It’s never an easy task learning to photograph a white dog, but first, about Beau:

I headed south to Bedfordshire with work this week and stayed with a fantastic friend & student, Angela, and her household of dogs. One of which is Beau, a lovely double merle border collie. 

Because of poor knowledge from his breeders, they crossed two merle border collies together, resulting in what is known as a double merle or a double dilute. Double dilutes often have a wide range of health problems, ranging from sensitive skin to being completely deaf and blind. Beau is just deaf, totally and utterly deaf. 

However, Angela adopted him, and a deaf bitch, Zoe, at around the same time, when they were still young dogs. She has trained them both using a repertoire of specific hand signals – like sign language – so that they can live a full and normal life just like any other dog would. Beau is incredibly good off lead & has a great wait, and, given the amount of white in his coat, we figured he’d be perfect for this blog post! Here he is:

70-200 2.8 lens at 130mm, f6, ISO 500 at 1/640

We headed out around 4pm, in close-to-golden-hour-light conditions, to a meadow close to Dunstable, in Central England. With strong warm sunlight casting its way across the field and through the grasses, it was important to find shade near to the trees. 

When you photograph a white dog, you must be acutely aware of your settings & how your highlights are coming out after each shot. Therefore, we switch to checking the back of the camera regularly and activating the highlight clipping setting on the playback screen. Most cameras have this setting, check in your manual if you are not sure how to, a) turn it on, or b) find it when playing back the shots on your LCD screen. 

This is what clipped highlights look like on the LCD screen with the setting turned on:

Oops, too much light – we’re losing detail in the subject!

Because we shoot in RAW, I’m not too concerned about clipped highlights in the sky, however, I definitely do NOT want clipped highlights on the subject, so dial back your exposure settings until you no longer clip your subject’s highlights. If you are not sure what to change, read this blog post here to work out your exposure triangle. 

Not losing anything on Beau anymore – perfect – the sky we can get back!

Next, you want to follow all of the other golden rules for portrait photography – good composition, wide aperture, low ISO & tack-sharp focus. 

Finally, you want to ensure that your subject is engaged & focusses on your attention objects. Then, nail the shot and repeat!

And if you’re thinking that you can’t use OCF with a white dog, you are sadly mistaken! Here’s Beau both with & without a pop of light from a speedlight and softbox combo: 

If you’re wondering what editing has been done on the above shots, it’s just a quick pass through Lightroom using most of the techniques found in this tutorial here

So there you have it, how to photograph a white dog, in brief – just watch your highlights!