Photographing a black dog is tough - I've said it before and you will hear me say it often. I don't want people to beat themselves up because they are having trouble with this - because we ALL do. I STILL have trouble!
Robin Welter sent in this great shot of Walter, who is owned by Deb and Todd Bridge. (I was really hoping this was Robin's dog, because I just love the name Walter Welter….. Oh, well.)
The photograph has nice color and detail in the background but the dog's side, belly and face are lost in the shadows.
There are a couple things you can do to help counter this situation. First, pop on that flash. Most flashes, especially higher-end ones, will allow you to set the amount of light which it outputs. Flashes normally emit an amount of flash which equals the existing light. This works great if you are photographing someone and want to open up the shadow areas in their eyes. but, to keep the detail in the "black hole" of a wet Newfoundland dog, we need MORE light than the surroundings. So set your flash to one or even two stops OVER exposure. (Check your camera or flash unit's guidebook to see how to do this.)
If you are photographing a water trial, adding a flash may be a distraction to the dog, OR just added weight and bother, so then, you have to make some decisions. Try overexposing your photographs by one stop. This doubles the amount of light entering the camera, which is going to give you the effect of the second photo I've posted here. You have lost some richness in the back and foreground, but your subject is starting to pick up more detail. That's what you want - detail in the dog! You could overexpose by a stop and a half but then you really risk the loss of a lot of background!
Some photo editing programs have a feature called "fill flash." For the third image, I added a bit of this digital fill to the image, which brought Walter out a bit more without sacrificing more of the background. We lost a little more, but not as much as if we'd decreased the exposure another half stop.
Now, in the old days, we'd get this image in the darkroom and begin to "burn" or give additional exposure time to the trees and beach to darken that area - but now, we do that on the computer. Notice how the bottom of this image is blown out? I added a wee bit of shading to bring detail back into that area in the final example.
Then, I popped on a slight darkening that covers all the edges, bringing down the top, sides and bottom and pulling your eye back to the subject, Walter.
Robin has done a great job capturing Walter at work, but, she fell victim to the black dog (black hole!) exposure syndrome.
Do you have a photo you would like me to critique? Please drop me a comment and I'll be glad to take a look. And, thank you to those of you who have sent in other images for me to review. I'm getting to them!