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Old Mar 23, 2009, 1:04 PM   #1
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I'm having some difficulty getting good shots of my black Lab. Some turn out great, some turn out like crap.

Indoor shots with flash seem to be okay for the most part. (By the way, I'm using a Canon XSi with the 18-55mm IS kit lens, but looking to buy the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM.)

Outdoor shots are a challenge in general, but mostly I'm having issues with exposure. Focused on her (with exposure automatically locked on her) the background is awefully blown out. When I do the expousure lock on something other than her, she comes out way too dark.

Are there secrets to photographing a black dog? This is less on an issue when there are darker, vibrant colours in the background, but when I'm working with a grey or white backdrop, results are mixed.

I suppose I could use the flash, but sometimes I'm looking for a natural shot.

Opinions and advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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Old Mar 23, 2009, 1:55 PM   #2
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You're describing two separate issues:

1) Camera has trouble determining "proper" exposure

2) The dynamic range of the scene is too great resulting in blown highlights.

Flash is the best solution for point 2. If you don't want to incur that cost or timely PP to increase the dynamic range you have to accept highlights will be blown. You can mitigate that risk by the time of day you take your shots.

For exposure, the easiest solution is to use a manual exposure. What is happening is your camera's metering is jumping all over the place based upon the elements in the background. In reality, unless your dog is going in and out of shade, the most important part of the photo - the dog will have a fairly constant 'proper' exposure for a reasonable period of time. So you set a manual exposure based on getting the dog properly exposed
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Old Mar 24, 2009, 12:34 PM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback JohnG. Always a good resource for information.

I think I understand how the metering and exposure works, and I tried a number of attempts. But like I said, I'd either have a blown-out bacground or a dark doggie.

I'll give you the scenario:
She was lying on our front stoop, at the edge of the stairs. I took the opportunity to grab my camera because she was lying still for a change and the sun was shining on her face (without direct sunlight or flash, her face is usually a black blob in pictures). Behind her is a red metal door and white aluminum siding. In the pictures where she's proplerly exposed, the door is also fine but the siding is a blinding white.

Maybe it'd help if I posted an example of what I'm talking about. I'll do that when I get home this evening.

Overall I guess I'm satisfied with the results. I mean, a blown background doesn't matter as much to me as capturing her in the image...
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Old Mar 24, 2009, 6:59 PM   #4
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What you have is a dynamic range problem. You cant expose for both the bright background and the dark dog at the same time. The solution I see is to set your camera on a tripod. Exposure for the dark dog and take your picture. Then remove the dog and without moving the camera expose for the background. Assemble the two shots in Photoshop using the background from one and the dog from the other. Next time buy a light colored dog.
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Old Mar 24, 2009, 8:10 PM   #5
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Bynx wrote:
Quote:
What you have is a dynamic range problem. You cant expose for both the bright background and the dark dog at the same time. The solution I see is to set your camera on a tripod. Exposure for the dark dog and take your picture. Then remove the dog and without moving the camera expose for the background. Assemble the two shots in Photoshop using the background from one and the dog from the other. Next time buy a light colored dog.
Interesting solution... although I know how to use Photoshop, I'm not a guru or in the business of doctoring my pics to that degree. Certainly something worth learning, but that might not happen in the near future. Right now my photography hobby is designed to preserve memories, not necessarily an experiment in software.

But thank you. Maybe I'll just dye my doggie's coat! Cheers.
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Old Mar 25, 2009, 8:21 AM   #6
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As mentioned the problem is dynamic range. But as you also pointed out, doing blended exposures is a bit more trouble than it's worth for this type of shot.

That's what an external flash is for. Set camera exposure for the background and let the ETTL control the exposure for your subject. It will take some practice but you'll get there.


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Old Mar 25, 2009, 2:04 PM   #7
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Copy, paste, use the eraser and flatten image. Thats all it takes. And if you have photoshop thats all pretty basic stuff. If you want something that might be difficult to achieve with your camera alone sometimes you have to just make an effort. John has given good advice, but if you dont want to use the flash then post production is your alternative. Collies shoot well in bright light.
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 12:17 AM   #8
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have you tried adding a polarising filter to your lens? i've been able to improve the colours in a similar shot (mine was a black cat on a sunny stair outside). it also allows you to be able to mitigate some of the more glary highlights.. effectively it can reduce the dynamic range a little bit and improve the colours in the shot. adding a flash into the mix would help considerably too. experiment
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Old Apr 18, 2009, 7:35 AM   #9
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A couple things that may help.

First, shooting RAW and pulling back highlights, pushing up shadows can work in many situations. There is more dynamic range that a jpeg will capture.

Second, play with exposure bias to where the highlights are able to be recovered. It certainly varies by scene, but a -.3 or -.6 bias may keep the details in the sky.

Third is using a graduated ND filter when there will be sky above the horizon. It just simply doesn't let as much of that light hit the sensor.

Good luck,

Greg

Edit: Oh, and put the sun behind you if you can.

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Old Apr 18, 2009, 8:33 PM   #10
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Shoot a black dog/dress/object against as dark a background as fits the subject. experiment with different lighting: cloudy, shade, deep shade, flash as most light, flash as fill, ...

Think about what you are doing. If something doesn't work, try to figure out why it didn't. The EXIF data will help, and try to look at the photos as soon after you shoot as possible - then you will have a better chance remembering details.
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