Skip to main content

Shoot: Cookie Bryce Black on Black Portrait

Lesson 8 from: Animal Photography

Rachael Hale McKenna

Shoot: Cookie Bryce Black on Black Portrait

Lesson 8 from: Animal Photography

Rachael Hale McKenna

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

8. Shoot: Cookie Bryce Black on Black Portrait

Lesson Info

Shoot: Cookie Bryce Black on Black Portrait

Yeah, well, this is going to be a really exciting segment. We've got gorgeous little cookie to photograph who as I said, there's, a black pug I'm going toe attempt to photograph cookie black on black in natural light, I've switched back to the hessel bled, which I'm not I don't really want to go any higher than four hundred fire, so with it, um so yeah, we might be pushing it if cookies and we'll just play it by ear of cookies and a really good frame of mind, then she might sit still enough because I'm probably gonna have to shoot a thirtieth for this, so but if I can mesmerize her enough to get her attention to camera, then a thirtieth can work with. I've got the camera on tripod, so it came work if sir is willing to give it a go with cookie him, I'm sure we can make this happen anyway just quickly one fruit through a little thing a few things on keynote. So as I said, we are a team to do black and black, black and black is something which I'm often asked to recreate for poor tricks a...

nd things everyone seems to love this, especially when they've got black black dog's, black kits and things I just love that it's a really stylish image to be put on your wall and things but it is also one of the most challenging to photograph when you it's even even today, I challenge challenge is me when I'm looking through and using in camera monitoring to actually figure out okay, well, what if I shoot this on because when you point the camera metering against black, it seems like you you're like under exposed by five stops, but then if you take the shot, then your subject subject men and ends up being so bleached out that this is wrong. So therefore you've actually got to do a few test shots tio start was to make sure you get that perfect exposure before you actually really put your energy into capturing the image so that you've got your exposures correct before you get that magic shot. So if you'll, um hence I do find that beast to shoot natural light inside. I'm having a little bit of issues, in fact, that we haven't got heaps of natural light here. I would rather do this in natural light, so I'm gonna give it a go, but I'd rather not do it with the flesh purely because I find flesh could be really hash, and what you'll find is that the density in the black areas in your on blacks with a black animal and using flesh will go so dense that you can't pull anything out of it. Where's with natural light you've got a little bit more even tone going through your ever image so therefore it's actually easier to bring the beautiful tonal field to an image um black velvet I find us that if you want to get a really, really strong rich black background, black velvet is fantastic so we've got black well but here for um for cookie and also find need to try and overexpose slightly you can always bring a little bit more density back into the highlights with a black image, but you can't bring a lot of detail into the into the bled to the dark areas if you've underexposed or lost that detail on the black so you'd be bitter too overexposed slightly so that you've got more to work with in post production and often also you're fine when you're working in natural light, you often get a blue cast to your light way differently do in new zealand a lot in france I didn't have so much of an issue because the lights so much warmer and there's so much beautiful well, a lot of dry land and everything around cream buildings and things that sun bounces everywhere so it's a lot warmer, but in new zealand we have a very, very cold light, so therefore you've gotto remove some sign from your images and postproduction often when you're working with black on black so here this is an image which is created with black velvet, so you just get a really, really beautiful rich blackness and so that's, what we're going to be trying to recreate with cooking today here, I've used more of a mosque in type fabric, so therefore it doesn't actually reflects the line a little bit more doesn't soak the light up, so therefore you've got a little bit more definition, but it still gives you a black on black sort of feel, but it's, not with that really dense black background, and then you have the other issue of working with darhk animals and on location, especially or with them, I try, I try and avoid using pale colors in the studio with dark animals, but but the when you're working on location, often you do have to deal with this, so you just have to watch your exposures and make sure that you try and keep detail within the highlights and in the shadows, which can be challenging and often you have to play with it in postproduction, but really keep it in mind when you're shooting that you keep your exposures really good, good balance so that you've got plenty to work with in post, so anyway, shall we give it a go with cookie cookie? I'm trying this's probably more, even though susan officially commissioning me to do this image I approach so and asked if she would mind if I worked with cooking on creative life and she thankfully c yes which is fantastic and I was like, oh god, I won't let you have that reaction that's wonderful to hear but yes so but anyway normally so so had bean a client and come to me for a commission what I would have done is that she set down what so talked about a little bit more about the personality of the dog what sue was wanting within an image and then when they would come up with an idea which is suitable and I would visit the house often have a look at the data core see where they want to display a big print of something that she figure out treated more like a work of art which I'm creating for these people so it's definitely a combined if it was with working on the actual overall finished feel off the image but so is being so busy during all their own stuff that we haven't had that much communication and regards to this so I've sort of taken it into my own my head and I'm going to shoot it like this nothing yeah so what I've done is I have made a cute little collar for her which is just a really simple rose I just want to keep it really simple because so loves everything beautiful and fancy and I just want something really which is going to be really eye catching and really just simple but beautiful stole but it is going to be about cooking who is now falling asleep in his arms so hopefully she can and she will come alive again and a little bit with after having a little catnip yeah so what I'm going to do is place this around cookies need the roses possibly a little bit great dull looking so in post again I might end up having to just punch up the colors but it's easy to make something more black then make it lighter so that it's better to have it slightly a little bit duller looking which I can work with them post production and this is just really easily gonna tie round cookies nick she's used to wearing it that is too cute she's just relax doesn't she I kept awake all day well done crawled on my need about ten thirty and stayed for open air in their work raph again so here's a little days she's been running out with I'm her boyfriend wayne outside there I hastily tennis ball oh no anyway that's right well do you reckon she's goingto wake up wake up she's and she's probably for me to