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Thread: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

  1. #1

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    Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    We have a young labradoodle who is very excitable in the snow and I'd love to get a decent photograph of her. The metering is a nightmare as auto doesn't do it and with manual and RAW I still get detail in either the dog or the snow, not both.

    Kit is Nikon D70s and (usually) 18-200VR lens. An SB800 flash is available if recommended.

    Any tips would be very much appreciated.

  2. #2
    John C's Avatar
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    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    You haven't mentioned the type of light you are using. Is it gray overcast, bright sun, open shade, etc? A black dog on snow in bright sunshine is probably beyond the dynamic range of your camera. You could compromise, exposing for the dog and letting the snow be overexposed. Saving to a RAW format will help. One method might be to set your meter to the spot mode (no pun intended) and meter on the dog to get the reading and then underexpose (use a -EV of 1.5 to 2 stops (?)). Bracketing at multiple exposure setting might be necessary. Try taking the photo in less intense light such as near sunrise or sunset or under heavy overcast.

    It would help if you could post an example.

  3. #3

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    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanC View Post
    We have a young labradoodle who is very excitable in the snow and I'd love to get a decent photograph of her. The metering is a nightmare as auto doesn't do it and with manual and RAW I still get detail in either the dog or the snow, not both.

    Kit is Nikon D70s and (usually) 18-200VR lens. An SB800 flash is available if recommended.

    Any tips would be very much appreciated.
    Hi Jonathan,

    The dynamic range of the camera should be fine (you only need around 4 stops- capturing the tones isn't the issue - it's displaying/printing them) - but - if you're shooting JPEG then the camera is probably clipping the blacks.

    My suggestion is to shoot RAW - use Av & Matrix modes, but be prepared to dial in a bit of exposure compensation to raise the snow to a highlight if necessary.

    When you're done, send the file to me and I'll take a look at it for you; I'm guessing that with a touch of fill light it should be just fine (to send it, use a free account at www.sendthisfile.com - put in your own address as a recipient, and copy/paste the link they send to me in a PM here).
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 24th December 2009 at 11:15 PM.

  4. #4

    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    If you do an auto setting and the lab is looking too dark, raise the exposure a stop (possibly even 2stops) to compensate for the meter reading the snow and not the dog. John had the right idea, bracket it if you're not sure, the LCD monitor may be too small (and it may be too bright out to even see a screen!).

    As everyone else said, shoot RAW, and saving the image will be easier and higher quality. My good friend's family just got a labradoodle, one hyper pup!!! Pees when he gets too excited from anticipating your approach! Very cute dogs though.

  5. #5

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    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    Hi Jonathan,

    Here you go. Really easy - I just used the fill light control - added a but of vibrance to emphasise the little colour - quick sharpen, and "job done".

    Note: I've deliberately used just a touch too much fill light so that you could see the difference; if the dog is still looking too dark then you may very well have a monitor adjustment problem (which will have a BIG effect on images like this).

    Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

  6. #6

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    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    Thank you Colin, that's a great result. I'll have a go myself when the festive chaos has died down a little.
    This static one is one of the few where the metering seems to be predictable. The "racing about like a mad thing" ones are usually nowhere near as well metered. Either the matrix metering guesses wrong, or I get the meter spot on the wrong bit if I go that route.

    Great fun trying though, so I'll keep at it.

    Got my first "commission" from She Who Must Be Obeyed for a framed print for the wall as an Xmas present.

    thanks again.

  7. #7

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    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    As Colin says, even a black dog on snow is a low dynamic range scene so this is not a problem for the camera's DR. I would use M, set desired aperture and shutter, and next choose ISO so that the image gets well exposed (the ideal situation is to achieve that at base ISO), and not touch those settings during the series of photographs. Trying to use any dynamic metering mode in such scene cannot give you any other thing than a terrible headache.

    It is true however that a black subject over snow may need some postprocessing to get the best textures both in the black dog and the snow. You can use PS or even the RAW developer to lift the shadows (dog) without blowing the highlights (snow).

    Regards

  8. #8

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    Re: Help with shooting a black puppy in snow

    Hi Jonathan,

    You're very welcome

    I agree with _GUI_ in that Manual is the way to go. Metering looks for something dark and something bright and "aims for the middle", but it's not quite that simple; if the "black thing" is small then it may well ignore it and just expose the white stuff as a medium gray. If the white stuff is small then it may well ignore it and expose the black object as a medium gray.

    Obviously with "black dog" and "white snow" the ratio of black to white is going to change all the time, and although the camera will do it's best (you might have more luck with partial / center weighted metering), it's still going to get it wrong a lot of the time.

    On the other hand, if you shoot manual (ignoring changing angles in relation to the sun) then you'll get ultra consistent exposures

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