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Halloween photography tips and tricks or 'treats'

National Black Dog Day (October 1) and Halloween (October 31) are just around the corner. What better time of year to fill Instagram feeds with pictures of black cats and dogs? But getting amazing photos of furry friends can be a challenge.

So let's hear from an expert!

A former fashion photographer, Ash Ahuja is responsible for capturing the compelling pictures of rescue dogs and cats that are featured on the HSSV website and social media, inspiring many adoptions.

Ahuja recalls first picking up a camera as an 8-year-old living in India. At age 11, he was paralyzed (due to the flu) and ended up in a wheelchair, which led to an increased interest in photography. As a kid, Ahuja filled his film rolls with pictures of his black Labrador Retriever, Luka. After moving to the United States as an adult, he began shooting for fashion magazines and also Fashion Week in New York and Miami. Today he puts his passion for photography and love of animals to work photographing HSSV’s shelter residents.

“I enjoy making dogs come alive with their cuteness and personality,” says Ahuja about working with HSSV. “I especially like taking photos of dogs that are older, blind, or have a disability, as people tend to overlook them.”

Ash Ahuja’s tips for photographing black dogs:

The Best Background for Black Dogs — “The background is very important when photographing black dogs. Try to not have a white or bright background as your camera will compensate and make your dogs look really dark/black. I always prefer shooting dogs outdoors. Direct sunlight is great for black dogs because it makes them shine and really show up.”

Easy Editing for Better Pictures — “With black dogs it’s always a good idea to add a little bit more light in the shadow areas after you take a picture. Even phones let you do this edit pretty easily. This is needed when the background is a bit too bright.”

Shoot at Eye Level — “I like to shoot as close to their eye level as possible. Shooting from above never makes them feel as alive and emotional as when shooting at eye level. Have them lay down and shoot when their head is on the floor or the grass.”

A Toy Will Capture Their Attention — “When shooting animals (or humans), the most important thing to focus on is the eyes. Eyes stand out even more for black dogs than other colors. Eyes are what makes a photograph come alive. And because you can’t tell dogs to look in a certain direction, having a toy that makes a noise in the same hand as you’re holding the camera helps.”

Use Treats Sparingly — “Most dogs are food-motivated, so having some treats on hand is a good idea to get things going. But don’t keep giving them treats, as their focus will be more on the treats which you will see on their face.”

Tips for photographing black cats:

Sunshine is the Best Lighting — “If your cat likes the outdoors then you are in luck, as you will get much better pictures outside where the light is much better. If you’re not able to do that, being by a window with bright light is the next best option.

Directional light coming from a window gives beautiful pictures for black cats. Make sure the window is not in your frame, but only the light from the window.”

Make Your Cat’s Eyes a Focal Point — “The eyes are the most important part to focus on when taking pictures of cats. Even if you don’t have great light, cats can look amazing if you can get pictures at their level, looking straight at you, and you focus on the eyes.”

Backlighting for Beauty — “Another trick for beautiful photos of black cats is to be sure they are backlit somehow, either with a lamp or window light. That adds shine and shows the fur and their beauty.”

Avoid a Bright Background — “The background is critical when taking pictures of black cats. Make sure it’s not too bright — that will add so much contrast that your camera will compensate and make your black cat look even darker.”

Spooky Halloween Fun — “Since Halloween is coming up, you can play around with a flashlight or a bright light shining straight on their face. This will let you take a picture that gets their eyes really beautifully. The trick is to reduce the exposure or brightness later by editing the photo. That will give you a fantastic spooky-looking picture of your black cat.”

A great time of the year to get creative.

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