Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

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Mike Jackson
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Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Mike Jackson » 06 Apr 2014, 21:45

I'm sure we've all done it, we take what we assume is going to be a wonderful picture of our dog to be disappointed that we can't see their features properly. All of the pictures we have of Bonnie, Sharon's first dog, are just black blobs.

It's easy to forget that the sensors in our cameras can't see as well as we can. It's all down to something called dynamic range. Our eyes have a better dynamic range than even the sensors in the best cameras. What this means in practice is that in the darker and lighter areas of a scene our eyes are better able to differentiate between the subtle differences than the sensor in the camera. What we see as the features of the dog blend into a more uniform dark colour and we lose the definition in a photograph.

All sounds a bit depressing, does this mean that we will never get a good picture of our dark dogs?

Don't despair, help is at hand. What we need to do is enable the camera to see the darker areas better. We can do this by introducing extra light.

I'm sure we've all seen a photographer using a flash in broad daylight and thought it a bit odd. I know I certainly did before I understood light.

So we now know that we need more light but where do we get it from?

The first thing that springs to mind is the camera flash. Using the on board flash will highlight the features but may cause green eye (doggy equivalent of red eye). This is not the end of the world as most computers (and probably smart phones) will have software that will enable you to get rid of it.

Green eye is caused by the proximity of the flash to the lens. By moving the flash further away from the lens green eye will be avoided. Using a flash in the hot shoe of a camera will normally set it far enough away.

We can also go a step further by mounting the flash on a bracket and setting it to one side slightly. This has an added benefit which I'll describe below.

Using a flash pointing directly towards a subject can have the affect of flattening the subject and losing some of the definition of their features. By setting the flash slightly off centre we will introduce some shadow to the subject and make it more interesting.

This is all well and good for those of us with a fancy camera that can use things like flash brackets but what about the people with a standard camera with the onboard flash. This is where we start to get a bit creative. If we introduce a reflector we can start to add the shadow we want. I've got a fancy silver fold up reflector but there are plenty of other things we can use, how about a bit of tin foil or white card, a disposable plate make a great reflector. Just set the reflector at an angle to one side and bounce a bit of the light back towards the subject.

What about when we're out in the middle of nowhere and have forgotten or been unable to bring a reflector? Any light coloured object will reflect a certain amount of light. It would be nice if we could always have a nice flesh coloured reflector to hand (feel free to groan now). That's right the palm of the hand makes an excellent makeshift reflector. Don't worry when people look at you as if you are some sort of fruitcake, when you see the pictures it will be worth it.

Talking of reflectors brings us onto the next way of providing extra light. We use a reflector to deflect the available light to where we want it. This will work with sunlight or artificial light. Unfortunately the hand isn't really big enough for this so we have to look at using a separate reflector. Again it doesn't have to be a purpose designed reflector, tin foil or white card will work as well. My reflector has a gold side and a silver side and the gold side can give people a nice healthy glow.

We've looked at the two main light sources but there's a third one that most of us have and have probably never thought of using for photography. Remember scouring the grass for that elusive poo by torchlight? An LED torch with a wide beam can make a lovely photographic light. It gives us flexibility to locate our light source where we want it. We can take this a step further by using our desk lamp or the light that we use to work in the loft.

When a photographer wants to create nice lighting effects they will often use things called gels over the lights. This is really just a fancy name for coloured cellophane. Next time you fancy having a play with some coloured lighting effects break out the quality street and strap the wrappers over your flash gun or the end of your torch. Not only do we have some fancy lighting we've got an excuse to eat chocolate.

Get out there and start playing with light it's good fun and you'll end up with some cracking pictures.

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by lj_thorne » 06 Apr 2014, 21:53

Mike this is brilliant .... It makes complete sense and I will try and use your tips...
Thank you


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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Maty » 06 Apr 2014, 22:33

Wow! Even I understood that :D

Thanks Mike :-bd
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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by stacyr » 07 Apr 2014, 08:29

This is really good to know, I can never get a good picture of Ozzie, just always does come out a black blob, thanks for this :-)
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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by nessclair » 07 Apr 2014, 19:37

Always great photo tips. I have my new camera now, so I'm enjoying playing about with it!
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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Donald » 07 Apr 2014, 20:34

Problem is that most LED lights are viciously blue. Think winter sunlight over snow. Or worse. All white LEDs are actually almost monochromatic blue LEDs with a phosphor coating to make the light whiter. They will mess with the white balance on the camera.

You can get neutral white and warm white LED torches, but they tend not to be cheap.

I have a huge collection of LED torches, around 140 of them...

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Maty » 07 Apr 2014, 22:04

Donald wrote:Problem is that most LED lights are viciously blue. Think winter sunlight over snow. Or worse. All white LEDs are actually almost monochromatic blue LEDs with a phosphor coating to make the light whiter. They will mess with the white balance on the camera.

You can get neutral white and warm white LED torches, but they tend not to be cheap.

I have a huge collection of LED torches, around 140 of them...
Ummm, why Donald???? :-o
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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Donald » 08 Apr 2014, 09:27

Why not?

:P

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Bodee » 11 Dec 2017, 13:48

A lot of good points in this thread.
Up till now I have attempted to take Milla outside and face into the light/sun. It is imo better than the flash as the flash seems to impart a slightly unnatural quality - or it might just be me :)

Here are a couple I took recently. The first one I had her looking out the window taken with my iPhone 6

Image

This one is slightly older and she is facing the light taken with my Olympus M5 Mk2

Image

This one is probably the least successful using a flash as she is looking away from the window taken with iPhone 6 again.

