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photographing dark-faced dogs

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A couple of folks over on another thread asked for tips for photographing dark-faced dogs, and getting their eyes to show up in photos, or at least their faces.

 

My favorite dog to photograph is a red dog, so I am no expert. I don't have as many photos of Fly as of Solo for many reasons, but her potential eyelessness is one of them. And now I have Jett, who is not only almost entirely black, but has eyes so dark brown that they are difficult to see at a distance even with the naked eye unless the whites are showing (and she does have numerous wide-eyed expressions, so the whites show fairly often, but still). I have taken PLENTY of eyeless photos of Jett. In fact, in many photos I have of her, she is basically a black blob. Let's face it, she IS a black blob. She looks like one of those weathervanes shaped like a dog that you can buy at the craft fair. Getting her expressive parts to show up in photos is really difficult.

 

EXPOSURE AND DYNAMIC RANGE

 

Photographing dark dogs is an exposure problem. I have yet to crack open my Ansel Adams books so I cannot discuss exposure in very intelligent terms, but the basic idea is this: in any scene witnessed by either your camera or your eye, there is a dynamic range encompassing darkest to lightest and every shade in between (and every color, if you are shooting in color). Whatever medium you are using to record data, be it your eye/brain, film, or the sensor in your digital camera, can sense and record only a portion of that dynamic range. Some of the darks and/or some of the lights are going to end up being off the scale and therefore the detail from them cannot be recorded.

 

Digital cameras have a dynamic range that is similar to that of slide film, meaning that it is limited, although they are getting better and some are much better than others. Even the best film camera/film combo has a limited range compared to what your eye sees. I can't remember what the figures are exactly, but the moral of the story is that your camera is not capable of recording as much data as you can see with your naked eye. Depending on the exposure decisions your camera makes, that means you'll lose detail in the dark parts, which will be totally black, or the light parts, which will be bright white ("blown highlights"), or both. In addition, most digital cameras will strive to suck data out of the dark parts even if there isn't any to be had, so the dark parts will end up looking noisy (ugly digital grain). If you were using black and white film, my medium of choice, the problem would be less acute (it has greater dynamic range) but it's still there, and almost none of you are doing that anyway. So you have to work within these limitations.

 

CONTRAST

 

High contrast situations, in which the darks are very dark and the lights are very light, pose challenges for cameras (and also for your eye). Since your camera can only record a portion of the dynamic range, that means it basically has to cut its losses and decide on one end of the dynamic range to concentrate on (dark vs light or vice versa), or compromise and take the middle of the range, which is a problem if the important stuff is the stuff at both ends. A black and white dog is, inherently, a high contrast situation, which is why it is so easy to end up with eyeless photos of Border Collies (and usually their white stripes are glowing like neon to boot). So in some ways, I have it easier with all-black Jett, if I pick my backgrounds well.

 

(I should say that there's nothing wrong with really high contrast, if that's the effect that you're going for. It can be very dramatic. But, since we're talking about trying to get their eyes to show up, we'll worry about that some other time.)

 

METERING

 

Your camera, if you are using it on "auto," makes decisions about exposure by using a meter to measure light and then setting shutter speed and aperture accordingly (and ISO, which if you are using film is "film speed," if you have that on auto as well). As for what it's metering specifically, that depends on your camera and your settings. The most common meter settings are center-weighted, spot, or matrix metering. In center-weighted metering, the camera is choosing exposure based mostly on what's in the middle of the frame. In spot metering, it is exposing based only on what's in the center of the frame. In matrix, it is averaging over the entire frame. Probably most point and shoot cameras are using matrix metering. Digital SLRs often have more complex metering systems that we won't bother with here. But either way, this can help you understand why your camera is doing what it is doing and why your dog never has eyes in photos.

 

OK, so that concludes my (probably laughable to actual photographers) explanation of why black dogs are hard to photograph. Now that everyone is asleep, on to the tips section, which I hope others will add to.

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Your post is much more technical than mine. I'll just say this, in addition to what I said in the previous thread.

 

1) use your flash. You can use your flash outside and it will often fill in dark areas, which include eyes! If the eyes develop a reflective quality when you do this, turn your flash exposure down. Lots of point and shoot cameras have flash exposure controls.

