The story of a photo session

Not too long ago, I took a photo that was going to be displayed at a local business.  The family had a gorgeous French Bulldog and I was excited to go and shoot the photo.  The husband was on the front stoop with the dog when I pulled in.  I immediately noticed the front door and thought that would be a great place to take a photo.  However, the husband had another idea so I followed him to the backyard.  It was obvious he was proud of the backyard and commented that his wife worked very hard in how it appeared.  It was lovely.  Pots of plants, flowers, walkway, deck… everything was there.

When taking a photo of a pet, I always strive to take a unique photo where the pet will shine.  Below are some of my beginning shots and they were fine, but my gut said “it could be better”.

Nice, but nothing pops...
Nice, but nothing pops…
The tongue is cute and is definitely the dog, but ....
The tongue is cute and is definitely the dog, but ….
Now, this could be something with a little bit of color, but ....
Now, this could be something with a little bit of color, but ….

I finally suggested to the husband to try the front door.

Red
THIS IS IT!!

This is the process I go thru in taking those special pet photos.  I hope to meet with the client before the shoot, but this time I wasn’t able.  But it worked out and the mounted photo was on display for several months at a local business whom I partner with.

Call Ono Pet Photography at 251-490-5282, kathie@onopetphotography.com,  or go to my website’s “Contact Me” page to arrange for your own furbaby’s WOW portrait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project 52: Use Tighter Apertures to Deepen Focus

This week’s assignment from “The Visual Toolbox” is utilizing tighter apertures to deepen our focus.  As a pet photographer, I tend to go for the wider apertures (1.4-5.6) in order to isolate my subject since I always am looking for that wonderful “bokeh” that we all love.  But DuChemin says that such a blur, which is actually due to a  short depth of field, can be overrated.  And sometimes, while striving for that short depth of field, some important items can be blurred and, hence, deemed not as necessary to the story.  We were told to shoot with an aperture of f10 and adjust the speed accordingly.  When I kept the ISO at 100, the speed was really slow, so I upped the ISO, ultimately, to 640 so that I could get a speed of 1/160.  I took nearly 2 dozen photos of Chloe in front of some bushes in our yard and everyone of them had Chloe very sharp.  The composition of all of them may not have been to my liking, but they were all sharp.  While there was no severe bokeh, there was a slight blur.TightApertures_Chloe

Now click over to Northeastern PA Pet Photographer, I Got The Shot to see how they did this week’s assignment.

Project 52: Isolation: Use a Longer Lens

This week’s assignment from “The Visual Toolbox” asks us to show how we isolate our subject by using a longer lens.  Although my go-to lens is my 35mm f1.4, I have been trying to more frequently use my 70-200mm.  Below is a photo I took of my Chloe in the backyard.  I was about 6 feet from her while she was about 10 feet from the house.  The only reason she stood still was because I tied her to a tether screwed into the yard with a tempting treat in my hand!  I was at 200mm and I love the background blue.  I had done the same thing the day before, but tied her to a tree that was up against the house.  Realized that she was too close to the background to get that blur.Isolation-Long Lens_Chloe

Below are a few photos I took at a recent pet adoption for The Haven, the no-kill shelter I partner with and for whom I weekly take photos of their pets to showcase them for adoption.  These photos were taken on the “red carpet” that The Haven frequently does at some of these adoption events to spotlight the dogs to the people in the shopping area, complete with speakers and really creative descriptions of the dogs.  I love the one below of the little chihauhau mix in front of his handler – gives one a sense of size, eliminating the unnecessary items, but yet showing the “red carpet” and the velvet “rope” behind the handler.  Photo was taken at 120mm. RedCarpet_Castana

The other two photos below are both at 200mm.  The one with the dog walking eliminates the surrounding, yet shows the “red carpet” and the stands that hold the velvet rope.  I was sitting on the ground when I took the photo of the girl holding the dog (some dogs want to be held when walking the red carpet!).  Even though she was not that close – about 10 feet or so – I was able to eliminate the surroundings so much that you couldn’t really tell it was a red carpet, but you could still tell you were in front of some type of building.RedCarpet_Alice RedCarpet_Dog_1

I love to take photos using the 70-200mm lens ’cause I like how it isolates the subject.  But it’s a heavy sucker, so I have to do my exercises to build up the muscles!!!!!

Click on over to Future Framed Photography to see how she isolated her photos using a longer lens.

