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Thread: White face, black eyes. Help?

  1. #1
    Brindles's Avatar
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    White face, black eyes. Help?

    Hi folks, first post here.

    I'm hoping you guys will be able to help me out. I've had some difficulty getting well-exposed pictures of my Great Pyrenees puppy. He's pretty much all white with very dark eyes. All of my pictures seem to make him look like a big white fluffball with two black holes in his face.

    I came close to what I want with this picture:

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    ... but it took a bit of processing to achieve it. I'm not always in situations where the sun is at the right angle or where I can bounce flash properly (something I'm eager to learn more about, but that's for another time).

    I also have a white-faced Greyhound with whom I have the same problem (though I think the photo is underexposed a bit to begin with):

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    I have been shooting with a Nikon D50 and D200 for years, but the above photos were taken with my new D7000. What should I be doing to achieve the result that I want? What am I doing wrong?

    Recently I came across the blog of a photographer based out of Ontario and I am absolutely floored. Her photos are nearly alive; there is so much energy and clarity and color present. See this example and this one too. This is what I've been aiming at for years with my own photography. She did it, now how can I?

    Thank you in advance for any advice.

  2. #2
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    We rescue Maltese which are, of course, also white dogs. I shoot RAW and always bounce flash. I use a Joe Demb FlipIt diffuser/reflector ( www.dembflashproducts.com ) when just shooting candids. Using either Photoshop Elements 8 or Photoshop CS5, I have had no problems. I think that the secret is the bounce flash + FlipIt which directs some of the light from the bounced flash directly forward. You can also fabricate your own diffuser/reflector out of cardboard or foamboard:
    http://super.nova.org/DPR/DIY01/

    Here are a couple of shots using a camera mounted hotshoe flash with a FlipIt diffuser/reflector...

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    White face, black eyes. Help?

  3. #3
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brindles View Post
    Hi folks, first post here.

    I'm hoping you guys will be able to help me out. I've had some difficulty getting well-exposed pictures of my Great Pyrenees puppy. He's pretty much all white with very dark eyes. All of my pictures seem to make him look like a big white fluffball with two black holes in his face.

    I came close to what I want with this picture:

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    ... but it took a bit of processing to achieve it. I'm not always in situations where the sun is at the right angle or where I can bounce flash properly (something I'm eager to learn more about, but that's for another time).

    I also have a white-faced Greyhound with whom I have the same problem (though I think the photo is underexposed a bit to begin with):

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    I have been shooting with a Nikon D50 and D200 for years, but the above photos were taken with my new D7000. What should I be doing to achieve the result that I want? What am I doing wrong?

    Recently I came across the blog of a photographer based out of Ontario and I am absolutely floored. Her photos are nearly alive; there is so much energy and clarity and color present. See this example and this one too. This is what I've been aiming at for years with my own photography. She did it, now how can I?

    Thank you in advance for any advice.
    Hi Brindles and welcome to CiC,

    We find it helpful if you include your first name in your profile as it shows up on the left and we can be a bit more personal in responses. Maybe you can also in due where you are from.

    I had a look at the web site you mentioned and the person basically has very good exposure, the shots are taken outside in natural light and they are using a shallow depth of field to isolate the subject. In post production they have added contrast and sharpening (which is essential for all digital shots) to make the subject stand out.

    I agree with you that #2 looks underexposed but also needs contrast and sharpening.

    I can see your shots were both taken inside and you say the lovely pooch in #1 is mostly white. If that is the case your automatic white balance setting may not be adjusting for the warm internal lighting that is throwing a yellow colour cast over your shot. Again this can be corrected in most reasonable post production software. You will note the whiteness in the shots Richard took and in using flash the colour temperature is balanced to white neutral day light (no colour cast). As I said the web site shots you referred to were all taken outside in natural light.

    There are some great tutorials here on contrast, sharpening and colour management.

    Please come back with any further questions.

  4. #4

    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brindles View Post
    All of my pictures seem to make him look like a big white fluffball with two black holes in his face.


    White face, black eyes. Help?
    Well, that's just what he is, son, just what he is... and very cute he is too.