 

2) sometimes turning up your exposure can help, and lots of point and shoots have controls for this too.

 

3) shoot against a neutral background. Posing your dog in front of flower bushes and such is frequently distracting, and your camera is going to expose itself for the pink tulips or whatever, not your dog's dark eyes.

 

I find I have more success with my 50mm fixed than my 70-200mm (with respect to personal preference). I like shallow depth of field photos and getting up close and personal means getting a lot of feeling out of their eyes, which are so expressive.

 

2456235604_e99c5a5146.jpg

 

However, imho, you don't always have to have the dogs' eyes in focus to get a dynamic photograph:

 

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So have fun with what you're shooting. It's all practice practice practice. Write down what works for you so you can repeat it, if you have to - while you can pull the EXIF data from your photos, it won't tell you which direction the light was coming from when you shot it, or how cloudy it was or what have you.

 

RDM :rolleyes:

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So this gets us to actual tips for photographing dark dogs.

 

(1) Avoid photographing in high contrast situations.

 

The classic example here would be a black dog in a snowy field on a bright day. This will especially confuse the hell out of your camera if you are using a small point and shoot. Not that it can't be done -- Sandra S. takes wonderful snowy pictures of Kessie and Kyla very often and I believe is usually using a small point and shoot camera. Hopefully she will share how she gets them to work out.

 

If you choose to photograph in a high contrast situation, try to meter for your dog rather than for the overall scene. You'll get more detail in the black parts and sacrifice detail in the light parts, as in this photo of Jett by my fiance (using a Nikon D200):

 

2134565808_f247a113b8_o.jpg

 

I did some Photoshopping to get a bit more detail out of Jett's face (adjusting exposure and dodging her eyes a tiny bit to make them stand out) but you get the basic idea. To see Jett you have to lose detail in the snow, which to me makes this a better photo. I am not interested in the texture of the snow as much as I am with the starkness of the black dog in the middle of it. That said, Jett's face is harder to see than it would be with a more neutral background (if seeing her face detail is the most important thing) and the highlights are totally blown out.

 

(2) Get your dog to face into the light.

 

If you have a dark dog and you try to take pictures of the shadowed side of his face, you are fighting a losing battle. So, this means that when you are taking photos of your dog, you want his shadow to be falling AWAY from you. You might be able to see the details in the shadows, but your camera can't.

 

2506626978_ae4047b6b1_o.jpg

 

This photo was taken at around 2 or 3 PM using a Nikon D300 and frankly, the light is harsher than I would like (it's very bright and the sun is still pretty high in the sky, which if Jett were human could result in unflattering shadows going down her face) but you get the idea. The light is falling on the side of Jett that is facing me so you can see her expression well and there are also catch-lights in her eyes which makes them more visible.

 

(3) Use fill flash.

 

Fill flash means that you are using the flash to illuminate details that would otherwise be in shadow. Yes, this means using flash when it's sunny outside. Now, normally I am extremely allergic to flash but I find it useful to add detail to daylight scenes that would otherwise contain a furry black blob. Most cameras, even tiny point and shoots, will have a fill flash setting. Some will automatically pop the flash up if you meter on a black dog.

 

2101844235_578ce587d9_o.jpg

 

I used fill flash for this photo, taken with a Nikon D70s, which without it showed very little Jett detail even though the light was OK. However, in this photo you can sort of see one of the dangers of using fill flash, which is that it has a way of making the background look like one of those studio backdrops rather than the actual Golden Gate Bridge, so use carefully.

 

(4) Fill the frame with your dog.

 

If the frame is filled with your black dog, your camera does not have to make choices about metering for your dog vs. the background, and it is much less likely to think the scene is "backlit" (which is what my little point and shoot camera usually thinks when I point it at Jett). Portraits are more interesting anyway when the subject fills the frame, so if you are taking a photo of your dog and don't really care what the background looks like, move closer to your dog. (This is the number one flaw I see in dog photos, or photos of children, for that matter. A photo of the dog centered in the middle of a frame with an uninteresting background = not such a great photo.)

