will cause the camera to retain more detail in the darker portions of the photograph (e.g. the black face of the dog). You will lose detail in the lighter portions of the picture (e.g. the snow), but we don't much care about that.

When you get the photo onto the computer, or take it down to the processing thingamajigger at the photo store, lighten it back up. Doesn't matter what program you're using to view your photos (picasa, photoshop, even the free software that came with the camera) - almost all of them have some way to "increase brightness" or some phrase like that.



I went through the menu on our camera, and I think I found the setting where I can change that. My question: When I try to lighten up an underexposed shot (this happens mostly by accident or inexperience not with purpose) in Photoshop I often find I don't like the colors and contrast of the revised shot anymore and then start fiddling around with that, too. Usually I'm highly frustrated by the end ... If I change the EV setting, will it make that a bit easier or less of a factor?

Andrea
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#24 Bordercentrics

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 01:34 PM

Two of our girls are black, and many of the 7,000+ shelter dogs I have photographed are also black. I have two quick tips:

1. Center-weighted metering. If you expose for the whole viewfinder scene, the whole picture will probably be properly exposed, but the black dog will be too dark. With center-weighted metering, the rest of the scene may be too light, but at least the dog will be properly exposed.

2. I process ALL my photos with Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. They both have a slider for shadows/highlights. Adjusting the exposure with this control is a godsend for dark dog photography. It's possible to lighten too much so that the dog looks gray, but you can adjust the slider until it looks good. The sun was pretty bright in this picture of Meg, but you can still see her features pretty well.

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#25 SoloRiver

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 01:54 PM

You can always try bracketing. That means it'll take several of the same shot at different exposures and then you can pick the one you like (of course, if your subject moves they won't all be the same shot).

In addition to having your camera with you all the time and taking lots and lots of photos, you will probably find over time that there is a particular style that you are most comfortable with. I rarely use long lenses for dog shots. I prefer a normal lens (50mm or equivalent) because it has a perspective similar to what I see with my eyes, and because that's what's on the camera I started seriously taking photos with. My shots tend to be fairly static -- I take very few action shots. I take very few shots altogether, even when I am using a digital camera, I tend to shoot the way I do with film: look, put the camera up to my eye, compose, shoot, put the camera down. I almost never have the camera in continuous shooting mode, and rarely fill up a memory card. I don't own a lens longer than 200m, mostly because I hate lugging camera equipment around with me and prefer for my gear to be small and light and fit in a very compact camera bag.

Therefore, I have almost no photos of my dogs catching balls midair, and I suck at taking dramatic long shots of dogs at sheepdog trials. My sheepdog trial photos look more like this:

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Bev Lambert and Pippa, USBCHA Finals 2006, Klamath Falls, OR. Nikon D70s, 55-200mm AF-S DX kit lens (slow, cheapo zoom lens)

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Bev sends Pippa "come bye" at the USBCHA Finals, 2006 (this was the last run of the day, and what most spectators thought was the winning run).

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Ray Edwards judging Bev Lambert at the 2006 USBHCA Finals. Nikon D70s, 18-70mm AF-S DX kit lens

But that's OK with me. I think different types of photos have different things to offer; actually, of these three I'm proudest of the last one, even though there are no dogs or sheep anywhere in it (except perhaps as tiny little dots in the distance). It tells a story that most sheepdog trial photos don't tell.

My photos of my own dogs are even more static, especially since Solo is so good at posing. It is possible to take action shots with manual film cameras (that's what the news photographers had to work with for many, many years after all), but action just isn't my thing. Sometimes I see a shot and can set it up ahead of time, and then I'll get a photo of Solo in motion:

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Leica M3, Summicron 50/2, Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film. I prefocused on the light falling across the path, called Solo, and took the shot when he passed through the light spot.

But I think the static photos and portraits of Solo capture his personality better.

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This was on the second or third roll I put through my Leica. Solo in Zamora enjoying a cool breeze.

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Rolleiflex 2.8F, Tri-X 400. Solo on the beach, Fort Funston, San Francisco.

Just go out and shoot. You never know what you're going to get. This photo was on the first roll I put through my father's Rolleiflex, which had sat idle in a closet for over 30 years. I had never used the camera before and was not sure the meter still worked.

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"A dog and a half," Solo and Skeeter in San Francisco, February 2006.