    I'm no expert in this (so don't rely on my post count) but I think Richard has a good solution. However, the example you listed http://www.flickr.com/photos/illonah...n/photostream/ is probably not comparable. I would guess they used a flash which gave extra light for the whole dog while they exposed for the background. Your situation above is different - the dog fills most of the frame, and you want to lighten up the eyes.

    Colin (our Admin) might be able to suggest something.

    I do like the dog.

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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Colin (our Admin) might be able to suggest something.
    If shooting RAW then I'd start by using the fill light control. If that's not enough then I'd try masking the problem areas and treating them seperately (much as we do for portraiture; especially brown-eyed models).

    Very important to make sure that the image is exposed correctly though.

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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    If you've seen my posts, you know that I don't know anything about portraiture
    In my humble observation of the first picture, I wonder if the white balance is correct and if the exposure is under. The second picture looks great to me. When I take hockey photos of my son, I recently started over exposing 2/3 stop as a general practice and I think the pictures turn out better for white balance and exposure (only bring this up because the white dog is laying on a light colored floor).

  7. #7
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Thanks, guys! My name is Rachel. I'm from TN but currently in AL finishing my undergrad. I'll update my profile after this.

    Thank you very much Richard for the pointers on the flash diffusers and reflectors! Might have to try my hand at the DIY one. Your pups are very cute! I had a photography professor tell me that taking pictures of dogs and kids is cheating because it'll always be a cute photo. So maybe pet photography is more trivial than other types to some, but I just can't seem to get away from it.

    The lady whose blog I linked is obviously a talented photographer in the first place, but I think a lot of her work is post-processing. Example here, scroll down a bit for the original. I can't seem to replicate that result. I have Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5, so my tools are not lacking. I should be able to do it, right? I guess I just need to learn to better utilize what I have.

    The photo of my Pyr may not have been the best example. I was playing with some Lightroom presets, so that's why there is a color cast. My lame attempt at being artsy. :P I guess what I'd really like to achieve is that beautifully exposed, sharp, clear result that she has so much success with.

    Peter, you said that added contrast and sharpening is essential for all digital shots. Could you elaborate? I'm interested in this. I read a tutorial about sharpening (I think on this site). It explained that it's better to sharpen the photos after the fact rather than in-camera due to processor size. Should I be shooting at 0% sharpening in-camera? I noticed the default is 20% (if I recall correctly) and it's currently set there. Should I change it?

    Colin, I do shoot RAW though it has been a relatively recent development. Over the years I've shot mostly jpeg with some RAW thrown in there but never really honed my skills in that area. With my new D7000 I set it to RAW and plan to keep it there. It's more time consuming but it's also something that I really want to master. With masking, are you referring to Photoshop? Masks are something that I have very little experience with and I think it's high time I learn.

    Brian, thank you for bringing that up. Every time I've shot at an increased EV I feel like I've blown out the highlights. I haven't played with it much on my D7000 though, and also maybe I'll fare better in RAW? I'll try it out.

    The other day at the dog park I was able to get this:

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    ... but was not quite satisfied with this:

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    What I focus on most with my photography is dog racing. This is the most extreme example of fast action in very low light that I've come across. I am waiting on pins and needles for my upcoming break so I can go home and try out my new camera on my favorite subjects.

    For fun, here's a shot I got during the daytime:

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    And one at night (the black ones are the hardest!):

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    I should have the camera and software to get the job done, right? What can I do to improve?

    I hope this wasn't too lengthy. Thank you all again for your responses. I am forever grateful and happy to have found a forum with such helpful, intelligent folks. Maybe I'll be able to somehow return the favor.

  8. #8
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    That’s better, Rachel is much nicer than Brindles.

    There are really good tutorials here on sharpening and contrast but to keep it simple (because I need to so I can understand it) digital cameras have what is called a low-pass filter fitted in front of the sensor. The purpose is to stop flaring that might occur. By this I mean; it is well known you do not wear a striped shirt on TV or it flares or mosaics. Digital sensors are no different but during the recording process this filter softens the image in camera so you need to add back the contrast and sharpening in post production.

    Having said that if you shoot in RAW no sharpening is done in camera. If you shoot in jpg then any sharpening you add via the menu options in your camera will be applied during conversion. If you are just going to take your shots to the store and have them printed then you need some contrast and sharpening in camera.