work how was talking before I'm really really want to do this a natural light so I'm gonna try and make it work with I've got the camera sit at four hundred so we're working on a shutter speed of sushi it's of a second which is pretty slow working with animals but cookie doesn't seem to be in an hyperactive mood, so hopefully we should be right yeah and I'm on wide open editor of two point eight so too late as much light and keep the nice shallow depth of field which I really love to work with so she'll stay camera when my hands on her heart but when I take it off kind of way yeah, but I'm just gonna you're right crouching down and you want something set up because what I'm going to get you to do so is to sit just crashed down over here we're gonna work take that affair yeah, I will take the collar off just when I'm holding a ten she's turkey nice call luck. Okay, very fancy time, auntie, I just have a little little sniff of the area first because that is highly unlikely that we gonna know when we're actually shooting because when you do the is completely blocking the light. So what I might do when we're it's you can actually come round onto the side, but you could get your out to just be there at the moment until we get it, but I'm just gonna put this on little midget girl you see I'm going to keep it around to the back of to start with it's quite oversized but that's the ight that's the look I wanted so so what I'm gonna do I'll put this on but I'm going to do some um just a couple of shots first with me I actually quite like this additional ribbon which I'll probably put just down her back that's not too tight is it so that's setting okay on nick just packed a little bit it is just a little bit giving you double chin maybe but I can't have that the best angles possible way so what we're gonna do a cookie? Hi she saw it she is a great dog you can tell that she's just like you're not panicking at all when you pick her up like this so it just seemed so what we need to do is actually what I might get you precious so if you just if you could just bring it so that she's sitting up what I needed to do is sit it might be easier with you here because this is the what direction I wanted to face just getting use it like a lady mom if you just if you could just thank you so in this case says it's really great that was working and trying to keep it really calm because we don't want to get really hyperactive um crazy wait, we want to do is try and sit you down. Sit let's, see what? This looking like a girl. So if you keep your hand on it exactly as you say on the heart I'm just gonna do a couple of tests just to see what the exposes doing with them. That doesn't come up a little bit. What am I doing? You're gonna be able to keep your hands on a quite if you just take your hands off when you, when she's concentrates on, may hang up because I'm on a sit down again. Uh, it's not this is like a test. It might be feeling a little bit. The only thing she moved in that one. So we've got a lot of movement. We've got a thirtieth. So what I need to try and do is get that riel mesmerized to get us really freeze and look, yeah ah, I'm gonna drink after that one, but look at it it's rich it's gorgeous, right? But the explosions aren't looking too good, but I am just going to quickly check on the yes, we are looking good there looking good, your ball or anything. Can I hold something the tennis ball and she does she, like bored she's got one that she likes, okay? Yeah she's pretty good listening to it but what does she do with tina's bullshit right now she's kind of stopped biting my hand off course okay we got cookies here she's coming in cold perfect and I'm just gonna take the opportunity to have a sip of water and if she starts biting my fingers she she gets excited so I just give you the ball to look at what's this eyes that's proof it just keep that's for disco sets alexis sit down just bring that I'm not sure if she's not too big with this if you can use what she will she follow it teo but I'll get it I'll get it I'll make the noise what's this with what but it's beautiful and it's actually really nice and exposure through the meter the camera is saying that I'm actually shooting it's veering from about two and a half stops under exposed it saying because of the black that's why it's really confusing so that's what's its beauty to actually monitor by actually looking at the screen what's on the back of your camera that sort of thing is the only way you're going to be able to tell what when you've got the right exposure or not look black on black you can't go by what you ring through the camera that's great so brilliant you could be my assistant anytime no that she moved about that one oh do it not so good at high pitch me out that's what I mean to teach myself ah how are we going for yet? You look at the movement and now I'm not the best job but that you will get a lot of that when working with slower exposures with dogs and things but you do get in between you'll get those the magic ones without do freeze enough for you to be able to capture that image yep. What this time can I get you to get her to face the background little but more that will be good for both of us around on her banking gil said cookie uh well um I just it's amazing think she's only sleep for half an hour but this I said I said, hey, sidney let me know she needs a break it'll it's always good with the sag a little bit active and things that you might just need to later down give a bit of a run around they have a break but we don't want to we want to try and keep it cam with her but she is teasing at the moment she's at that age were all she's wanting to do is to souse fingers poor so okay okay don't you think oh picky, picky that's right it's one of these is patience game your way welcome to my world exactly she's she's doing right now this is normal behavior she's only a puppy so she just wants to play. She thinks this is great fun. She doesn't know that we want to capture this stunning portrayed over yeah. Hey, so to see just see if you can get it doesn't sit down again sit. We'll try the theory of she's coming morning this ball she's differently and take things pretty bad right now. Yeah, I can tell you you've been chewing your mom more who? She's breaking this is like a head I know if I wasn't on such a slow shutter speed, it will be great to be who could catch us and really cute stuff but said his wayne backing in the big room he wants his tennis book a penis. Wayne took it this way if you see what I'm gonna get you doing, I'm gonna pick her up because she yeah, she wants it or until I put my hands here ok, let's, just get a calm again you're gonna destroy that maybe we just take it off from it. Leave it, leave it on she's, right? Oh, do you want to be? But I think you're right for if you got a question, you want to know? Absolutely. So a question came in from celtic lady who said I noticed that time that I've been watching the photographs seemed to cut off the paws are you focused just on the faces and not the whole body? And I'm wondering in addition to that question as faras is it different for private clients were just commercial clients or is it just her style and that is what you do yeah it's it's in this particular instance it's my style I'm wanting to capture wayne I should do post production on this image in public and I often dark and age is somewhat probably going to do is that you, steven even though it's black already I'm going dark and the edges a little bit so even to the so the lower but part of the am on cookie will probably even blend into the black a little