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I often get asked if it’s harder photographing black dogs or cats and my answer is that it can be.  It’s not impossible to get amazing images but it might take a little more work and preparation.

In animal rescue there is a belief that black animals are harder to adopt out.  There are 93.4 million results if you do a Google search for “are black animals less likely to be adopted”.  93.4 Million.  

A senior black lab with a gray face enjoys the sunshine in a grassy lawn

Some studies have shown that dark colored animals take longer to be adopted out and are more likely to be euthanized than lighter colored animals.  So what’s the story? Are animal adopters “racist”? Are black animals more likely to have issues?

I don’t think so.  I think a key reason why black animals take longer to get adopted is because it can be harder to get good photographs of them.  Especially in shelter conditions that make it difficult to get a good photo of any animal, let alone a dark one.

A smiling black chihuahua dog in green foliage wearing a purple harness

People respond to images of adoptable pets.  As a foster mom I would get applicants for my foster that would say “as soon as I saw that picture of Bailey looking up in that photo I knew she was my dog”.   Or “I loved Emmie’s sweet expression and had to apply”.  

If you can’t see an animals’ details, especially the eyes, you’re not as drawn to that image. And as a potential adopter it’s often on to the next photo until one makes you stop to look closer.

A black cat with golden eyes against a cream backdrop looking at the camera

Luckily, since I have owned (or been owned by, that’s up for debate)  three solid black cats, one black and white cat, three all black dogs, and one black and white dog I have had many years of experience photographing dark colored dogs in all kinds of conditions.  And that doesn’t count all the foster dogs and client animals that I’ve worked with.

A black lab mix in front of a colorful Japanese Maple in a Northville back yard in fall

The key to getting a great image is all in the light.  Making sure that you have enough light, but not too much light.  And managing the direction the light is coming from.  

I can address some of that issue through the time of day when I hold my portrait sessions – earlier in the morning or earlier evening and avoiding the hard midday light.

A woman wearing a long sleeve pink shirt cradles a small black kitten

I can also address the amount of light by knowing how to work with shade and shadows. Or using some supplemental light to ensure that all the details are visible.

And if natural light just won’t work there is also a studio option, where the light is completely controlled.

Having professional grade camera equipment is also going to help.  A larger sensor and being able to capture a larger range of light will make a big difference, especially when it comes to editing an image.

A black dog sitting on a rocky overlook of Bob's Cove, New Zealand

Are you tired of photos where your black or dark colored pet is just a blob? When you set up a portrait session with me you are guaranteed to love the results (and you can be in the images as well, extra bonus!). Link to contact form here.

A black dog on a sandy beach in soft natural lighting that shows of the texture of his wet fur.