Photographing Dogs – extra!

Extra! Breaking the rules.

I figured I’d add one last post to this short “Photographing Dogs” series. Today what I want to talk about, is breaking the rules! Breaking the rules in photography is fun, and there is definitely a time and a place for it. For example, what’s the fun in always taking pictures at the dog’s level? It gets boring after a while. Sometimes it’s fun to shake it up!

Tucker

Tucker

One of my favorite ways to break the rules is to take pictures from above the dog. This can be a bit difficult as dogs don’t seem to like looking up, unless you’re holding a treat. I always forget to bring treats to my photoshoots(forgetful me!) so I have to improvise. I usually just make funny sounds to get their attention, and snap a picture as soon as they look up at me. It usually takes a few tries to get it right, but once I do I love the results. Now, if you’re like me and you always forget to bring treats to your photoshoots, you may have a hard time doing this, especially with untrained dogs! But if you can remember to bring treats, well it should be a fairly easy picture to take.

Nelly in Wildflowers

Nelly in Wildflowers

Another fun way to break the rules is to put your white balance(the overall color of the picture) off a bit. If the picture was taken in a scene where there’s snow on the ground, the picture might actually look better with a very slight blue tint to it, as it gives it a cool feel. If the picture was taken with an orange sunset in the background, try adding a bit of a red tint to the picture and see how it looks. You’d be surprised what a little extra color can do for a picture! It can also be fun to use some filters or presets on your pictures. I have enjoyed many of the free presets that I have found at PresetPond.

Have fun, break the rules. Be a rebel!

Photographing Dogs – pt. 2

If you missed “Part 1”, you can see it HERE.

Part 2 – lighting, background, editing

Maybe just as important as your subject, is your background and lighting. Who wants to see a picture taken in harsh sunlight with trash littered all over the place?

A picture of Tucker taken at sunset. If you look closely you can see that there is a leaf on his head.

Tucker at sunset. If you look closely you can see that there is a leaf on his head!

The picture’s lighting is very important. Try to avoid taking pictures in direct sunlight, as this creates harsh shadows, causes the subject to squint, etc. Taking pictures in shade can work, but often your background will be overexposed. If you do take pictures in the shade, make sure it is solid shade and does not have little spots of light shining through. The absolute best times to take pictures are at sunset, and when it is overcast outside. In both of these scenarios, it is plenty light out so your pictures will be well lit, but there are no harsh shadows. The light is usually very soft and even, which makes for great pictures.

Molly, a Great Pyrenees puppy, wades in the river.

Molly, a Great Pyrenees puppy, wades in the river.

Your pictures background is just as important as the lighting. I try to choose a photoshoot area that has a very natural feel to it. The river park by my house is great as there’s a lot of trees, and some dogs like to wade in the river, which makes for adorable pictures! If there is any trash left by other people, I clean it up. It’s not good for the environment and it certainly isn’t going to look good in my pictures! I do sometimes enjoy taking pictures in a city setting, however I don’t get to do this often as I live out in the country. Aim for a background that you find beautiful, and chances are the pictures will have a nice feel to them! Avoid having light poles, cars, etc. in the background of your pictures.

Stella - Before&After

Stella – Before&After

What you do with your pictures after you take them is crucial. In my experience, pictures straight out of the camera often have a blue tint to them, sometimes it’s severe and sometimes it’s just mild. On the left you’ll see a before & after of a picture of Stella. The color of the picture was off, so I corrected it in Lightroom. It only takes a minute or two to get the correct color balanace. I also upped the contrast, vibrance, and clarity. I took down the highlights, and the exposure by 0.5 points.

Photographing Dogs

People often ask me for tips for photographing their dogs and foster dogs, so I thought I would share what I do to get the pictures that I do. This will be a 2-part post. Part two is coming on Sunday!

Part 1 – the dog.

Stella

Stella

This is, of course, the most important part of your picture. Your subject, the dog.

When I’m taking pictures of foster dogs, my goal is to take pictures that people connect with. I want them to feel drawn towards the dog, I want them to see my pictures and think, “I want this dog.” One of the best ways to do this is to implement a little psychology into the pictures. Studies show that the first thing a person looks at in a picture is the subjects eye. When they see a picture, their brain automatically starts searching for what should be the focal point – the eyes. Because of this, the focal point of my pictures is almost always the eyes.

DSC_0013

Riley strikes a pose

It’s also important to take the rest of the dog’s body into account. You don’t want a picture where they are standing awkwardly, right? I often have to lure foster dogs into the position I want, then slowly back away and hope they stay in that position. Or, I wait for them to move and hope they move into a good position. A lot of it can be just waiting for the dog to strike a cute pose. In the picture above, I had Riley leashed to a tree on the river bank. He wanted to follow me into the river but hit the end of his leash, so he simply stood there watching me. He put his paw up on the rock which was the perfect touch to this picture.

 

Clint, a very terrified dog, was leashed to the tree in this picture. He was later adopted by one of my Instagram followers.

Clint, a very terrified dog, was leashed to the tree in this picture. He was later adopted by one of my Instagram followers.

