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Thread: Photographing a Black Labrador

  1. #1
    Member fliss1972's Avatar
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    Photographing a Black Labrador

    I am really struggling to take great pictures ( oe even a good pic) of my black Labrador.
    Any help on settings would be much appreciated.
    He is either out of focus, or the pic just looks dull and he doesn't stand out.

    I have only had my camera a week or so, so am still limited too the lenses that came with it.
    I have a Nikon D3100 with a 18-55mm lens and the 55-300mm lens.

    I am after a nice portrait still shot of him (hope that makes sense, still learning the terminology) and I have also read that taking a meter reading off the blue sky will help?

    Thanks in advance

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    I believe one of the recent photo of week is a portrait of a sheer black kitten. I think that would be a good reference.

    If it's me I would use manual focus + 2 flash. (Obviously you need to find yourself a remote trigger). 1 behind the Lab which creates a lighted outline of the Lab, another fill light (off camera) from an angle which give a bit of texture on the skin.

    Or I will use the sun at either early morning/very late arvo, have the Lab blocking the sun to create outline I mentioned above, but use spot metering and manual focus on the Lab.

    Sorry for the ignorance but I don't know taking meter reading off the blue sky doing any good in this situation.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Hey FLiss...
    Are you starting out doing it in a simple way? Like, black dog in yard in sunlight?
    If so, set the metering to the yard in general and fix it, by using Manual mode. Then get hound in the frame and try it.
    For the BLACK dog, maybe try to get his sunlit side rather than the side in shadow.

    Meanwhile, post what you've done and let's see what you mean.

    Good luck. Am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    First thing!

    Upload one or two images for review purposes. Too many images leads to info overload.

    Use ViewNX(or ViewNX2) to convert any images to an uploadable format to any site you like and then link back to here, or upload via the attachment tool in the reply box(it's the paperclip icon at the upper toolbar in the reply box).

    about 900-1000pixel width should be good enough.

    Use ViewNX because many other image editors can remove important exif information in the file, and this info contains many camera related settings.. so for the sake of making anyone's task easier to offer help, this is the best approach.

    If you haven't installed ViewNX already, it's on the CD that came with the camera. If it's ViewNX version 1(ie. it doesn't specify that it's ViewNX2!!), then download ViewNX2 from that link(it's about 60Meg download).

    if you haven't already, set the camera to shoot in the NEF file type(ie. raw) .... best file type for newbies

    quickly!, set camera to use spot metering. set exposure compensation to about -1Ev and keep the spot on the black pooch. Use single point focus(centre spot) and try to shoot a short burst of 3 frames in succession.

    If you try to shoot a black subject without -ve exposure compensation, the camera will try to expose it as grey as possible(bad!) you may even need less than -1Ev, and maybe as low as -2Ev to get him/her black... but you have to use spot metering as matrix will underexpose the entire scene, and that worse than bad.
    If the sun is out in full force, you may get a lot of shiny reflections off the dogs shiny coat, and they will blow out if too strong. A polariser will help to eliminate/minimise this effect, with the side effect that you lose a bit of shutter speed. In bright sunlight this won't be an issue.

    I can't say that using the onboard flash will help all that much, but an external flash may.

    Set your 55-200 lens to about 70-100mm and stand back enough to get as much of the dog in the frame as you can. Use an aperture value as wide(small number) as you can, up to about f/5.6. The 55-300 gives good results at these apertures. Is this the new 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens, or a typo where 300 = 200mm?
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Thank you so much!!
    I will definitely try all of above (except the external flashes as I don't have any yet) and will take the shot outdoors.

    Thanks for the specific settings arthurking83 - it is exactly what I need at this stage after only using a dslr for a week:-)
    Have installed the View NX2 but haven't even opened it yet, have felt a bit overwhelmed with learning about the f/stops, shutter speeds and ISO's. I have mainly been experimenting with the apertures, but I need to be brave and actually do something with some of the pics I have
    The lens is the 55-300, came in a twin kit with the camera.

    The lab is my first "project" and I am hoping to get a pic I can be proud enough to hang on the wall.

    Thanks so much once again, I will post some pics very soon and look forward to feedback and advice. You guys are so helpful and it means a lot that you will take the time to help out newbies.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    OK.

    if you have ViewNX installed, one other thing to do is to make sure you shoot in NEF mode in camera.

    reason: once you do this, you then need not worry about the in camera enhancements called Picture Control.
    Go into the camera menu and find Picture Control(its in the camera icon menu, ie. Shooting Menu) and you open up Picture Control. It should be set to SD(standard) by default. Once in there and you have the Picture control menu opened, if there is any of the variable settings not set to zero, do so here and press the OK button. If you don't press the OK button the settings changes don't take effect.
    With ViewNX, you can set create and edit Picture Controls to be more specific to suit your taste. If you shoot in NEF mode(not jpg mode) you can use any of the Picture Controls in the camera via the ViewNX software on the computer... as well as the ability to create your own Picture Control settings.
    This is nothing like using other software, such as PhotoShop or PaintShop Pro, or whatever. This is one click editing, and in effect is really only preliminary image editing. Once you get the image to be as good as you can get in ViewNX, you can then edit the image further with other software that is more graphic manipulation oriented.

