How to Avoid Problems Photographing Black Dogs - dummies

How to Avoid Problems Photographing Black Dogs

By Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

Probably the most infamous dog photography conundrum is the black dog phenomenon. If you have a black dog in your life, you’re likely all too familiar with the issue; in every photo, Sophie looks like a big black blob in the corner instead of the regal pooch she is.

(It’s no wonder black dogs often sit in the shelter twice as long as their lighter counterparts — no one can get a good picture to show them off and get them adopted! It’s such a widespread, devastating reality for homeless animals that it’s been dubbed the “black dog (or cat) syndrome.”)

Black dogs’ features can easily get lost if you don’t set up the shot correctly. Whether you keep the company of a black dog yourself or simply want to head down to your local shelter to take photos that will get a black dog adopted, follow these guidelines to get the best shot:

  • Contrary to what you may think, direct sunlight is your enemy here. Yes, the dog is black. No, that doesn’t mean he should be blasted with direct sun to light him up. Remember that rule about not shooting during midday sun? Well, the rule is doubly true for black dogs. Your best bet is to find the most evenly lit shaded area you can and set your pooch up there.


    24mm, 1/125 sec., f/2.8, 200

  • If you can’t find refuge from the sun, consider moving your photo session to an indoor location with lots of natural light. Remember to increase your ISO if you move indoors.

  • Supplement your available light with fill or bounce flash. If you must photograph in direct sunlight, adding fill flash to your photo helps lighten the darkest shadows and better reveals the features of your black dog. If you’re photographing indoors, bounce your flash off of the ceiling for some nice, soft, dispersed light.

  • Depending on how you frame your shot, you may have to use your exposure compensation dial to darken your image. This is especially true if your dog fills up most of the frame. Just like a white blanket of snow can trick your camera sensor and underexpose your photo, a photo with an unusual amount of black can sometimes result in an overexposed image in need of negative exposure compensation.

    Ultimately, use your camera’s preview as a gauge when it comes to setting your exposure compensation.