Today is National Black Dog Day. It’s a sad fact that black dogs sit in rescue centres twice as long as their lighter coloured counterparts. Some never get that lucky break. One of the reasons for this? Because black dogs are notoriously difficult to photograph.
Do you have a black dog? If so, you’re likely all too aware of the problem. No matter how hard you try, they end up looking like a black blob rather than the beautiful creature that they are in real life.
Whether you’re an owner, or you work in a rescue centre, today is a good day for some useful tips on photographing black dogs. You won’t need any expensive equipment. We’re assuming that you’re using a basic point and shoot camera with automatic settings.
Contrary to what you might expect, bright overhead sunlight isn’t great for black dogs. In very bright light your camera will be working too hard. There’ll be a battle between two extremes – the black of your dog and the white light of the sun. Your photograph will always end up on the losing side.
If you do find yourself with the sun directly overhead, bring your dog to a shaded area and take the photo there. It’s important that your chosen location is evenly shaded with a soft light covering the whole area. For example, if you take the photo under a tree, make sure that the background isn’t brightly lit.
Try and take the photo on a cloudy day. The light will be softer and your subject will be evenly lit.
Choose the right time of day
When you’re photographing your black dog in direct sunlight, there are two ideal times of day: early morning or early evening. Generally speaking, the “golden hour” is 1 hour after sunrise or 1 hour before sunset.
These golden hours obviously vary according to the time of year and so check sunrise/sunset times before planning your shoot.
The right background colour is especially important when you’re taking a photo of a black dog. Ideally, you’re looking for good contrast colours that complement black. Middle-spectrum colours work particularly well – reds, yellows, greens and blues.
As we all know, the eyes are the window to the soul. But even at the best of times, it can be hard to see a dog’s eyes, especially if they’re covered in fur.
The best way to deal with this is to use water. You don’t have to take them swimming or dunk them in the bath, just use a wet flannel to wipe around the eyes. However, if they want to splash around in the water then all the better as water shots are great fun.
Another tip is to take the picture from above. Because your dog is looking up at you, the fur falls back from the face.
Take the picture with a person
Taking the photograph with a person is a great tip for rescue centres. For reasons which escape us, people often think of black dogs as being unsociable, even dangerous.
A great photo of the dog having fun with a human helps people understand that black dogs are just as friendly as their more photogenic counterparts.
If it’s a little too dark, try supplementing your available light with `fill-in’ flash. Experiment a bit, but make sure the sun is either directly behind, or just off to the side. Fill-in flash helps lighten the dark areas and reveals the features of your black dog.
If you’re using fill-in flash, you’ll get the best results if the sun is behind your dog or just to one side. That way, you benefit from two sources of equally balanced light.
And if all else fails…
Have you thought about taking a silhouette? Black dogs suit this brilliantly. After all, they’re black.
The time to take your silhouette photo is when the sun is very low in the sky – just after sunrise or just before sunset. They work best when the sun is directly behind your subject. You shouldn’t actually be able to see the sun, just your dog.
I hope you have enjoyed my blog on how to photograph black dogs and have found it useful.
Still having trouble photographing your black dog? If you are based in the UK you can come along to one of my dog photo shoots.
Want to know more? Come on one of my dog photography workshops.