That was the beginning of my love affair with a 40+ year old manual medium format camera that only lets you take 12 shots per roll of film.

Go out and shoot, find a style you feel comfortable with. Your photos don't have to look like anyone else's photos. You don't have to have the latest or greatest digital gear. In fact, I think a lot of the time you learn the most by working within the limitations of what you have. If you do have the latest and greatest digital gear, good luck to you. The manuals for those suckers are pretty damn thick. (And I'm off to read some more in the D300 manual now. Considering how huge this manual is, I expect it to be able to make dinner for me tonight!)
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#26 SoloRiver

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 02:22 PM

1. Center-weighted metering. If you expose for the whole viewfinder scene, the whole picture will probably be properly exposed, but the black dog will be too dark.


Ha ha, I have a good example of how exposing for the whole scene underexposes the black dog:

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No, there is not a long shadow falling only over Jett. You can see Solo just fine though!

My next goal is to be able to take a family portrait that ALL the dogs are visible in.
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#27 MrSnappy

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 04:00 PM

If you do have the latest and greatest digital gear, good luck to you. The manuals for those suckers are pretty damn thick. (And I'm off to read some more in the D300 manual now. Considering how huge this manual is, I expect it to be able to make dinner for me tonight!)


I bought a manual that explained my manual :rolleyes: It was actually really useful!

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#28 Kyrasmom

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 04:24 PM

A good photography class is your best bet for consistent exposures. I took Understanding Exposure at PPSOP and it was great fun and really helped in a few areas where I just didn't get IT as well as I could. I'm still shooting a lot but the consistency has improved a LOT!

I had a similar question as I had a photo shoot with a black Freisian Stallion during my class and I asked for some input as to how not to have a big blob of black under the mid-day sun. With horse shows you don't get to choose the best time of day or anything remotley acceptable. One of the key points in shooting dark horses (or dogs) was to not meter off of the horse but maybe the grass or something green in the same light that the horse will be. By the same token, to avoid the snow being gray because the meter can be fooled, to meter off of the blue sky. It takes some practice but I got some really nice shots using this technique. The hardest part was ignoring what the meter was telling me and trusting that what I was telling the camera to do was right.

The best thing you can do, especially with a digital camera as it's free, is shoot, shoot, shoot!

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#29 Alaska

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 10:18 PM

My question: When I try to lighten up an underexposed shot (this happens mostly by accident or inexperience not with purpose) in Photoshop I often find I don't like the colors and contrast of the revised shot anymore and then start fiddling around with that, too. Usually I'm highly frustrated by the end ... If I change the EV setting, will it make that a bit easier or less of a factor?

I feel obligated to respond, since you were replying to my post, but I'm not sure I feel qualified to respond...

I think the answer depends on why you didn't like the colors and contrast of your accidentally underexposed shots. Were they REALLY, REALLY underexposed? Then there are probably other things wrong with the photo that will be hard to fix to your satisfaction. If you only underexpose by ~1 EV, I don't think you will have too much trouble when you lighten afterwards.

"Colors" is mostly a function of white balance. Most cameras do a decent job of white balancing (i.e. making the colors look right) in good outdoor light, but many are not so reliable indoors or at night under artificial light. If that's your problem, you need to learn how to manually set white balance.

If the white balance is okay, here are some other things to consider trying:

1. In Photoshop Elements, I always start by seeing what "Auto Smart Fix" does. If I like it, I'm done. If I don't like something about it, I try the individual auto fixes one at a time ("Auto Levels", "Auto Contrast", etc.). "Auto Color Correction" seems to me to guess wrong more often than the other two, and I find I'm often satisfied with what auto levels and/or auto contrast produces.

2. If I'm still not happy, I next try manually adjusting brightness and contrast for the whole photo.

3. If I still don't like what I see, I will then try adjusting just the shadows or just the highlghts.

In PSE 5.0, these are all options on the "Enhance" menu. I'm still at the stage where if I start fooling around with sliders for individual colors or messing around with curves, I end up where you describe, so I won't make any further suggestions in this direction.

The other main thing not to like in low-light photos is noise, which may become more noticable when the photo is lightened in Photoshop. For that, you just need to invest in some good noise reduction software (like Noise Ninja).