    The other camera setting you want to make sure you have set, is to be in Aperture Priority [A] mode, which helps to get you consistent exposures, which is why you want to be in Spot Metering mode, not Matrix Metering.

    One other quick word of caution tho. My recommendation in setting exposure compensation to -1Ev is also going to be dependent on the lens you use as well. I generally tend to use f/2.8 lenses, and faster, but one thing I've noted with two Nikon kit lenses I either have or have used, and that's that they tend to underexpose by their nature anyhow.. by as much as -1Ev in the case of my 18-105 kit lens... but generally by -0.7Ev in a consistent manner
    So if you set the camera to -1Ev and the exposure is good for a black level(that is black looks black and not mid grey), then that doesn't necessarily imply that the exposure setting you chose is correct, only that it's correct for that lens! If you mount another lens you may find that the exposures may be consistently different(either brighter or darker). Just another point to be aware of, as you have a twin lens kit.


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    I've found that getting good photos of black animals is particularly challenging for the camera's metering system. As AK suggested, use exposure compensation to work at it. Note - you can achieve good photos without using flash - you just need to be much more aware of the light direction and exposure variables.
    Regards, Rob

    D600, AF-S 35mm f1.8G DX, AF-S 50mm f1.8G, AF-S 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR, AF-S 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G VR, Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM
    Photos: geeoverbar.smugmug.com Software: CS6, Lightroom 4

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    Member adrian078's Avatar
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    I would take the picture outside. Your previous images probably look flat due to the lighting. You get flat low contrast images from cloudy days. Try late in the afternoon when the light is warm and the angle of the sun is low. Try a few different positions here with the subject facing different directions. You could turn the subject so the sun is partially behind it. Just watch how the lighting changes depending on where the subject is in relation to the main light(in this case, sun).

    Put the camera on AV (apperture priority) mode. Use F/8 or F/11. This should give you a reasonable DOF(depth of field) and hopefully keep the subject in focus.

    I prefer to have the focus mode so it only focuses on the center. That way you can focus on exactly the part you want, like the subject's eyes. Just focus on the head or eyes holding the shutter half way and then recompose the shot. When you have a composition you like, you can press the shutter the whole way.

    You'll need some exposure compensation, like -1 EV or -2EV as others have suggested. You can check the LCD after you take a shot. If the dog is too dark, add more negative compensation.If you know how to read the histogram, this will help too. If you don't, I would suggest reading up on how to. IMO, it's the most important tool a camera has to check if the image is exposed correctly or not.

    After all that, you should get a reasonable image.

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    The secret to photographing labradors is actually none of the above - it's food. I have a yellow labrador and he will sit absolutely still and stare for seconds (no make that minutes) at any point I choose as long as the object of his gaze is edible. Which gives you plenty of time to focus, compose and shoot, and to keep doing so until you get a pin sharp shot. All you have to do then is remove the pool of dribble from his mouth to wherever it's landed (oh and give him the food).

    More seriously, when taking pics of dogs, try to capture the behaviour that most endears them to you. Is it chasing a stick or a ball, rolling in mud, licking a face or just that pitiful labrador stare? We all tend to outlive our dogs and it's this behaviour that you will probably remember the most, so you need to make sure that your camera has captured this moment for you.
    Always in two minds whether to capture the moment or just savour it...
    350D + kit lenses just upgraded to 5D2, 24-105mm, 50mm 1.4 and bags of hope

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    I understand what you are saying, I took a photo of mine and just hoped his tongue was poking out and eyes looking at me to get a little contrast Bauer.jpg
    Last edited by ElizabethAtkinson; 26-02-2011 at 11:05am.

  11. #11
    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Artylady's image show exactly why it's important to keep the exif data intact if advice was sought.

    Image shows that matrix metering was used, ISO400 and the pre programmed Portrait mode.
    It also looks like the image was shot in jpg mode in camera.

    First thing I'd have done is to use Aperture priority, set camera shooting file type to NEF. The problem with using Matrix metering in this scene Liz, is that there is a lot of bright light in the background confusing the metering system and the camera tries to compensate for it. If the subject is the important part to have exposed correctly, then either spot metering or centre weighted should be used. These modes have their individual pros, spot mode for total user control, centre weighted for slightly better lighting when using flash. But what'd you would have done is to use either of the non matrix modes, and set the dogs coat to expose for black(ie. darker than you have here).

    The darkest black pixel of any relevance seems to be at a value of about 15-20(where any value between 1-4, is about the best you should aim for if a deep rich black is something you want).. basically what that means is that there is wasted exposure. The bright area up in the right hand corner and decking have blown out, where they needn't have, and you'd still get a good dark black colour in the dogs coat.
    Shooting in NEF mode would also have allowed you to use any of the modern updated Picture Control quick image editing via ViewNX(and CaptureNX), where as it stands the only image enhancements available are via the built in camera enhancement functions.
    On my old D70s(which uses the same in camera enhancements as the D60) the images look nicer when edited with the Picture Control enhancements in ViewNX. With older cameras, you get the option of using either the normal in camera enhancements as found in the camera itself, or the new Picture Control types.

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