 

2413717893_c2fd8a1ccd_o.jpg

 

I took this photo with my Nikon D70s by the window in my old apartment with the light falling on Jett's face. My apartment was not so interesting that I wanted it to show up in the photo, so I zoomed in on Jett's face which had the added benefit of blurring the background so what you see are the colors and not what's actually there (my bed with a dog bed in front of it).

 

Next, some examples.

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First, here's an example of how to do it wrong. (Sheena's just posted some nice examples of how to do it right, so I might not bother with adding any.)

 

273474382_abc8fa45a8_o.jpg

Fly at Fort Funston, with a Papillon growing out of her ass to boot. Title: "blindsided."

 

I took this using my Rolleiflex 2.8F with 80mm lens and Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film. With this gear, I should have been able to get a nice detailed photo of Fly, but...

 

(1) Bright day, light background. My Rollei uses an incident light meter, which basically means it records the light that actually falls on the camera, resulting in Fly being underexposed. I should have recognized that this would happen, and adjusted my exposure settings accordingly.

 

(2) I took the photo from the shadow side. Had the light been falling on Fly's face, I might have gotten some detail there. If I had been higher up the sand ladder and the dogs had been behind me instead of ahead of me, this might have sucked less (but then I'd be shooting down at the dogs instead of up at them, and I think shots looking down on dogs are about as uninteresting and unflattering as they can be at least 85% of the time).

 

(3) Did I mention there is a Papillon growing out of Fly's ass? This would have been a better photo if you were also able to see Skeeter (my ex-Papillon), or if he hadn't been in the photo at all, but that is a composition problem, not an exposure problem.

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Just to add to what Mr.Snappy said. Taking notes will help a lot! I used this technique with film cameras (i am still not sold on digitals :rolleyes: ) I would keep a log of what the weather was like, what type of film I was using, what direction the light was coming from ect. for each roll of film and sometimes each picture, and it helped a lot when I was trying to figure out what worked best for my minolta.

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And for folks saying "well that's nice but all the photos you guys are posting are from DSLRs and I have a point and shoot" here's one I took with my little point and shoot (Panasonic LX2). This is one of my most popular photos on Flickr, by the way.

 

401674368_a955200e83_o.jpg

 

(1) Neutral background = not too much contrast. With her black face and white stripe, the last thing I need is a bright background making life more difficult.

 

(2) Light is falling on her face, or at least the parts that I am interested in showing (her eyes).

 

(3) Fly fills the frame, which makes an otherwise boring photo of yet another dog panting somewhat hilarious. The distortion caused by a wide lens (the LX2 has a 28mm equivalent on it and I rarely zoom it out) and close perspective also makes this photo somewhat more interesting. (I don't personally find it that interesting, but the Flickr people seem to like it.)

 

There are some compromises here -- you can see the highlights on her nose are slightly blown out, but that's because I bumped the contrast in Photoshop to make the whole image pop more. I put it side by side with a black and white Photoshop conversion just for kicks.

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I like that photo of Fly. I like tongue photos, which make for more interesting photo all around.

 

Tweed says they are just embarrassing.

 

2421702997_2b3d4638c5.jpg

 

I don't think I've ever really take a photo with a point and shoot that I like. I think it's a whole talent unto itself! So good job Melanie!

 

As for those blown highlights, they can be very effective, especially in the black and white versions.

 

2386112061_12e25215fe.jpg

 

I think my last piece of advice is - take a class! Your local community center probably offers one in "basic digital photography" or similar and it can help you figure out how to use your camera. I took one recently, as a springboard for going back to classes (it's been a long time since I've been in any kind of class!) and my classmates found it super useful, as they had no idea how to manipulate about 80% of the basic controls on their camera. For the $150.00 or whatever, they got a lot out of it.

 

RDM

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And copied from the other thread, per Melanie's request:

 

I'm not Melanie, but it all basically boils down to exposure and lighting - where it's coming from and how to use it to your advantage.

 

Unlike Melanie, I *like* to use my flash. I use an exterior mount flash, not the one built into the camera. I tend to bounce it off the wall or ceiling, which is how I get shots like this:

 

(Hi Kuro! Tell your mum to post current photos of you please)

2381245341_8d9b9f03cc.jpg

 

Or this:

 

(PANTS!)

