_g206872aI got my kitties before I really developed my love for photography and am saddened by the lack of photos I have of them as kittens. I remember taking lots – as we all do when we get adorable little fluffballs for the first time – but they were never worth saving. There I was looking at the most adorable little creatures and all the photos came out looking like they were black blobs with eyes or, if I tried to flash them, scruffy black blobs with demon eyes. They were a lot of my inspiration when getting started with photography – I was determined to get some photos of them which showed them as elegant and adorable as they were standing in front of me.  Here I have pulled together some of the things I’ve learned over the years for getting great photographs of black cats and dogs.

 

1. Location – keep the light in mind
Because they are so dark, they need plenty of light on them to allow the camera to “see” them in all their glory. When photographing indoors, look for places within the home that get lots of light streaming in but beware of direct sunlight. Direct light will glare off of the parts of their fur it hits and leave the rest in dark shadow. Ultimately we are aiming for soft, indirect light and lots of it!

My favourite spot for photographing my moggies is on a windowsill. They really do make for great portrait locations as there is a good source of indirect light, good framing opportunities (with curtains and window frames) and they just love being up there! As with all portraits – human or animal – the happier and more relaxed the subject the more personality can filter through into the photograph. Other good options for indoor portrait photo opportunities include window-side chairs and doormats inside patio doors.

 


2. Get outside

My favourite spot for photographing my moggies is on a windowsill. They really do make for great portrait locations as there is a good source of indirect light, good framing opportunities (with curtains and window frames) and they just love being up there! As with all portraits – human or animal – the happier and more relaxed the subject the more personality can filter through into the photograph. Other good options for indoor portrait photo opportunities include window-side chairs and doormats inside patio doors.

Cloudy, overcast days are excellent for providing even and diffused light – perfect for photographing black cats and dogs. So if you’re finding it difficult to get enough light inside, go out! My cats are indoor cats so I’m usually restricted to the garden but the possibilities are endless for outdoor cats and dogs. On a bright sunny day just make sure you stick to shaded areas to avoid harsh shadows.

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3. Flash 

If you’re struggling for natural light, you can create some with a flash. Okay, this one is only really relevant to those of you who have cameras which have the capability for an off-camera flash. Using an on camera or phone flash will have all the same drawbacks of direct light as outlined above – harsh shadows, crazy eyes and wet noses.

Speedlights are fantastic for assisting us with getting adequate diffused light onto our black furred subjects. I find they hit the perfect balance between getting enough light and having the flexibility to adapt to different locations with subjects who just don’t stay where you put them. I tend to use my speedlight mounted onto my camera and point it anywhere that isn’t directly at the animal. When bounced off of light coloured walls (or the ceiling) the flash can create relatively soft, diffused light. An added bonus of using a flash – the light reflecting off a white wall can create the most beautiful catchlights for that extra wow-factor.

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4. Background

Paying attention to what is going on in the background of your photos is even more important when the subject is dark. Busy or overly bright backgrounds make it easy for our black pets to get lost in the photo as boring black blobs. To draw all the attention to our furry friends, simple, uncluttered backgrounds are the way to go. The good thing about black is that all colours go well with it! Try putting a coloured throw or blanket over a chair or surface for an nice even background.

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Another way to make sure your furry friend is the star of the photo is to distance them from everything behind them. This will help throw the background out of focus, so if you can’t avoid some busyness in the background, try blurring it out instead.

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A block of flats may not be the prettiest background in the world, but using a high aperture and being closer to him than he was to the background, it is much less noticeable. On top of that, the rim light created by the light in the alleyway adds to the atmosphere of this photo.

 

5. Editing

I really do love a good ol’ bit of post-processing. All too often I think a photo of one of my cats is duff and lop it straight in the bin, but after really trying to save one in post-processing, I realised what a mistake I’d been making. Often, especially when working in automatic modes, the dark subject will be under-exposed as the camera is trying to get the rest of the photo exposed right. Whatever editing software you have, all should have simple settings allowing you to boost the exposure of the photo to bring back some of the shadows.

 

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This photo was edited in Photoshop, with exposure boosted and shadows brought up to show the detail in her fur. I have then added a little contrast to make sure the fur is still dark (if you boost too much it’ll come out looking grey) and upped the saturation to make the eyes pop. If your camera is capable of shooting in RAW format then I would strongly advise it. So much more data is captured and so it really gives you more wiggle room with your post-processing.

 

6. Get in close

The beauty of black pets is that their colourful parts stand out. Look for the colourful bits of your black pet – they all have some! Most of these bits are mighty small so get in close and get some photos of the details. Eyes make for fab subjects, with bright colours and intricate patterns all framed by sleek black fur. The larger the colourful part in the frame, the more attention grabbing it’ll be so get in close. Try focusing in on paws and noses too!

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Now go find your black furred babies and get snapping!

 

Of course, should you choose to get some professional photos taken of your treasured pets, we would love to hear from you! We offer pet portrait sessions from as little as £45.

Contact us for more information.