Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tips on photographing your dog, part three

Part 3. Perspective, Patience, and Plenty

The first of the "P's" is Perspective. I really like to get down on my pets eye level. Of course you can get some cute photos standing above your pet with them looking up at you, like in the photo above, but to me, generally the nicest photos are when you kneel down to their level. The body proportions are less likely to be distorted, and the perspective feels more intimate.

But you can get some interesting photos with different perspectives. Play around with it and have some fun, like shooting below your pet (worms eye view.)

Another suggestion that usually makes a better portrait photo is to move in close and fill the frame with your pet, unless there's something or someone that you want to get in the picture too. To me, this photo is a lot cuter than if I had included the whole sofa:

Yes, he heard me coming. I had to sit there and be patient while he fell back asleep. Which brings us to patience. Besides being a virtue, Patience can reward you with great photos. Some of my favorite shots have been when I decided to wait "just a few more minutes." Like this one:

Plenty. This is one of my best tips. Take LOTS of photos! In this age of digital cameras there's no reason not to. Sometimes it takes dozens of shots to get "the one." As long as your pet is sitting nicely, click away. Let him turn his head, look up, look down, whatever. You can call his name once in a while to get him to look at you, but like I said before, they don't have to be looking at you for a great photo. If they will keep still, try moving around to get different perspectives.

Here is an example. To get this melt-your-heart shot of Cloud I had to take 20 photos. You'll want to click on it to get a better look. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Remember, LOTS of pics! You can always delete the bad ones.

I'm glad everyone has been enjoying these posts. These tips will work for cats, horses, and even for people. I'd love to hear if these tips have helped your photography. I hope you have as much fun taking pictures of your pets as I do.


Wordless Wednesday - Balance

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tips on photographing your dog, part two

Photo taken indoors with natural light.

2. Lighting (These tips are great for black fur!)

Various times of day can make a huge difference to your pet photos. My absolute favorite lighting is outdoors in the early morning on a clear day. The light is soft and glowing. It lights up a black dog beautifully.

I took this photo around 7am this morning. Our back yard faces East. Cloud is in direct sunlight. Even this early in the morning, the direct sunlight is a little harsh, creating strong highlights on his fur. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

I moved him over a few feet to where the light was filtered just a little through the trees. Perfect!

The soft, low sun really brightens up his eye color and creates beautiful catchlights.

Another early morning photo - you can see the rising sun reflected in his eye.

I took this photo at noon. Although it's a nice photo, notice the strong shadows and how his eyes look smaller and darker.

Here's some photos I took last February during a bright mid day. These illustrate how important the direction of the light is.

The sun is behind Cloud. A cute picture of him running, but you can hardly see his face.

Here is another example. Look how dark the shadows made his face.

Sitting in the same spot, he turns to face the sun. See the difference?

If it's an overcast day or you're in the shade, it's still a good idea to face towards the sun. Look at the gorgeous catchlight in his eye and how his face is lit up, but without deep shadows. His black fur glows without being too shiny.

These tips are specifically for black fur, but will work for any dog. In harsh sunlight, not only the dog, but the grass has strong highlights that can be distracting. Moving to the shade can make a world of difference. I love this shot of Benny in the shade. I sure miss the old man and really treasure photos like this...

If your house has a room with lots of natural light, you can take some really nice indoor portraits. Harsh sunlight can be filtered with curtains to make it softer. Depending on the color of your dog, you may need him to face the light to avoid dark shadows.

The dreaded Flash. It washes out the fur and creates red-eye or unnatural glare and highlights to the eyes. It can also make your dog dislike the camera. Believe me, I have plenty of pictures of my pets with a flash, and none of them are very good. Of course sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to capture a memory. I've pretty much weaned myself off of using it these days.

I hope you find these lighting tips are helpful. Experiment with different lighting situations to see how they affect your pet photos. And remember to have fun!

Part 3 will be Perspective, Patience, and Plenty (of photos.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tips on photographing your dog, part one

"Enough with the camera, already!"

I've had a few comments asking how I get Cloud to sit so nicely for his pictures, so I thought I'd make a series of posts about it. I'm in no way an expert, this is just what I've picked up over the years of photographing Cloud and what seems to work for me.

First and probably the most important thing, is to get your dog used to the camera. If your pet starts running around when he sees the camera, or stops doing the "cute" thing you wanted to photograph, or is afraid of the camera, then you need to go slow and get him used to it. Make him think the camera is just part of the scenery. (Cloud thinks the camera is an extension of my arm, lol.) Just take a few photos throughout the day, whenever you think about it, and act like it's no big deal. They don't have to be anything spectacular, (you can always delete them.)

If your pet is extremely camera shy, take pictures of something in the same room until they get used to any noise the camera makes. In fact, if you pointedly ignore them, they might feel left out and decide your attention with the camera is a good thing! You can also try to put your camera up to your eye and give your dog a treat. Soon they will start looking forward to the camera. Of course if you plan to photograph your dog often, you might want to try to get him comfortable with the camera without needing treats, lol. Remember - always be patient, keep your sessions short, and don't get discouraged... your dog will pick up on that and dislike the camera even more.

I always act very nonchalant when I pick up the camera. No, "Oh boy, lets take some pictures boy!!!" You don't want to get them all revved up. Oh, and if your dog is clearly not in the mood to sit still, then let him play or run it off and try again later.

So now that you've got your dog used to the camera and not acting like a dork when he sees you with it, there are several things important for a good portrait shot: a calm dog, good lighting (NO flash!), the right perspective, a little patience and LOTS of photos.

1. Calm dog - Clouds best photos are when he's relaxed yet alert, lounging in his favorite chair or hanging out in the yard. I'm always aware enough of him that I can tell when there's a good opportunity for some photos.

Here is Cloud lounging, focused on me. Pretty much waiting to see if I'm going to do something important like leave the room, lol. Not a great photo, but a good example of 'calm but alert.'

I got some great shots of him in the chair that session. In this one, I'm sitting on the floor so that I'm at his eye level, and moving my hand on the floor to get this lovely shot of him looking down. Oh, those ears!

You can get wonderful shots when your dog is distracted by something in the background. They don't always have to be looking at you.

Profile shots are beautiful too, I love them! Here is the photo I used for the painting that's my blog header. To this day, one of my favorite paintings! Looking at this older photo, you can really see how my baby is starting to go gray around the muzzle.

Stay tuned for part two - Lighting, and why you shouldn't use flash!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Because dragons like flowers too...

Sometimes you just have to draw a happy dragon!

I've been busy the past week working in the yard, planting lots of flowers, and helping hubby build a fence (I'm now a pretty good shot with a nail gun, lol!)



Look at this gate he built, I love it!!! I call it the hobbit gate. :-)

Yesterday I planted honeysuckle to climb the arbor. It smells so good!

We still have to make flowerbeds along the section of new fence. I guess that is the next project. Have a great weekend everyone, and don't forget to stop and smell the flowers!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Barred Owlets

I know it's Wordless Wednesday, but I just had to tell you that a. These owls are living in my friends backyard, and b. I wish I had a longer lens, lol! In the last picture you can see the parent is carrying what looks to be a dead squirrel to the babies. When he saw me taking pictures (I was a good 40 yards away) he flew away.