Here are four photos that are probably not as they seem. I’m telling you that up front. This isn’t a trick.
The shutter speed of a typical digital (or analog) camera is far less than a second. Especially if your dog is in motion, that fraction of a second might look terrible. How many pictures of yourself do you have with your eyes half closed and you look like a zombie? (Oh, is it just me?) But all you were doing was blinking. Camera angle and lighting can do strange things as well.
There is a lesson here, and it is this: We can’t judge definitively from a still photo. We can use them to learn to observe, but because it is only a fraction of a second, our interpretations, even if based on excellent observations, could be completely wrong. We can come to much better conclusions from a video, but even then, if we don’t know context, I think being conservative in our assumptions is a wise move.
With that said, take a look!
The above photo of Zani is a video still. She looks–at least–concerned. So-called whale eye is often an indicator of fear. In my followup post (next week) I will show the surrounding frames of the video. Feel free to discuss in the comments. What other body language indicators can you see and what might they indicate?
This photo of Summer on the bed is also a video still and it is cropped. I used to use it as an avatar on social media until a friend told me it looked like Summer was having a seizure. She wasn’t, but you know, it actually does look that way. In my next post, I’ll show the photo uncropped, and some other stills from the video. Care to speculate?
This is a photo I snapped of Clara in her crate in the car. Why might this whale eye not indicate stress?
And finally, this incredible shot that my friend Marge took for her “Naughty or nice?” Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Christmas card. How did she get this photo and why does Pride look so crafty? The photo has had some color and lighting adjustment and some cleanup, but Pride’s face and body have not been altered.
Photos remain incredible learning opportunities. And as we are learning body language, they are one of our main tools. For example, I have made available this complete set of labelled photos of poor Clara when she was extremely stressed out. I can vouch for them. She was stressed out of her mind and there are multiple signs of that in the photos. Perhaps in general, the more indicators you see in a photo that there is stress or any particular emotional state, the more likely it may be true. (I’m thinking that one over.) But with a still photo, it can’t be a guarantee.
What do you think?
- Invisible Cues
- How Skilled are You at Ignoring? (Extinction Part 2)
- Oh No, I Broke my Dog!
- More Training Errors: Cautionary Tales (I seem to have an abundance of these)