From capturing silly pups playing with toys to athletic greyhounds running in a field, photographing dogs is one of the most enjoyable types of photography. Much like many animals, dogs come in all shapes, sizes, fur lengths- and colors. The colors is where a problem presents itself that every single dog photographer has to contend with: black and white pups. The stark contrast in their fur can make getting the right exposure difficult.
Here is our guide on how to perfectly photograph black and white dogs!
Why is it Difficult to Photograph Black and White Dogs?
If you’ve ever tried to photograph a pup that happens to have black and white fur, you probably came across one of the following issues: either the white fur was overexposed and blown out or the black fur was underexposed and too dark.
To understand why this happens, we need to chat about exposure and metering. Exposure is the amount of light that reaches your camera. Too much light and your image will be too bright. Too little, and it’ll be too dark. We determine exposure by relying on the camera’s metering system. Metering measures the intensity of light, and tells us if our exposure settings are too light, too dark, or just right.
Now, the problem that happens with black and white dogs is that the camera’s metering system is telling causing our exposure reading to jump up and down depending on whether the camera is sensing more of the black in the dog or more of the white in the dog. It cannot give a very accurate reading because you expose for the two colors differently.
What’s the Solution?
Here are five ways to capture beautifully balanced images of our favorite black and white pooches.
1. Change Your Camera Metering Mode
Even though the exposure meter will be going bonkers trying to tell you how to expose for a black and white dog, you can help this situation by switching the camera metering mode to Spot Metering.
By default, your camera is set to Matrix / Evaluative Metering. This mode considers the entire scene, all of its shadows and highlights, when setting the exposure. It’s goal is to expose the darkest part of your image and the lightest part of your image as equally as possible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite work like described with black and white dogs because the contrast is too stark.
Spot metering is where you tell the camera what spot you want to expose for. This is a well liked mode because it puts more manual control in your hands. All you do is point the camera at the object or subject you want to capture exposure for and that’s it! Now, for black and white dogs, you’re able to point the camera at the dominant fur color you want to expose for rather than letting the camera attempt to figure it out automatically.
2. Try to Find Even Lighting (Like Shade or an Overcast Day)
The shade or an overcast day has a mutual benefit of causing the lighting to be even. That means that there are no contrasts in the image, all of the colors and exposure are pretty even and neutral. This is great for black and white dogs because you’ll be able to set an exposure that shows both the black fur and the white fur nicely without sacrificing one or the other!
3. If the Lighting Isn’t Even, Underexpose
In the editing room, it is much easier to bring back shadows and lighten them because oftentimes there is still information in the blacks that you can bring forward by adjusting the exposure slider in an editing program. Overexposed highlights, however, have lost information and cannot be brought back. As such, if the lighting is not even, underexpose.
4. Consider Which Color is More Prominent
Sometimes, this headache isn’t worth it. If the dog you’re capturing has more of one color than the other, just expose for the dominant color. For example, an almost totally black dog with a small white chest patch isn’t worth fussing about- expose for the black fur and call it a day!
5. Use a Flash or Speedlite
When all else fails, use a flash or a speedlite outdoors! Yes, you can use artificial light outside because many of these artificial lights can actually be brighter than the sun. As such, using flash will allow you to expose the shadows and the highlights in whatever lighting your working in easily.
Next time you go photograph your favorite contrasted pup, keep these tips in mind to ensure that your exposure is accurate!