Photographing BouviersÖ Itís not just a snap

 


Iíve been taking pictures of our Bouviers since the first one, but Iíve found that it's not easy to photograph a big, black, hairy dog so that the image doesn't come out looking like a big, black, hairy blob.

 When Chevelle, Mona and Sam came along about 6 years ago, I was still using my trusty manual 35mm that I had bought back in 1974 when I was in the Air Force.  When outdoor pictures started getting more and more underexposed, I realized that the built in light meter was not functioning correctly anymore.  Iíd been considering getting a new camera for some time and that seemed as good a reason as any.  So after looking over what was available I decided on the Canon Rebel G. The Rebel is an auto focus and auto exposure camera that I hoped would make it easier to take pictures.  In a lot of ways it does make it easier, but I found I was fighting the auto features.  With my manual camera, I could focus, adjust the exposure, snap the picture and wind just as fast as any auto everything availableÖ at least I felt I could.  But with the Canon I found that I was missing a lot of shots because of the small delay between when I pushed the shutter button and when the camera actually snapped the picture.  In just those few micro seconds a picture can be lost, especially with very active animals.  This became even more apparent when the first litter of puppies came along.  Once they start moving, you have to be fast on the trigger finger to get the picture.  I fought with the Canon for almost 3 years, many times almost taking my old 35mm camera into the repair shop to get it fixed.  The few times I did go back to my manual camera I found that the auto wind and auto exposure features of the Canon had spoiled me.  With the manual camera I kept forgetting to wind until the shot was passed.  With a manual camera, it doesnít matter how many times you press the button, itís only going to click one time. <grin>

 When the second litter came along I decided it was time to get serious again.  Also, I have been wanting to get into large format for a long time and Sue happened to pick up an old, but usable, 4x5 camera at a garage sale.  It didnít have the film backs, but it spurred my interest for large format again.   I now have two older 4x5 cameras that are mostly used to shoot Polaroid to make tests of setups and lighting before I use the Canon.  I am in the process of setting up a black and white darkroom again and plan to shoot black and white 4x5 film as well as 35mm film.  I've still not shot any 4x5 black and white, but I have done a few rolls of 35mm black and white.  A couple of those pictures can be seen on the picture pages. 

 With the second litter, I wanted to get better pictures than what I could get with just a small flash.  So I bought a big studio mono light.   Some of my earlier attempts were not much better than the camera and flash had been, but I saw I was on the right track.  By having a bigger light source,  I was able to bring out some of the detail in the hair of our Bouviers.  They actually started looking like dogs instead of black blobs. But it wasn't consistent because there was still a number of things I didn't know about taking pictures of black dogs.   Over the last year, I asked a lot of questions of other photographers, read anything I could find that had to do with animal photography, visited a lot of web pages that had dog pictures on them and took a lot of pictures.  I've learned a lot and I can see the difference from my early work and my latest.  I've branched out from taking pictures of our dogs to doing portraits of other peoples dogs, something I hope to do more and more of. 

I know most people are not interested in going to the lengths and the level that I am working towards. Most people just want to take better pictures of their dogs.  A lot of what I've learned along the way can be used to improve the pictures that people take that are kept as memories of cherished pets for years to come. 

On some of the following pages you will find examples of the pictures Iíve been taking.  A lot of them will be of the same pose by the same dog with variations in the lighting, background or some other technical changes.  Most of the pictures will have information on how I took them and what I was trying to do at the time and why the results either worked or didn't work. I have also put together a list of information on taking dog pictures.  It isn't complete and it may not work in all situations, but some of the information should be useful to anyone interested in improving their pictures. 

Enjoy.

Mike

copyright by Mike Jordan

mjordan@europa.com

 

Suggestions for Taking Better Pictures

Early Photographic Examples of our Dogs

Go to the Sit'n Pretty Dog Photography Web Site

Go to the Echo Bouvier Home Page