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Off-camera flash: My obsession with getting the light just right in your dog photos

    It is not enough for me to use only the light Mother Nature gives me during your dog portrait session.

    As much as I love her, she can be an untrustworthy, fickle creature, especially on the many dreary grey days of an Inland Northwest winter.

    That’s where off-camera flash enters the picture.

    (Get it? Enters the picture? Ha!)

    Dog photos in natural light

    I took Bella out for a walk at Saltese Uplands Conservancy Area on Wednesday and, of course, took the Nikon D750 along, too. I restricted myself to two lenses, my 85mm and 20mm primes.

    Prime lenses are so sharp and they’re a lot lighter to pack for hiking with you and your dog.

    It was weirdly warm for December 1 in Spokane Valley and the sun was covered by light, hazy clouds creating a lovely natural softbox in the sky.

    But those clouds can also make for a dull background in images. I found a spot along the trail where the sky was completely hidden … thank you, big ass tree! Bits of light are peeking through the branches, though, to add a bit of pop here and there.

    Maremma sheepdog hiking at Saltese Uplands Conservancy Area

    Oh, I need to mention one thing.

    Bella was such a good girl. We walked 6 miles on Wednesday and she didn’t roll in someone else’s poop once!

    Adding a pop of light with off-camera flash

    I treated myself to a little present last week.

    I’ve been using a Godox AD200 strobe for the last couple of years but it’s a little underpowered for lighting a dog well in mid-day session.

    (Psst … a lot of photographers are unwilling to schedule sessions in mid-day because the sun can be so harsh and create harsh shadows and blown highlights. Off-camera flash allows me to offset those conditions and schedule sessions at any time of day! Wooooooooo!)

    The Godox AD300, a little more juice and still a compact enough strobe to pack into my hiking gear, was on a Black Friday sale for almost a hundred bucks off its normal price.

    It was a no-brainer. Merry Christmas to me.

    It also was in my bag for our little hike at Saltese Uplands on Wednesday.

    off-camera flash dog photography in Spokane Valley

    Off-camera flash allows me to underexpose the background a little bit to bring out some detail in those hazy clouds and get the right amount of light on my beautiful girl.

    Her white fur is also less prone to picking up ambient colors off the ground when she’s well lit by my strobe.

    And that means I spend less time in Photoshop fiddling with the saturation of yellow and orange that her fur soaks up.

    Less time in Photoshop also translates into you seeing the gallery from your dog photography session sooner than ever before.

    A win-win for everybody!

    When natural light goes away

    One cannot simply talk about off-camera flash and not spend some time on sunsets.

    Some photographers can absolutely nail a sunset portrait without adding light. For me, the Struggle Bus pulls up to the location and parks itself in my brain.

    Since I’ve learned to use off-camera flash, though, I love the sunset dog portraits I can create.

    We didn’t get a brilliant Inland Northwest sunset on Wednesday but there was a bit of color peeking through the clouds as our hike was winding down.

    sundown at Saltese Uplands in Liberty Lake

    I love that off-camera flash gives me the power to control how much light is on a dog during a photo session.

    That said, some dogs aren’t big fans of the light going off in their eyes and this is why we talk about these things during your pre-session consultation.


    surprised shepherd-husky mix

    If this starts to happen during your session, we’ll stow the light and work with what Mother Nature gives us. Your dog’s happiness, comfort and safety are my priority while we’re working together.

    Outtakes are fun

    Bella is just used to it now. I wouldn’t say she enjoys posing for my off-camera flash images but she does tolerate it.

    Sometimes it isn’t until I get home that I see just how much.

    I think maybe the power on my strobe was a little too bright for her here:

    too much light on off-camera flash with dog photography

    At least she’s still smiling.

    All around the circle

    Adding the Godox AD300 into my off-camera flash kit just adds another little bit of power … power in my light and power in my ability to create epic, one-of-a-kind portraits of your dogs.

    It was an exciting little present to myself and I can’t promise my husband there won’t be a little something extra under the tree, too. I love presents to myself.

    Like this Grove Journal. I wrote about it two weeks ago in my Shop Local Gift Guide and my custom notebook arrived yesterday. Look at the incredible handiwork on this journal:

    I need to save it for writing something special, don’t you think?

    Now let’s go see what gifts my friends in the worldwide pet photographers blog circle bought for themselves.

    Start with the truly amazing Seattle dog photographer, Holly Cook, talking about the gift that she gave to herself that will fulfill her dreams. I’m so excited for my friend Holly, her gift to herself and the ways she’s going to use it.

    It’s going to be incredible!

    When you get to the bottom of Holly’s post, click the next link in the circle and then keep going until you find yourself back here to my new Godox AD300 and my work with off-camera flash. That’s when you know you’re home.

    Right where you belong.


    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    6 thoughts on “Off-camera flash: My obsession with getting the light just right in your dog photos”

    1. The journal is so pretty, definitely special things only! Have fun with your new light! Your beautiful images are a reminder to me that I need to stop being lazy and use lights.

    2. First, yep – the journal should be for something special because it is something special! I didn’t know about the AD300, but I have been using the AD200 for a while now – and I understand what you’re saying – in addition to saying “Merry Christmas to you” thanks for sharing!

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