Photograph a Black Cat

Overcome a common—and adorable—pitfall for dark-furred felines and canines. Tap to read.

Animals with dark fur are notoriously difficult to photograph. Their lustrous, shimmering coat can turn into a dark smudge in your pictures.

There’s a technical reason for this: With a dark subject against a light background, your camera may brighten the background in an attempt to bring out the details in the fore, resulting in a photo that’s overexposed. Or it might try to properly light the background and underexpose your pet.

Here are a few tips to overcome those obstacles and get print-worthy pet pics every time.

When snapping this photo on an iPhone X, we locked focus and exposure on that adorable face.

Expand your range

When framing your shot using the native Camera app, tap your pet’s face on the screen. This ensures your camera will lock focus and exposure on the most important part of your photograph. The background might end up slightly washed out, but don’t worry. That’s where HDR (high dynamic range) mode comes in.

With HDR, your camera quickly takes three consecutive photos at different exposures. It then blends them to create a more balanced shot. HDR mode will help bring out the detail of your pet’s coat and balance the background—all with a tap.

To make sure this feature is on, tap HDR at the top of the screen and set it to On. If you don’t see HDR in the Camera’s toolbar, head to Settings > Camera and make sure the Auto HDR toggle is set to On.

To capture your best friend’s coat, get close. Details are lost when you shoot from too far away.

Temper the light

Although you might assume the more light you have, the better, that’s not the case in this situation. The key to capturing the shots you see here? Controlling the light source.

A soft source is ideal: a window on a cloudy day if you’re indoors, or somewhere in the shade if you’re outside. For these shots, we used a single diffused light placed above and in front. You can get a similar effect with a floor lamp.

Go for a neutral background (rather than stark white), and position your pet a foot or two in front, as we did here.

Finesse the shadows

After you’ve snapped your shot, try adjusting brightness and shadows settings with a photo editor like Darkroom. Increasing brightness lightens the entire photo, while adjusting shadows affects just the darker pixels. They’re best used in tandem.

If your background is too light—maybe the brick wall or the bushes behind your pet are looking washed out—start by bringing down the brightness. This will darken the entire image and most likely make your pet appear too dark. But that’s OK! To fix the problem, bring up the shadows, which should brighten your pet without affecting the rest of your photo too much.

The result? A more balanced photo that perfectly captures the subtle beauty of your handsome friend.

    Darkroom: Photo & Video Editor

    Video, Portrait, & RAW Photos