Q: How do I photograph a black dog and not have it look like a black blob with eyes?
A: Ah yes.. the infamous challenge in pet photography of photographing a black dog. They are challenging for sure. Your camera’s focusing system relies on points of contrast in order to lock focus. With black dogs, there is very little contrast and so often the focusing systems continues to hunt for focus. So here are my best tips for getting a good image:
Light, Light, Light!
Preferably nice reflective light to help snag some catchlights or just add some depth and contrast to the fur…. something for your camera’s focusing system to latch onto.
Focus on the eyes.
While I always aim for the eye I also use the nose or in between the eyes for focus point in most situations. With black dogs that have brightly colored eyes, this provides you with a good contrast point for your focus.
Add something that will provide contrast for focus, a pretty collar for instance.
If you end up using something like that, make sure to increase you DOF (depth of focus) so that you can increase your chances of catching the face in focus as well.
If you find yourself with a black dog in less than optimal lighting, you will probably need a reflector or reflective surface of some sort. It is very challenging to hold a reflector around a dog and not have them freak out, so I prefer to position myself near a light colored wall or concrete that will help bounce the available light.
I can’t leave this question without addressing exposure. When metering a black dog you need to underexpose by at least a stop or two. Make sure you check your highlight warnings on you histogram and LCD. I find that I usually end up metering the scene and then do a test shot. I then adjust my exposure accordingly with the dog in place. I’d rather slightly over expose and adjust in RAW, then underexpose and have that detail lost.