2232358200_fe31f166fb.jpg

 

But you can get them outside without a flash as well, if you set it up correctly:

 

(This is, I believe you call it, a "borderdoodle.")

1782050806_8087b32192.jpg

 

If you can see their eyes clearly through your viewfinder, this will probably translate to the photo.

1470966802_6535cf1215.jpg

 

You just have to use the light to your advantage. This is filtered side light, as I wanted the brown eye in shadow:

2308361555_90b9e53085.jpg

 

If you take a photo of a black dog with light behind him, all you're going to get is silhouette. So try experimenting with the position of the dog. Getting down at their level can help too.

 

RDM

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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.

 

That said, I think it's fun to see what I can do within the limitations of my equipment. And, I guess the equipment I like most is inherently limited by most people's standards (manual film cameras). It isn't necessary to have a digital SLR to take interesting photos of dogs. For that matter, having a digital SLR is no guarantee of getting decent photos either. In the past they were mostly in the hands of professionals, which made them look better, but now that they are so inexpensive and widely available we will be seeing PLENTY of crappy DSLR photos.

 

So the moral of the story is: if you don't have a digital SLR, don't worry. You can still take nice photos of your dogs and have fun doing it. Here are some of my favorite non-DSLR photos. Actually, almost none of my favorite photos were taken with a digital SLR.

 

848420141_cd83e13114_o.jpg

Panasonic LX2 digital point and shoot shot in program mode at ISO 100 and everything else auto. Yeah, the depth of field is enormous in this photo, but doesn't Solo look HOT?

 

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Holga plastic toy camera with slide film -- this thing has a plastic lens, no aperture or shutter speed control, and scale focus (basically meaning you guess at the focus).

 

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Polaroid Sun600 piece of crap instant camera (this is the sort of Polaroid camera you can get for $20 at Walgreens, fixed focus, plastic lens, spits out the photo and you shake it etc.). Those of you under the age of 20 have possibly never even seen one of these kinds of Polaroid cameras, but they still exist. This is a flatbed scan of the print and also features my crappy handwriting.

 

My favorite cameras:

 

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Olympus OM-1 mechanical all-manual film SLR and 28mm lens. This one has an internal meter but nothing is automated. WONDERFUL camera built like a tank circa 1975 or thereabouts.

 

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Leica M3 totally mechanical manual film camera with 50mm lens and Fuji Neopan 400 black and white film. There isn't even a meter in this camera. OK, so it is a Leica, so maybe this is cheating. My Leica was manufactured in 1965.

 

419107334_9d270d1053_o.jpg

Rolleiflex 2.8F, 80mm Planar lens, Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film. OK, it's a Rollei, this is definitely cheating. I consider my Nikon D70s digital SLR to be WAY more limited than the Rollei when it comes to taking great photos. This camera, like the Leica, is over 40 years old. The D70s with the kit lenses I have for it doesn't even come close. If you want to take better looking photos, rather than shelling out for a DSLR it might be worthwhile to see what grandad has lurking in the back of his closet... (By the way, I violated the shadow rule here but I got away with it because Solo is red with yellow eyes.)

 

Here's a Flickr photoset (not dogs) taken almost exclusively with small point and shoot digital cameras. Mitch Alland uses fairly high-end point and shoots (Leica D-Lux 3/Panasonic LX2 and a Ricoh GRD mostly) but they are still point and shoots with all the relevant limitations of tiny digital sensors. I was inspired to use my LX2 more after looking at his photos. (ETA: two or three photos have semi-mature content.)

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/...57602236775300/

 

The moral of the story is, it isn't about equipment. You can take interesting photos with any camera.

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The moral of the story is, it isn't about equipment. You can take interesting photos with any camera.

You' re drifting away from the subject of your thread. The subject of the thread isn't about whether you need a particular camera to take good photos, it's about how to get the most out of the camera you have when photographing a difficult subject. It's a great thread either way, but let me respond to a couple of points made early on.

