Light in dog portraits: dos and don’ts

Without light no photo. But how can we use the light to our advantage? And what do we want to avoid, as pet photographers?

Here are a few of my dos and don’ts, when it comes to light outside:

DO: Go up early. The morning light is warm and soft and makes everything pretty. It’s also low in the sky and ideal for backlight portraits.



DO: use the sunset. Same reason as above mentioned, and lots of colours in the sky as well. I love to really bring out the sky, and leave the dog as a near-silhouette.



DON’T: photograph in full sunlight mid-day if you can avoid it. The shadows are really sharp, the dog will squint, your shadow may appear in the photo. The contrast is not pleasing. You will either get an overexposed photo if you try to get the shadow-side right (see below), or an underexposed photo if you try to save the light part.



DO: move the dog into the shadow. The light is much more even, her eyes are more open, colours and details are much nicer. Keep in mind that in the shade the tones are more blue-purple. Adjust with the white-balance if you don’t like that (I do).



DO: wait for clouds. Cloudy weather is perfect! You still get some contrast, but not as harsh as in super-sunny weather.



DON’T: use the on-camera flash. It’s not nice for the dog, their eyes reflect green, and the light is very “flat” and the background looks even darker. I don’t even have a photo to show…

DO: use an external flash, a bit from the camera, to avoid the green eyes. Adjust your settings to take advantage of the fact that the background gets darker, and make sure the dog is correctly exposed (=the background is nearly black). A small aperture and a fast shutterspeed should help you. I never use a flash because my eyes don’t like it, so no photo here either…but this one actually gives really nice results, it’s worth a try!

DO: take advantage of the beauty of low-light. If your dog is good at beeing still, use a slower shutterspeed and a larger aperture to capture portraits with a lot of feeling.



DO: use window light or indoor lamps. Adjust white balance, shutterspeed and aperture. Raise ISO if you need to.



Feeling a bit overwhelmed about camera settings? Get my free cheatsheet!





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