    However, as you learn more you will want to control your output and not let someone else set the parameters for you. Your CS5 has all the power you need. If you still shoot in jpg but process in CS5 it is best to limit the amount of contrast, sharpening and saturation in camera is it is easier to add later than try and remove it if it is over applied. If you shoot RAW then no sharpening or contrast is applied in camera so you will have to add it in post production.

    I hope that helps and I do recommend you read and study the tutorials, Sean does a great job on them but please ask more questions as you go.

    By the way those later actions shots are great so it was good to see your experimenting with the other shots because that's how we all learn. If you always do what you have always done you will always get what you always got.

  9. #9
    Brindles's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Thanks so much, Peter. Very informative. I didn't know about the low-pass filter and that makes so much sense. I guess that's why the high-pass filter is an effective sharpening tool in Photoshop? I post-process all of my photos; rarely am I satisfied with a shot straight out of camera. What you said above about learning to control output is 100% true with me. I wouldn't call myself a "control freak" but most of the time I prefer to do everything manually because it's more easily adjusted to my liking.

    I have learned a lot from the tutorials here and I'm eager to read more. Unfortunately I don't have much free time for the next month, but after my finals are over I'll certainly be spending more time on that.

  10. #10
    Brindles's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Thought I'd give it another shot.

    What do you guys think of these?

    This is my first Greyhound. He just turned 9 this week.
    White face, black eyes. Help?

    This is my old gal Echo. She's 9 too, but looks and acts much older.
    White face, black eyes. Help?

  11. #11
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Rachel

    I agree with Peter that the action shots in that thread above are wonderful. What brilliant subject material you have there. You could really build up an expertise in that area of work.

    As for the images in post #10, above, I think you could do more by getting down to dog-height. In both you're standing over the dog, looking down on it. I think you'd have better images if you were to get down lower.

    This is one I did some time ago, which has too narrow a depth of field (and the point of focus is too far back on the dog's head; i.e. too close to me), but I was on the floor getting to the right height
    White face, black eyes. Help?
    Last edited by Donald; 18th November 2010 at 07:18 PM.

  12. #12
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brindles View Post
    Thought I'd give it another shot.

    What do you guys think of these?

    This is my first Greyhound. He just turned 9 this week.
    White face, black eyes. Help?

    This is my old gal Echo. She's 9 too, but looks and acts much older.
    White face, black eyes. Help?
    Hi Rachel,

    Donald is on the money here in recommending you change the perspective by getting down at their level. You have focused on the eyes, which is great, but greyhounds have long noses so getting so close you create such a shallow DOF that the nose is distractingly out of focus. I can see these two just want to be in your face so using a longer lens and standing back a bit might help. Also by getting back a bit you might find that you have changed the angle of the light and it does not bounce off the Echo’s white face as much.

  13. #13
    Brindles's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Hi again! I've been out of town for a bit but wanted to come back to thank you all again for the advice. I love that shot of your dog, Donald. I'm a sucker for those gray faces.

    I normally do get down to the dog's level. I was using my 50mm f/1.8 and coercing them with treats, so it was tough to keep them back. Might be even harder with a longer lens but I can certainly try!

    I post-processed this image today, but it was taken on the same day as the ones above, so the DoF issue with the nose out of focus is still there. I've been playing with dodge and burn brushes, and I really like what they can do to eyes, but I fear that I may have overdone it. What do you guys think?

    White face, black eyes. Help?

    I've been trying to refine my post-processing workflow, and the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. Story of my life, I suppose!

  14. #14
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: White face, black eyes. Help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brindles View Post
    I've been trying to refine my post-processing workflow, and the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
    Yep, that called the learning curve!

    There will be times when you get despondent and think, 'Why did I ever start this stupid photography thing?' Don't let it beat you. It's the joy of that 'Ah-hah' moment that makes it worthwhile - when suddenly somet task or process that made no sense whatsoever, falls into place and then you think, 'Why did I think that was difficult?'. So stick with it and don't stop pushing yourself to learn.

    Not knowing what the dog looks like in 'real life' it's difficult to say whether you've pushed it too far with the D & B. It looks as if you have, just a bit. There's, what I would call, as 'starkness' in the dog's appearance. This may be natural, but maybe you've over-emphasised it with the D & B?

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