 

I agree that the limited dynamic range is a big part of the problem when photographing high contrast scenes, such as black dogs on a light background. You made some good suggestions for how to address this, but one that I think you left out (for digital photographers) is to shoot RAW. The raw data from the sensor always has the maximum amount of dynamic range that the sensor is capable of capturing, and a good bit of this is usually lost when the camera converts the image to the JPEG format. If you use your computer to process the raw image to JPEG (or whatever), you can usually take advantage of a good bit more of the available dynamic range. The reason the camera doesn't do as well as the computer is mainly that the camera is a very tiny computer that must work very quickly, whereas the one on your desk is more powerful and can take longer to process an image if it likes. In addition, the camera has to make decisions for you when it processes to JPEG, and while it often makes good decisions, there are times you might choose differently, such as when you are willing to sacrifice detail elsewhere to get it in the eyes. If you process your images on the computer, you get to make those sometimes counterintuitive choices for yourself.

 

If you haven't tried it (anyone, not just Melanie - who probably has), shooting raw might sound complicated or time consuming, but it's pretty easy to dip a toe in the water and you might find it to your liking. Assuming you have an Adobe Photoshop product, which most of us with cameras capable of retaining raw image data do, you can download the Adobe Camera Raw plugin for free and it will pretty much do the processing for you. Even without changing any parameters, you will often find that ACR does a nicer job producing a JPEG than your camera does from the exact same data.

 

My second comment is that the Panasonic LX2 that Melanie is using isn't just any point-and-shoot camera but a very high quality one, so to some degree it's not fair to expect any old point-and-shoot camera to consistently produce LX2-quality images. But one of the best things about the LX2 is that you can shoot raw with it!

 

After all this typing, I know I should provide a photographic example of how more detail is retained in the raw data, but I don't have one that includes dogs, so I will just post this gratuitous black-dog-on-a-snowy-background JPEG that the camera did a fine job with all on its own:

 

large.jpg

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The D70s with the kit lenses I have for it doesn't even come close. If you want to take better looking photos, rather than shelling out for a DSLR it might be worthwhile to see what grandad has lurking in the back of his closet...

But if you do have a DSLR (or are thinking of getting one), it might be worthwhile to see what better lenses are available rather than eyeing a fancier model. You will almost always gain much more by investing in good glass than by going to a better camera body (so that's my suggestion for what Melanie and her fiance should be asking for as wedding presents :rolleyes: ).

 

P.S. I really like the picture of Jett in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. I believe there are ways to use fill flash that would minimize the effect you pointed out - maybe Sheena can chime in here - but to be honest I liked the photo so much that I didn't really notice the flash effect on the background until you mentioned it.

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What an excellent thread. I just got back from the park with Mickey. I read this thread and went out with my camera and him. I'm loading them right now, hopefully I got some nice ones. :rolleyes:

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Thanks guys. It's a bit technical but I do think I got stuff out of it that I can work with.

Now Melanie don't laugh at me....my DH has his Dad's Rollei. He loves it. I've never messed with it so guess I'm grabbing the wrong camera! I'll have to ask him what model it is and for him to give me a couple lessons on how to use the little thing.

 

Thanks all, I'll practice this weekend if I get the chance

Wonderful examples of photos. They're all beautiful but I think I'm biased to dogs in general

Kristen

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Alaska's right on all points of course -- I wanted this thread to address tips that could be applied by anyone using any camera, and it has drifted a bit, but that's OK. The general utility of the major tips still stands, even if you're using a Holga, which you supposedly can hook a flash up to, although I haven't the slightest idea how.

 

I think most people are not going to want to go to the trouble to postprocess photos, and the vast majority of point and shoot cameras do not offer the option of shooting in RAW. Mine does, which is one of the reasons I chose it. The other is the amount of manual control and the ease of accessing these controls. I wish mightily that (1) the average DSLR made the controls as accessible and intuitive as they are on my LX2, and that (2) they had live histograms like the LX2 does since I use it frequently for exposure compensation on the fly. Still, it IS affected by the primary limitations that all point and shoots have, which are tiny sensors and slow reaction times (so not so great for action shots), so in that sense it is comparable to the small digicams many folks here are using.