Again, I don't feel that I really have enough knowledge to be spouting off like this, and it may be more than you or anyone wants to read, but I'm only attempting an answer out of courtesy. Feel free to ignore it and move on.

P.S. I didn't know any of this before I joined this board, started looking at other peoples' photos, and decided I wanted to be able to take ones like them myself. It is shocking, positively shocking, how broadly and profoundly the arrival of border collies affected the most remote corners of my life - and I've been a dog person almost since birth. I knew about how border collies were supposed to make you decide to quit your job and move to a farm to raise sheep, but that doesn't even scratch the surface of it.

P.P.S. Thanks to everyone else who is contributing to this thread. I'm learning a lot!

#30 Alaska

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 10:44 PM

There must be an art to using a flash correctly! I've never gotten a good picture with a flash - even outside!!

There is definitely an art, but there are also some straightforward techniques - like bouncing and diffusing the flash and moving it off the camera - without which it's pretty hard to get satisfactory results. If you're limited to using the on-camera flash, you need a LOT more art :rolleyes:

My photos of my own dogs are even more static, especially since Solo is so good at posing. !)

What's funny is whenever I catch Biko standing motionless and looking happily at me with her mouth hanging partway open and a slight smile on her lips, I immediately think of Solo, every time. As long as I live, I will always associate that expression with your photos of him.

Your Ray Edwards photo is great, just great. I'm usually so focused on dogs that I rarely think about telling any of the other parts of the story. I did actually briefly notice the judge and scribe hiding from the drizzle at the Sonoma SDT, but this was just one shot among hundreds of dog and sheep photos:

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#31 Krambambuli

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 11:53 AM

Again, I don't feel that I really have enough knowledge to be spouting off like this, and it may be more than you or anyone wants to read, but I'm only attempting an answer out of courtesy. Feel free to ignore it and move on.



Sorry about putting you on the spot -- it wasn't meant like that at all! :))) You just sounded pretty "learned" giving that tip and underexposure is certainly one of the most annoying problems I run into. No need to sell yourself short!

And thanks for trying to get into detail. The Autofix tends to overfix in my opinion, even though that's often the first thing I do. I rarely really like it. I need to pay more attention to white balance maybe ... I love the Pentax istD that we have, it's one shortcoming is that it doesn't have the 100 ISO, 200 is the lowest you can set it to. Have no idea why they did it way. On the other hand it goes up to 1600 ISO. Win some lose some.

I also just need to work more with Photoshop to be really comfortable with that. I would prefer to take the shot and not have to correct it a lot -- I can dream, right? :)

So thanks again for answering, I'll try your suggestions!

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#32 Caroline

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 12:21 AM

Attached File  IMG_2813.JPG   1.09MB   80 downloads
a new pic of Peg, a dark faced girly.

#33 JBlaylock

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 09:44 AM

Wow, incredible pictures from Mr. Snappy and SoloRiver in particular. Of course, everybody's photos are great, but as a photographer myself, I have particular tastes in photography by other photographers, and Mr.Snappy in particular, I love your work. SoloRiver, there are a few pics you posted on page 2 that are just gorgeous.

I don't have any tips that haven't been mentioned really. But oh well, yeah for redundancy.

The tips on using flash to fill everything in are good. I agree.

Now, flash isn't always nessesary though, even indoors. I shot these on my living room couch using only dim light from the window. Of course, I was able to make my girls sit still enough for a slower shutter speed to let in more light. But, natural light without any fill flash can have good results.

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#34 Laurelin

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 11:44 AM

I just read this whole thread, very helpful! I have always struggled with photographing Rose as opposed to the other dogs. Rose's black mask and dark eyes means a lot of pictures she looks like she has no eyes! She's particularly challenging because she is mostly white with black in the most inconvenient place (photography wise).

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#35 Brandon M

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 10:55 PM

I wish I had seen this thread sooner! I really appreciate all this info! I haven't finished reading everything but so far many of my questions have been answered. Time to test it out. I was having a lot of trouble getting my dogs' black faces to show detail and brighten up, with little success. Many good shots were ruined due to dark faces.
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#36 sandra s.

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 08:47 AM

I've got a shiny black dog to photograph at the moment, and even though his eyes are light coloured, it all comes down to time of day for me. The only acceptable shots I get of him are usually evening light/sunset photos.

