Two Little Black Numbers

September 04, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This shoot involved two small, hairy, black Imperial Miniature Shitsu's. I knew from the start that this was not going to be easy. The first issue arose as soon as I walked through the door. Pickles decided he didn't like Bailey and expressed his dislike by barking incessantly and running around like a loon. Coco on the other hand seemed to take a shine to me and wasn't bothered by Bails the slightest bit. I put Bailey in the car and Pickles seemed to settle down a bit, but only a bit!

I spent a bit of time getting to know them before I got the camera out. This involved then licking my face and nibbling my ear. I'm not really used to such small dogs, but these guys were adorable! However, well trained and obedient they were not! Neither were they sessile, always on the go and rarely staying still, let alone pausing for a pose.
Pickles

Pickles in mono
Their constant movement was just one issue I had to contend with. The fact that they were black was another. What made things especially difficult is the fact that their eyes were black too. Black dogs are notoriously difficult to photograph. I'll write a blog on this issue sometime soon. I was worried they would just look like black balls of fur, impossible to differentiate between their features. In order to try to overcome this I resorted to using a flash on one of the camera bodies. I much prefer not to have to use flash, natural light is so much better in my opinion. However, if I had used spot metering in order to correctly expose the dog, the background would have been overexposed. Similarly, if I had used the aperture compensation the same thing would have happened. So flash it was, on one body at least.


Surprisingly, one of the most problematic issues was the grass. Seeding stalks of Perennial Ryegrass, standing about eight to ten inches high, seemed to get in the way of every photograph. Pulling them out was easy enough, but I couldn't pull them all out. For some of the photographs I would be able to edit them out in the post processing in Photoshop. However, what a ball ache!
Another issue was the light. I'm not complaining about the weather at all. What we had was far better than rain or howling winds. However, the periods of bright sunshine massively increased the contrast, turning the black fur and eyes even blacker than before!
Such a confident stride for a little dog!
Posing by the flower pot.

This is beginning to sound like I had an horrific time, and this is far from the case. There were such cute and affectionate dogs. They obviously got along so well that I asked if they were related, which they weren't. They would play fight all the time, with Coco always the dominant one. He would run at Pickles who would be on her back before Coco was upon her. I'm not usually a fan of small dogs but these guys were so affectionate and cute!

The photos turned out just as I expected; mostly rubbish! My usual work flow is to open each image in photoshop's Raw converter and do most of my processing in that. I say most of; compared to many photographers I know my workflow is minimal. I think this is because in my head I'm still a film photographer. I still try to get it spot on in camera. However, I am getting better at being a digital photographer. I start by increasing the clarity and the vibrancy, then adding a small amount of saturation, usually between 3 and 7. I then adjust the fill light and overall brightness to suit the image. Then I add a small amount of sharpness. This is easy to overdo, and when it is it ruins an image, so less is defiantly more! The image is then opened in photoshop and saved to JPEG. In the case of Pickles and Coco the fill light feature made some rubbish photos half credible!
A rare moment of chilling in the grass.

Although the images weren't great, it's shoots like these that provide the greatest learning opportunities, and thus develop me as a pet photographer far more than shoots that go smoothly and according to plan! Having said that, I still have to explain to the client why the photo of their beloved pets are so crap, though this has never happened!

As it turned out I was quite pleased with some of the finished images. Take a look for yourself at burntmoon.com/picklesandcoco and let me know what you think by leaving a comment at burntmoon.com/guestbook or on individual images on the website
Arty Nic & Pickles

My thanks to Arty Nic and her dad for the opportunity to photograph Pickles & Coco.

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