 

That said, so many people are getting DSLRs because they want to take better photos that I think the points Alaska brings up are worth addressing. If you are going to go through the trouble and expense to get a digital SLR, it is a good idea to get more involved in the process of editing and presenting the final photos. One reason is that, counterintuitively, a lot of the time digital files are going to look worse straight out of camera with a digital SLR, not better. This is because manufacturers assume you are going to be postprocessing your photos, so the camera does less of the work for you (white balance, sharpening, things like that) assuming you'd want to make those decisions yourself. This is true even if you are shooting in JPG, but much more so if you are going to shoot in RAW, which produces files with basically all the data (like a digital negative) and none of the postprocessing decisions made for you. This gives you tons of leeway to make your own decisions.

 

I guess you could get a DSLR and always shoot JPGs in "auto" but really, if you're going to do that there's almost no point in shelling out for a digital SLR unless you honestly think you're going to be taking so many action shots that the difference in reaction time really matters. If your camera can shoot in RAW, it's worth giving it a try and investing in a computer program that can manipulate RAW files. Actually, many DSLRs come with such programs, so you may want to look in the box and see what was bundled there. (There's also the Gimp, which can be downloaded for free.)

 

Alaska's also totally right that it's usually a smarter move to invest in better lenses than in a new camera body. The kit lenses that came with my D70s, which I bought knowing exactly zero about how to choose a digital camera -- I selected it based on my budget at the time and the difference in build quality between the D70s and the comparable Canon model -- are actually not terrible (the 18-70 produces totally respectable files) but there are many, many better lenses out there I could have chosen. I have a certain amount of dissatisfaction with my D70s shots that could have been remedied to some extent by different lenses, especially faster lenses (meaning bigger apertures, not faster focusing).

 

I do like the D300 (which is technically my fiance's) better than my D70s for a number of reasons, but almost none of those reasons would matter if I were less "into" photography or less picky about certain aspects of the photographic experience. It has a much bigger viewfinder, and I'm a viewfinder snob, since my favorite camera is a rangefinder with a huge bright viewfinder. The sensor is much better in low light, and I like moody ambient light photos. That kind of thing. But the D70s is still a great camera.

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Fair enough. Then here a tip that almost anyone can use with almost any modern digital camera, including most point-and-shoots. Sheena already mentioned this, but maybe some folks could use it spelled out a bit more. Here it is:

 

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.

 

Previously posted example taken with a (high end) point-and-shoot. You can see that I would have completely lost the detail in the dog's face - thanks to the very bright background - if I hadn't underexposed the original shot:

 

large.jpg

 

FWIW, this tip works with film cameras too, as long as you have a way to control exposure at the camera and again during the printing process.

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Great tips, even though my head hurts now .... :)

 

This reminds me that maybe I should really read the manual cover to cover again and take a digital photography class like RDM suggested. We have a Pentax istD with a Sigma 28-200mm lens and a Pentax 16-45mmm wide angle lens. We also have a Pentax SLR film camera with several lenses that can be used with the digital, but only in manual mode. Cough, cough, since we mostly use the automatic mode, those lenses aren't that useful. The camera does a super job for 2 enthusiastic, but basically hapless amateurs, surprising us with turning out decent shots against all better judgement. :)

 

Our daughter has a Panasonic Lumix TZ1 with a Leica lens, a fantastic little point-and-shoot with a 10x optical zoom. She takes really great pictures with that one! Even though pixel wise it's getting somewhat outdated (5 megapixels), the clarity and depth of her photos are amazing.

 

I could give you a whole bunch of examples of how NOT to take pictures, but I'll spare you that. While this started out about taking pictures of black dogs, I for one really appreciate the general advice that has been given so far, and wouldn't mind more, hint, hint.

 

Now if anyone could tell me how to convince our dog that the camera won't eat her, then I could maybe take more pictures of her .... sigh ....

 

Great photos in this thread!!!

 

Andrea

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P.S. I really like the picture of Jett in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. I believe there are ways to use fill flash that would minimize the effect you pointed out - maybe Sheena can chime in here - but to be honest I liked the photo so much that I didn't really notice the flash effect on the background until you mentioned it.