Leashing your dog can be a good way to get them to stay in the area that you want. You can either take pictures so that the leash isn’t visible, or edit the leash out in Photoshop. I am a big fan of Photoshop Lightroom 5, I use it for editing every picture. You can take leashes out with the “clone” and “heal” tools. It takes a bit of practice but once you’ve got it down, it’s easy and nobody can tell that your dog was leashed.

A little bit of a head tilt from Tucker.

A little bit of a head tilt from Tucker.

And, last but not least, is you. How and where you stand&act is going to affect what the dog looks like in the pictures. I almost always try to take pictures from the dogs eye level. Not above, not slightly above, not below, not slightly below, but at their level. It’s also important to get their ears perked forward! I usually do this by embarrassing myself – making funny noises that the dog is interested in. I have found that meowing and whining are what dogs are usually most curious about, and if I’m lucky they’ll do more than just put their ears forward, they’ll tilt their head!

It takes a lot of practice to be able to capture all of this in one picture, but once you’ve got it down it comes naturally.

People? What are those?

My friend Jazzy being “attacked” by Nelly.

I was recently diagnosed with IBS, after having struggled with it for over a year. Unfortunately, there is no cure or approved treatment for IBS. There are things you can do that are supposed to help, but so far, nothing has helped me. I’ve taken supplements, fiber, probiotics, vitamins, etc. I am already on a vegan diet due to other health issues(and to save the animals!) so we know it’s not a dairy allergy. The next step is to try different types of diets – FODMAP, gluten-free, you name it I’m going to try it. Depending on the severity, IBS can make your life a living hell. I know it has for me – I had to leave school and do independent study, I can’t leave the house without first taking medication, and I now have anxiety related to leaving the house. But, I persevere. I don’t get to go out that often, most of my days are spent cooped up in my little house, meaning I don’t get to see people or friends very much.

My brother and my wet dog at the lake on a colder winter day.

My brother and my wet dog at the lake on a colder winter day.

But when I do, my camera is glued to my face. I LOVE to photograph people when I get the chance, though often my Nelly girl manages to sneak into the pictures. Okay, more than “often”. She ends up in several pictures in every photoshoot. I love taking pictures of her and she loves being in front of the camera, and people usually enjoy having their picture taken with the pretty dog! This, of course, only goes for the close friends and family that are allowed around her. (See the post “A Difficult Decision”) She and my brother both have beautiful eyes, so it’s fun to get the two of them in a picture together. And the way they interact is so sweet – she absolutely adores him and he adores her, too.

DSC_0925One of my favorite things about photographing people is that, unlike dogs, when you tell them to sit still they’re usually going to listen! Photographing dogs can be frustrating at times when you’re working with untrained, hyper ones. People are generally more willing to take instruction…without needing food motivation! Don’t get me wrong, I do love photographing dogs. I love photographing dogs even more than I love photographing people. But sometimes it’s nice to have a change from what I normally do. I don’t photograph people very often, but when I do I’m always really excited to get home and edit the pictures.

Let’s See That Personality!

Janey doing a goofy head tilt. She's blind in her right eye, so it just kind of wandered off to the side in this picture. I wasn't so sure I liked this picture at first, but it grew on me.

Janey doing a goofy head tilt. She’s blind in her right eye, so it just kind of wandered off to the side in this picture. That, plus her tongue hanging out, makes her look really funny! I wasn’t so sure I liked this picture at first, but it grew on me.

I’d like to start this post by apologizing for not having posted in a little while, I’ve been overwhelmed with stuff going on at home. I’ll try to find time to write more often. (:

love the picture-perfect photographs as much as the next guy(gal)…but c’mon, don’t you ever get bored of your subjects looking perfect all the time?

When I’m photographing dogs, I usually shoot for two different types of pictures in the same photoshoot. Since most of my subjects are rescue dogs, of course I want to get the pictures where they look drop dead gorgeous, perfect, and amazing. I’m trying to get people’s attention, I want these photos to say “adopt me!” so I show them in the best possible light.

Tweed giving me his best smile.

Tweed giving me his best smile.

But what’s the fun in only having pictures like that? It gets old after a while. I also love to take pictures where the dog’s personality shines through. Some of my favorite pictures are the ones where the dog looks like it’s having a great time. A big smile, a head tilt, or maybe just a funny face. Anything besides the cut-and-paste, generic looking pictures.

My current foster boy, Tweed, is a great model for the camera. He gets this big goofy grin when the camera comes out; it never fails to make me laugh.

My personal dog, Nelly, is a bit more serious. She has always been an extremely driven working dog, and I swear when the camera comes out she just thinks that it’s another job for her to do. “Okay, there’s the camera. I know momma likes to take pictures of me, so I need to make sure I do my best modeling. Time to get serious about this.”

Katniss making a funny face while chewing on some grass.

Katniss making a funny face while chewing on some grass.

That oh-so-serious look often comes across as very beautiful, though, so it works well. If I want those pictures where she looks like a goof ball, it’s a bit of a challenge…but I guess that when it comes to photography, being challenged is a good thing!