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No editing, he really is that shiny. Maybe I should have tried for a slightly shorter exposure, but he doesn't hold still long enough for experiments :rolleyes:.

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#37 Agatha Christie

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:09 AM

Amazing thread and what talented photographers we have here!

I am not an expert but like most girls I had my photography phase as a teen and loved to take photos after rainfalls. So, I only got my black dog with dark eyes two weeks ago but took advantage of him being wet after a walk one day and light reflected off his coat and made for a decent pic.

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#38 Agatha Christie

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:14 AM

Point and shoot cameras are not as good at doing the sorts of things I like to do with photos (low light, shallow depth of field) because they have very, very small sensors. The sensor (think "frame size" or "film size") is smaller, much smaller, than a frame of APS film (and remember Kodak Disc cameras? I think the sensor is even smaller than that film). I think Sheena has the same sorts of proclivities when taking photos (low light, shallow depth of field), which I'm guessing is why neither of us prefers to pick up a point and shoot camera when we have other equipment available.


Maybe I'll take out my old Pentax K-1000 (non-digital SLR) and experiment. Thanks for the inspiration!

#39 Chi-Ann's Mom

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 12:27 PM

I am a professional photographer. I have a BC and have photographed many black dogs over the period of my career. I use two lights, coming in at a 45 degree angle, metered at 1 stop higher then the camera aperture. I am sure, for many of you, this is very very technical. You need to over expose black dogs as the fur absorbs the light. You can check out my website and see other black dogs on my pet page to see the dogs I have photographed.
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#40 roscoe11

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 12:20 PM

There are some good photographers on this forum.

I did not read everyone’s post so may be this was covered. There was one thing that jumped out at me. If you are trying to get the eyes to show up on a black faced dog. DO NOT UNDEREXPOSE IT!!! The only way to maintain shadow detail is to expose for it. This is true with both film and digital. Like someone has already said the dynamic range of an image from a digital camera is very limited, maybe 7 stops. If you shoot raw you can expand it but it gets technical. The dynamic range of an image from a digital camera is the same as chrome (slide film) not film (negative). Film had a much larger dynamic range which we could manipulate using Ansel Adams's zone system. The basic concept of the zone system is to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. This is true for digital also. If you don't initially make a good exposure it is very difficult or impossible to regain shadow detail. And this is the problem with the eyes on a black-faced dog; they are at times in the shadows. You can dodge the eyes out using some program like Photoshop or lightroom but it's not going to look right. To get and maintain good shadow detail you should be shooting in the raw mode. It would take to much time to explain now but the short answer is that it gives you more information or dynamic range to work with. So the idea is to overexpose the photo a bit and then bring back the highlights and mid tones with whatever camera raw converter you use. Thus maintaining good shadow detail, because you exposed for it. Here is the rub, because of the narrow dynamic range if you overexpose too much your highlights with be blown out and this creates its own set of problems. The perfect exposure is tricky and there is not much room for error.

This brings us to how you meter the scene. You are not going to get consistent result shooting in some automatic mode. With the limited dynamic range of a digital image this is troublesome. Ideally you should learn how to shoot manually and how to read a histogram. Your light meter is calibrated to assume that all scenes reflect 18% of the light that is falling on it. You have probably heard the term 18% gray, middle gray or zone 5. These all refer to the same thing. That is why they sell gray cards. Gray cards reflect 18% of the light that falls on it. If the scene is brighter than 18% gray (metering off a something white for example) your image will be underexposed. If the scene is darker than 18% gray (metering off a something black for example) your image will be overexposed. That is why if you are shooting in some automatic mode you will get some images that are lighter (overexposed) and some that are darker (underexposed) and some that look just right. Someone said that you would get better shadow detail if you fill the frame with the dogs face; this is true if the face is black. It is darker then 18% gray so it will overexpose your image giving you better shadow detail.

Your histogram is your friend. It is a bar graph of all the tones in your scene thus giving you instant feedback on your exposure. It is one of the great things about shooting digital. With film or chrome you had to wait until the film was developed to see if your images where exposed correctly. Now you know right after you shoot the photo. That is a great thing. You can't consistently judge your exposure from the LCD screen on the back of the camera. It changes as the light changes. It will look lighter in side the house and look darker out side.

Well, this should give you something to think about. I hope it was helpful.
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