 

I actually really liked it as well. And I'm still not sure I mind the effect. I don't know that you can really minimize that except possibly by diffusing the flash a little more, or perhaps turning it down a titch. I think it gives the wild-fawn-slash-puppy-in-grass theme a nice contrast, though.

 

I think that what everyone needs to be prepared for is that sometimes you simply cannot make the camera see what you see, period. So turn the dog around and try again with a different light source. Not everything you shoot is going to be a masterpiece anyway ... at least, that never happens to me! So just keep playing around until you get it right - but playing around means trying different things, not the same thing over and over and wondering why you keep getting a black blob of a dog every time. That's why I suggested writing down information, so you can review what does and does not work.

 

I rarely play with my exposure, and I almost never use my fill flash, but I also tend to shoot with a long lens and the fill flash won't do me any good there. I tend to shoot in aperture priority mode, and let the camera take care of other details, unless I'm shooting macro, and then I go completely manual.

 

RDM

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Great tips, even though my head hurts now .... :rolleyes:

Now if anyone could tell me how to convince our dog that the camera won't eat her, then I could maybe take more pictures of her .... sigh ....

 

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 :D

 

I've got this one friend who is a great photographer - she is a master of framing still lifes, buildings etc. She can make a photo of a toothbrush look like art. But interestingly: 1) she can't take a really good photo of her dog for love nor money and 2) she is shooting with an old crappy point and shoot right now because her camera broke - she's still making art, even with that crummy little camera! Which just goes to show it's part skill, part eye and part gear, and the magical combination of those things coming together in the right light and situation to make a great photo.

 

Hell, you've seen those projects where they give inner city kids $10.00 disposable cameras and tell them to take photos of whatever, and these kids get pictures that make me want to throw away the thousands of dollars worth of cameras etc. and sit in a corner with my thumb in my mouth :D

 

Sorry. I wandered off topic!

 

RDM

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So just keep playing around until you get it right - but playing around means trying different things, not the same thing over and over and wondering why you keep getting a black blob of a dog every time.

 

Hate to admit it but that's probably the best piece of advise I've gotten! :rolleyes:

 

Thanks again

K~

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Not that it can't be done -- Sandra S. takes wonderful snowy pictures of Kessie and Kyla very often and I believe is usually using a small point and shoot camera. Hopefully she will share how she gets them to work out.

 

It's a big point and shoot :rolleyes: - I have the option of playing with exposure etc, but am usually too lazy. Besides, by the time I've done it, the photo has gone off sniffing something!

 

Snow photos normally only turn out well for me if I take them in the morning or afternoon light.

 

Afterwards, they mostly need a bit of photoshopping. I like playing with the PS thingie that you call levels (I think):

 

original (only cropped and resized):

DSCF9902ps1.jpg

 

First, I'd move the middle one of the arrows in the "levels" box to the left (all of the picture gets brighter and paler, more coat structure etc shows up):

DSCF9902ps2.jpg

 

Then I'd move the left arrow towards the middle of the box (darkens the dark parts without obscuring brighter parts):

DSCF9902ps3.jpg

 

Then I often add some saturation since I've "bleached" the picture a little by adjusting the levels. Then I'd resize it, sharpen it and be done with it (for better or for worse):

DSCF9902ps4.jpg

 

I don't have time to read the whole thread now, but thanks for sharing advice! I can use some help with exposure matters - I'm the queen of neon noses after all.

DSCF0047kl.jpg

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

 

GroupDogs.jpg

 

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.

 

SpeeBall4.jpg

 

Maddie's are quite lovely!

 

TraLa004.jpg

 

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

 

river2.jpg

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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.

 

 

Andrea

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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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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.

 

Meg-in-grass-2.jpg

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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:

 

258198082_46b847a94b_o.jpg

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

 

258198083_2900456473_o.jpg

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).

 

258198086_a62dcb388c_o.jpg

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:

 

242884738_49b9e25565_o.jpg

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.

 

158936369_5d0c91628a_o.jpg

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

 

177156458_92d082dbe7.jpg

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.

 

158902221_3cd2230d4f_o.jpg

"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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