Because I started off photographing dogs and because I work with them so often, they are generally the only thing I take pictures of. I am starting to branch out, though, and experiment with other types of photography. Landscape photos are something I’m interested in, but haven’t gotten around to learning about yet. Besides dogs, I’m also now doing a little work with people. It’s been all friends and family while I was learning.

My sister being funny, going along with the "old, abandoned barn" theme.

My sister spontaneously going along with the “old, abandoned barn” theme.

I have found that dogs are a lot easier to photograph than people, in some ways. On one hand, dogs don’t always want to listen or have their picture taken. Some dogs are afraid of the camera; I don’t know why, but I would assume it’s because the lens looks a bit like a giant eye staring them down. In my experience, a dog will either not want to look at or near the camera, or it simply won’t care either way. With dogs, you don’t have to worry about them doing some kind of horrible, cheesy-looking fake smile, you don’t need to worry about them being self-conscious in front of a camera, and best of all, you don’t need to worry about them not liking the pictures you take! All things that I, as a beginner people-photographer, worry about.

As you can tell, I worry. A lot. Probably too much.

A candid shot of my two best friends.

A candid shot of my two best friends.


Now, the bad part about photographing dogs. They don’t always like to listen very well. You can tell a person, “Okay, now let’s have you sit right over here…” and the person will go sit over there. You try to make a dog sit somewhere that it doesn’t want to and you’ll have about 5 seconds, at the very most, to snap that picture. If you’re working with a dog that doesn’t care about treats or toys then good luck trying to get it to cooperate at all! Last but not least, dogs can be really easily distracted. Sometimes the best places to do photoshoots are also the most interesting for the dog. So many trees! And grasses! And rocks! And smells! AND WAS THAT A SQUIRREL? Let’s look at everything except the camera!

Now, maybe it’s just because I’m not very good with people, but I definitely prefer working with dogs. It just feels right for me.

I think this post got a bit off topic, but oh well! My point is that while I do like the pictures where the subject looks perfect, like a model, I don’t think anything can top a picture where the subjects personality is showing through. It just seems to give the photos something special.

The Rantings of a Poor Photographer

I know I promised some of you guys a post regarding the “it’s all about how you raise the dog” subject, but I’ve had to push that back, it will probably be the post after this.

A possibly stray cat at my aunt's house, it's trying to adopt itself. Poor baby was so hungry that when a single piece of food fell down a crack in the deck, he was trying to paw and bite at it to get it out. My aunt gave him more food, we'll see if he sticks around.

A possibly stray cat that was hanging out at my aunt’s house, he was extremely happy and didn’t stop purring the entire time he was there. Poor baby was so hungry that when a single piece of food fell down a crack in the deck, he was trying to paw and bite at it to get it out. My aunt gave him more food, we’ll see if he sticks around. I wish I could have taken him home!

As many of you know from my first post, I started out in photography by using the Nikon D50 that my mother owned but never used. After the kit lens broke, I got the Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-s VR…I can’t remember if it’s version 1 or 2. I love this lens, it’s damn near perfect for what I usually do – photographing dogs, other animals, and sometimes people.
The D50 has been a great camera for me to learn with, but I am so beyond ready to upgrade. I feel so limited with this camera, especially considering the fact that I often work with moving subjects and need to use an ISO higher than 200. I won’t go too much into the technical crap, I don’t want to bore you guys! But I will say the D50 does a horrible job of handling high ISOs. Pictures taken at 400 are pretty noisy, anything above that is very rarely useable. I hate noisy pictures – I know it doesn’t bother some people so much, but it drives me CRAZY!

I’m currently in Utah to visit family. My aunt here is also a hobby photographer, and she’s very good. From what I’ve seen on Facebook, she mostly takes pictures of bugs. I never thought bugs could be so interesting until I saw her pictures!

While I was at her house, she let me use her camera and macro lens with extension tubes. I don’t remember what camera/lens/tubes I was using, but I do know that it was awesome. I was out in her garden for hours just taking pictures of different kinds of bugs. Some of the pictures are included in this post. I’d like to think I did at least an okay job, considering this was my first time ever photographing bugs!

The camera is just so amazing in comparison to what I use. It has many AF points(mine only has 5), the autofocus is extremely fast, and it very quickly shoots burst shots – not sure how many FPS. It’s easy to use and I love that the pictures are much bigger than the 6MP ones my camera takes.

And now I’m sad, because after using her camera, I feel like mine sucks. I mean, my camera is ten years old. It will be a long time before I can afford a new camera, and now that I’m in love with bug photography, I also have to face the fact that I won’t be able to get a good macro lens until after I get a new camera. My current camera just will not work well for it.

I’m a student that can’t get a job due to chronic illness, which is why it’s going to take me so long to be able to afford a new camera (then macro lens). I’ve lost so many things that I care about lately, photography is one of the few things that really keeps me going. But right now I’m just feeling extremely limited and discouraged in the photography department. I want to continue to improve and expand what I can do, but I feel so stuck with this camera.

I hate waiting & not having money!

Sigh. /end rant.