Yellow Hound as ‘The Model’

I’ve very recently invested in some new lighting equipment, primarily driven by the need to have a system that is capable of overpowering the sun and supporting a high camera shutter speed to freeze action. After much searching and deliberation I ordered a newly announced Elinchrom system; the ELB400 power pack with a Quadra HS head along with an Elinchrom rotalux softbox. The knowledgeable among you will spot that I’ve not listed the new Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS trigger – the very thing that will enable me to meet my reasons for buying. The plain fact is that the trigger for my camera system is not yet available (the trigger for Canon cameras is, the Nikon version is not) though it is expected in about 3-4 weeks at the time of this post. (Thank you to The Flash Centre for their help and advice, and for supplying the equipment efficiently – I have no affiliation but am a happy customer.)

This post is not a review of the equipment – I’ll save that for later when I’ve got and used the trigger – but shows an example of the use of the equipment for low key dog portraits.

I press ganged my willing hound Marley (aka Yellow Hound, aka ‘The Model’) into posing duties. I wanted to use Marley as he is very light coloured and I’ve always felt that the type of image I had in mind is more of a challenge to achieve with a light coloured dog. Armed with a bag of treats and a squeaker I set up Marley and my equipment in my conservatory.

Now the intention is to light the model with light from the flash equipment only – I do not want the ambient lighting to influence the image. I’m shooting the shots in daylight with a black background to help (not strictly necessary using my technique to eliminate ambient light but it helps). The ambient lighting is eliminated purely through the choice of settings in the camera – I start by setting my camera to manual, the ISO to its lowest number (ISO64 for my Nikon D810), my shutter speed to 1/250s (the fastest for my flash system without using HSS) and then take a series of shots gradually decreasing the lens aperture (increasing the f number) until I can see that I am getting a completely black image (= no ambient light). This process is conducted with the flash turned off. It is then a case of turning the flash on and selecting a flash power that gives the effect I am looking for. The drawing below is a schematic of the layout of the shoot.

Marley 1 by Guest User


The softbox containing the flash head is positioned slightly in front of the model and at an angle so that the majority of the light is coming from the side. I’m triggering the flash using the std sync cable.

I’ve published a few of my favourites here in this post. I would be delighted to hear what you think of the images – please leave me a comment. I’d be especially interested to hear your thoughts of the black & white conversions – successful or not? Which do you prefer?


My name is Chris Tarling and I'm a photographer living in Cheltenham (the centre of the wonderful Cotswolds!) with my wife and two labradors; the irrepressible Coco & Marley. I've been a passionate photographer since my teen years, chasing the perfect image initially through precious slide film and now with my digital cameras. I absolutely love taking pictures of my two labradors, they are without doubt my muses and feature prominently throughout my web site. I have a priceless record of them growing up from puppies, so much so that they are both very used to my camera. Posed photographs have their place but for me the thrill lies in capturing their unique characters in an arresting image. My favourite pictures are invariably taken whilst the guys are playing freely - they absolutely love any water and a good 'throwie stickie' session. Largely this means that they are wet and dirty most of the time but the fun they are having always shines through. My aim in setting up Yellow Hound is to use my skills as a photographer, and my deep love of animals, to generate wonderful, special images for others. Images that will be cherished, that capture their personality and also the bond with their owners. I like to work closely with an animal's owner to understand both of their characters, what they enjoy and hence create an environment at each session that's fun and produces great images. Whilst I love dogs and animals I am keen photographer of many different subjects; you'll see some examples of my work on this site. I also work commercially so if you run a business and are looking for a special image to use then please give me a call to discuss what I can create.

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