bit more so therefore your eyes really drawn to her face so in this instance it's not about what I like are probably once we've got the magic shot up or we pull out maybe do some bullshit falling shots and things but I always thought because sometimes you only have five minutes to work with an animal sometimes you have a lot of time so I always try and actually capture the main shot on after first um had a beginning what I need you to toy she's gonna check that showing always a joint they need to get me here to talk all right? Okay yeah. Which one is you got it he's got a himalayan milk brisket she loves it but look what it is if I don't get into it from in it she won you're talking I'll lead you to it. Yeah that's cool. No another question in our studio audience yet go ahead yeah, I do a lot of rescue cats photography and since black cats and dogs the hardest to get adopted yeah, I would love to be able to bring something like this to you know, my offerings but the mostly adult cats I just want to know if you have any thoughts on doing this sort of thing with adult black cats do you work within the light? Obviously you go to the risk you seem to do the shot right now we're kind of all over the place they're all in foster homes, okay? We're working on getting the rescue set up but this is my idea that I want to bring you know, having a set up but this's challenge with a young dog I could do just because the black animals don't get noticed and this would be so amazing yeah, that would be great because like my state might the images like create a black on black is really, really eye catching I get a lot of comments on people love the images and if you get the exposure right you do do you still capture the character and the personality and that sort of thing that still comes through but it does become a standing image because of the the intensity of the black and it's just the animal seems to pop out of it you know how it is it's just because like you thinking on animal would like a black animal on a white background would pop out of course it would just doesn't have that same field the black on the black is just as beautiful that's a really but if you can if you're doing it in that instance you can do black kits let black anything on this it in the scenario but you've just got to make sure you've got the right lighting so when you're working in different environments all the time it will be challenging but you can do that even in someone's home you can set up a background against a wall and you've got directional light coming in through a window if you've got a a camera which you can work on hire associates then that's fantastic so that you can actually you can you can take it take the exposure upto thie so up to even sixteen hundred maybe on some of the I know the cannon can do that without really detriment any detriment to the quality of the image so it's you can do it and whatever natural light you've got available this it doesn't think come he's a flash because they're you know scared exactly yeah and also taking big flesh equipment into the heads environment is not as ivan not fractures in a bathroom it's a really small space and yes in a way I can put a light up or hear that yeah so unfortunately unfortunately with the black on black situation you do need decent light to be able to create it but it's possible if you depends on the subject matter yeah so if you're going to cut down to the equipment it would be the backdrop hopefully a nice window and reflector yet that's all you would need yeah but you don't even have to have the reflector if you you can have directional life even if the animal blends into the black on the sometime could be still really stunning yeah but the animal on profile sort of like what I'm doing here with cookie you've got the directional light coming in through the window so you can have the light coming and then you get the animal to turn and look doesn't matter if the rest of the animals going back into black it's obvious it's a black cash and yeah you can still as long as you've got that expression in the light on the face is enough to actually show show the shot and brian probably probably want a little bit some light coming down to show some definition within the body and things but doesn't have to be fully let all over yeah rachel pharrell lenses from new zealand would like to know what direction should the light coming from for a black black on black is that a sidelight? Yes, I'd like you can have like a few if you're in a and a like that image I showed you before off on on the keynote of the blake the black great dane that wasn't a bet garden the background was set up on just against the garden fence I was in a shaded area but there was that that was this total surround light so basically and the sun was diffused behind the clouds it was it was just overall light if you're working inside, you might have directional like coming I always find it best to light from the left to the right that's the way I late but it doesn't there's no rule on that fact, but yeah, so it really depends it doesn't do you work with what you've got to work with and you can you can make it make it happen. Um is there a reason why you are working with the cannon versus the hasselblad? I actually just in my mind before I was thinking maybe I should swap to the cannon for if I want to capture some more but cook I think we're going to get it with hesselboe lead like if I was wanting to the reason I love working with these cameras is the quality like aiken blow this image up to like the size of this wall and you would still be able to go in and touch the food and as if it was like this crisp is anything the quality of these images are beautiful and that's I do like to have that with an e with my with my images, so to blow up a really beautiful large print of cookie shot on the house of bread would be stunning, but I must say, if we if we can't get get cookie tio to come down that I might have to move on to the cannon to be able to get to kitt, but this still get beautiful quality with the cannon and it's not likely that sue was gonna want them and just biggest geneva no, because I won't, but yeah, free if we can if we need to have a little bit more control with the shutter speed, then I'm to work in the natural light, then I might move on to the cannon if I'm if I'm allowed teo, but okay, try with there's a plate at the moment yeah, and so just again because they're still a few people saying tell us again why you're using the slower shutter speed because because the dog is moving, so tell us again why the setting it's. Because because of the exposure I've got listeningto light coming. And even though it seems like there's heaps of natural light, there was actually not enough for the camera to read the detail in the black off this image. So ideally, it would be I would shoot in an area with better light. Probably. I would probably that she shoot this outside in an area with this no distractions, but I've got really soft refuse. I might have the sun's out, I might put up her over here diffuser, which actually then there's also amazing products. You can get it I know has led some bounce has got a great diffuse a tent which you can pop up, which works beautifully on location, forgetting the beautiful surround natural light so there's all sorts of products you can buy as well to help you shoot out on location to get that really soft overall, diffuse life. Oh, really, she got nut to really have a little run around. We might. What we might do is we've got wayne outside as well. Who's, another little black dog. We might bring wine, and