Project 52: Wide-Angle Inclusion

The task we had this week is Chapter 10 of “The Visual Toolbox”, namely, Wide-Angle Inclusion.  We are to use a wide-angle lens, but not wider than 14mm nor fish-eye and give examples of the types of composition you get at various distances.

My go-to lens for the past year has been the 35mm prime.  I use it for almost everything.  All my shelter photographs are shot with that lens, pretty much all events are shot with that lens, and most of my client shoots are with that lens.  Why?  It’s sharp, it’s clean, and I get a lot of exercise by physically using my legs to zoom in and out with that lens.  While the exercise is a residual effect, your legs are the zoom feature of a prime lens.  For this assignment, I also used my 24-70mm lens, but stayed at 24mm.

The first set of photos below are of my Chloe using the 24mm lens.  For the first shot, I’m about 6-7 feet away from her.  For the second shot, I’m about 3-4 feet away from her.  For the last shot, I’m about 2 feet.  My only crop was the left and right, not the top and bottom so that you could still see the result from the particular distance.  You can see that there’s still plenty of unnecessary background with them, even the 3rd one.  I probably could have lowered my aperture and went a little closer to get close for a blurred background I would have preferred.

I'm about 6-7 feet away from Chloe
I’m about 6-7 feet away from Chloe
About 3-4 feet away from Chloe
About 3-4 feet away from Chloe
About 2 feet away from Chloe, enough that if I reached out I could touch her
About 2 feet away from Chloe, enough that if I reached out I could touch her

For the next set of photos, I used my go-to 35mm lens, at the same distances.

6-7 feet away
6-7 feet away
3-4 feet away
3-4 feet away
About 2 feet away
About 2 feet away

For my purposes, based solely on these photos, I prefer the 35mm as it spotlights Chloe better.  Of course, everything depends on what I would want to include in the photograph.    If there had been a fabulous background and want to spotlight her in that background, then I might have gone back farther and not be so close.  Also, by not zooming, there isn’t that much compression.  However, for both lenses kept at 24mm and 35mm respectively, I had to use my legs to zoom in and out.

Now click over to Pets We Love, Toronto & Collingwood Ontario Pet Photographer, Cynthia Wood for her take on this week’s assignment.

Project 52: Master the Triangle

This week, Project 52 is tackling the photographic triangle – aperture, speed, and ISO.  I recall when I started shooting in Manual, it took me a long time to get even a hint of a decent exposure.  Not sure I still get it, but I’m glad we have this challenge this week so that I can refresh and remind myself how the triangle works.

Using a garden “dog”, I started with a 400 ISO, 1/1000 shutter speed, and 1.4 aperture.  With each photo, I kept the same ISO, but slowed the shutter speed a notch and tightened the aperture each time.  The exposure was pretty much the same, with the histogram somewhat in the middle.  But when my speed got to under 1/100, there was a definite unsteady blur beginning.  Too much caffeine!

ISO400, f1.4, 1/1000
ISO400, f1.4, 1/1000
ISO400, f3.5, 1/160
ISO400, f3.5, 1/160
ISO400, f9.0, 1/25
ISO400, f9.0, 1/25
ISO400, f14.0, 1/10
ISO400, f14.0, 1/10

Interesting challenge, something I need to continue to work on.  Now go over to Future Framed Photography, South Dakota to see how she handled the triangle.

Project 52: Exposure: Optimize Your Raw Exposures

This week’s challenge in the Project 52 group is Exposure: Optimize Your Raw Exposures, from the next chapter we’re covering in the book, “The Visual Toolbox”.   We’re told to start using our camera’s histogram to determine proper exposure, not how it looks on our LCD screen on the back.  That picture is actually a jpg and since all of us are shooting in raw (or least we should be), that is not a true indication that things are going well.  Last year I mentored with an outstanding pet photographer.  Before we started to shoot, she told me to fix my settings (aperture, speed, ISO) at what I felt they should be, set my LCD viewer to highlight warnings (blinkies) and take a picture (“doesn’t have to be in focus”, she said).  If there are intense blinkies, especially in the dog, adjust and take another picture.  She said that if the blinkies have diminished where you don’t want them – even if they show in other places – it’s OK.  I was always one to make sure my “ruler” in the viewfinder was on “0” to determine a good exposure.  She said that was a start, but the steps she told me to go thru, even if they appear to be above the “0” was probably the proper exposure.  I’ll have to admit, I try to do those steps, but I still tend to graviate towards that “0” on the ruler.  Checking the blinkies and the histogram is really a hard habit to start.

