I have a dog that is notoriously difficult to get good photographs of. This is because he has a dark facial mask, some lighter tones on his face and particularly sides, and nearly white legs. So essentially regardless of how I meter, some part of him in the picture ends up either over- or under-exposed. The camera is a Canon EOS 50D.
I know that I can use the flash on low power (either using the external flash with the main reflector pointed in some oddball direction, and the secondary reflector set to low power; or the built-in flash setting the flash exposure compensation negative), but short of that, does anyone have any advice for this type of photography? I'm shooting exclusively in raw format and most often handheld in outdoor settings with little or no time to prepare a shot.
What I do is try to expose towards the high end of the histogram, and then later on adjust the exposure and curves to try to bring out some detail in the darker areas during postprocessing. However, this is notoriously difficult to get right, particularly while preserving natural colors, and still depends on a decent original shot. I am aware that high-contrast photography puts most cameras to the test, but what can I do to at least increase my chances of success in such situations?
For some examples, see the last picture here (this particular one was taken with another camera - a Canon PowerShot S50 - but still illustrates the general problem fairly well), or the third picture from the top here. The ultimate goal would be to have at least some definition throughout the subject, in both low-key and high-key areas.