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Black on Black
Photographing Kitten and Puppies
Shooting for Licensing and Publishing
Working with Adult Cats
Working with More Challenging Animals
Shooting on Location - The French Cat - The French Dog
Taking an Idea and Working Through the Process
Ways to Get Started in the Animal Photography Industry
Rachael on Location - Kelsey Creek Farm

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This course was definitely worth the investment - both time and money. With about 15 hours worth of video sessions and amazing bonus handouts - Rachael provides some really useful, practical tips that you can apply straight away regardless whether you're just beginning your photography journey or are a seasoned professional. It was great to see Rachael at work in session - especially her techniques used to calm and quieten her models if needed. She had a potpourri of helpful suggestions such as remember to take both landscape and portrait shots (if possible), know your rights to take and use images - don't assume, be extra vigilant with cleanliness especially around kittens and puppies who may not have been fully vaccinated, keep kittens and puppies isolated in pens or cages if not in their own environment as they're escape artists etc. Her extensive experience with licensing agents and publishing houses was insightful ... and not for the faint-hearted, so it seems! Thanks Rachael for taking the time to share your know-how, tips and techniques and giving us a peek into your world and workflow you follow to produce awesome animal shots.


I loved this class! I don't I tend to be a "pet photographer" but I do want to be a "Pet friendly" photographer! I have gotten lots of tricks and tools to use while photographing occasional clients pets and my own! ( I have a horse, a pony, bunnies, cats, dogs and ducks) I'm super glad I watched the class live and I'm even more glad I bought it so I can re- watch it whenever I want :) (The shoot with the mini horse, dogs, chicken, duck and people was awesome! It loomed like my family picture would look if my husband didn't say "no" on occassion! lol)

Rebecca Potter

Love, Love, Love this course... Rachael is so down to earth and inspiring and I enjoyed all the hands-on shooting which shows you how patient you need to be for this type of photography. Truly an amazing course... Thank you.

Student Work