Image


Merry Christmas to all Schnauzer lovers.
This is a wee cartoon I made in the 70's before I had a dog (you can see the fold in the paper) which I photo copied, put into photoshop and changed the wee dog to look like Milla.

Image

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by mikegoodson1 » 11 Dec 2017, 14:10

I think the first picture is the best one, I'll be sure to incorporate these tips when taking pictures of my two.

How is Milla settling in?

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Bodee » 11 Dec 2017, 14:47

mikegoodson1 wrote:I think the first picture is the best one, I'll be sure to incorporate these tips when taking pictures of my two.

How is Milla settling in?
She is doing great Mike. She seems exceptionally intelligent. When she sees me come out into the back garden she leads me to where she has done her poos. I have recently stopped going out with her as much as she seems to have stopped her penchant for putting everything in her mouth. Just in time thank goodness as it is freezing now but she doesn't seem to mind.

I bought a set of bells to hang on the back door, thinking it would be a waste of money but she was shaking them to get out within a week.

She has learned to NOT go into a barking frenzy when it is just someone walking up the street - even when the person has a dog. She seemed to pick up that I didn't want her to do it in a couple of days after I said "NO" a few times. Now she just watches them closely passing up the road.


If she has a small problem it is, her recall is a bit hit and miss, however she is improving and she is not 6 months yet. I let her off the lead in the park now and she comes back easily about 7 times out of 10 - the other 3 times requires going back to treats.

She also doesn't like bath time and despite the water being warm she starts to tremble. Hopefully she will get used to it. Oh and the grooming is a struggle, it took me about 20 mins to clip and trim her ears yesterday. :( However she is happy for me to brush, comb and card her, to the extent she almost drops off to sleep.

Here is an HDR photo I did for a bit of fun - I think it goes with her character. Always "grumping" and getting up to stuff.

Image

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by mikegoodson1 » 11 Dec 2017, 15:01

I'm really pleased :)

She looks such a character and I love this picture too and her Schnauzer tag, do you mind telling me where you got that?

I have not tried the bells on the back door for our new puppy but I think I may give that a go, how do you train that? Ring them every time you take her out and open the door, so she knows that when she goes out, the bell is rung?

And I am very impressed that you have managed to train Milla (not sure that is ever right with a mini Schnauzer, I always get the impression they do what they want, not always what you want) not to bark at people walking down the road. I can get Oscar to a point where he sort of half-barks/growls/murmurs under his breath but I can never get him to be totally quiet :D

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Bodee » 11 Dec 2017, 22:15

mikegoodson1 wrote:I'm really pleased :)

She looks such a character and I love this picture too and her Schnauzer tag, do you mind telling me where you got that?

I have not tried the bells on the back door for our new puppy but I think I may give that a go, how do you train that? Ring them every time you take her out and open the door, so she knows that when she goes out, the bell is rung?

And I am very impressed that you have managed to train Milla (not sure that is ever right with a mini Schnauzer, I always get the impression they do what they want, not always what you want) not to bark at people walking down the road. I can get Oscar to a point where he sort of half-barks/growls/murmurs under his breath but I can never get him to be totally quiet :D
I bought the dog tag here. I found them a good company to deal with and my neighbour across the road who has a 2 year old black mini male also sent away for one without any problem.
http://www.doggietags.co.uk" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

With the bells that was exactly what I did. Just rung them every time I went out. Of course if you mount them on the handle then I found you couldn't avoid ringing them when you opened the door. Don't waste your money on the actual product I bought off Amazon though because after I bought it I found the bells were just the same as the cheap metal christmas decoration bells you can buy for next to nothing. Just mount 3 or four on a bit of rope.

regarding her "barking" I actually started training Milla while she sat in my lap and because she was right there with me I think the stern NO was more effective. Now that she has managed to get up on the chair next to the window (top picture) she seems to have remembered her training. Funnily enough when I first started to train her there were a few "grumps" and mutterings but when I continued to say NO Milla, she soon cut these out too.

I have noticed she studies my face and eyes and sniffs any part of me that is close to her when I correct her (a lot more than Max did) - I think it is to see how serious I am, she is a lady after all ;)
Half the problems many have training their dog is they are inconsistent with what they expect and I think it confuses a puppy/dog.

She is not perfect though as I said. Another difficulty I have when we are out is trying to get her to keep down - much of that of course is that because people say "aww she is so cute" they actually encourage her to jump up. The problem then is some people want to pat her but for her to stay down. I can stop her jumping up on me as she obeys the command "stay down" but she seems to sense that she is being encouraged by strangers even when I am telling her to "stay down"
It can be annoying when some people say "it's ok she's just a puppy" as if she is suddenly going to change of her own volition or they don't realise that some don't want their clothes marked :)

Above all I'm finding her best quality is just how devoted and loving she is. Max was devoted and a great companion but had a more independent spirit (I think you can see it in the photos of him) which I liked about him but now that I am in my 70's I do appreciate Milla's more sensitive nature.

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Re: Photographing black dogs (also applied to other colours)

Post by Purple_peach » 18 Dec 2017, 11:53

Once again, thank you Mike - your explanations of each aspect truly are the most helpful I have read, even I understand them! (*)

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