Below is a photo I took of Chloe at 1/125, F1.4, ISO 160.   As you can probably guess, the histogram was way to the right and on the LCD of the camera, almost all of Chloe was blinking.  Of course, the notches on the viewfinder “ruler” were well above “0”.Exposure_Chloe1_Right

This next photo is taken at a speed of 1/320, the rest of the settings the same. There are no longer any “blinkies”.  The histogram is now primarily in the center of the chart, even though the notches are still above “0” in the viewfinder.Exposure_Chloe2_middle

This next photo is taken at a speed of 1/500.  Even though the notches are still above the “0” in the viewfinder, the histogram is now primarily toward the left of center of the chart.  You can see it’s starting  to look a little underexposed.  Had to start using my white watermark as the black one hardly showed up.Exposure_Chloe3_Lmiddle_above0

This is taken at 1/640 speed.  The histogram is now further toward the left, but there are no longer any notches in the viewfinder as it’s right on the “0”.  This is what I probably would have used as a “good” exposure.Exposure_Chloe4_Lmid_0

This was a terrific exercise for me as it indicates that being at the “0” in the viewfinder isn’t necessarily the best place to be and that I should start practicing the pointers that I learned at my mentoring session and start looking at the histogram more.

From here, you can move on to Little White Dog Photography – Sioux Falls, SD who will show her examples of exposure.

Project 52: Ask the right questions

Chapter 2 of “The Visual Toolbox” is about asking better questions.  And this is something I am remiss at.  Instead of thinking about the shot, I just start shooting.  Instead of visualizing what I want the result to be, I snap away.  However, lately, I have been meeting with the pet’s family first to get to know the animal without the camera, asking questions of them, such as where they might want the photos to be taken (either at their home or another location), etc.  Then I ask myself the questions I need to ask to get the photos I envision for the actual photo session which could be a week later. (NOTE: Of course, when that day comes, sometimes the pet has a different idea).   This assignment is to take the photos we presented last week in the “Consider Your Vision” assignment and consider some deeper questions.  In reading this very brief chapter, one quote caught my eye: “Do not let (the questions) paralyze you.  There is no right answer, only possibilities, some of which will work better than others.  Forget practice, learn to play.  You’ll learn better that way.  Don’t fear failure.  Experiment.”  Those bold words were written for me, I know it.100_1561

This photo shows poor composition, I was not at the pets’ level, and, of course, there’s that harsh flash from the point and shoot filling the cat’s eyes.  A pet carrier and water dish may have worked, but not in this picture.  Lana_BlueBlanket

I had just purchased my new DSLR with a really superior lens as compared to my previous camera.  I wanted to get close, but I think this is a little too close since I don’t feel the eyes are in full focus.  And the light reflected in the mirror is distracting.  Should have taken this from a different angle.  Jan1116_Lana

This photo was taken in one of the front rooms of the house where there is natural light.  But I used my Nikon speedlight with a cool diffuser (called the Lite Scoop II) which really spreads the light very nicely.  OCF and/or strobes might give it an even different look.  I do have the radio triggers for OCF, but that’s a learning curve for me right now.  As for strobes, not sure… but it’s something I’ve done in the past at workshops and I enjoy it. All and all, I am happy with this photo.  Mickey

This photo was taken with a TD6 continuous light stand (with a 36″ x 48″ soft box) on the left side and a 5′ reflector panel on the right side.  I always use my 35mm prime lens for these shelter shots.  For this one, the speed was at 1/640, f4.5 (since I didn’t want it too soft) and ISO at 640.  I’ve learned that this shutter speed for me is the best as the animals can be a bit lively; sometimes have to adjust up or down depending on the situation, like the color of the animal.  I’ve been doing shelter animals for several years and, what I’ve learned, is that your camera settings and the lighting have to be ready to go as soon as the animal is brought into the room.  Yes, it may take a few moments for them to calm down but, basically, while shelters do a great job, it’s not the best place for a stray to be and they are bound to be skittish or scared.  In addition, shelter pets can become even more stressed from the photo session.  So, it’s good to be accurate but quick.  This is Mickey and, lucky for me, he was as cool as he looked.  Strobes might have given it a different look, but I’m very happy with it.OldDan_FaceDown

This is Old Dan (he’s actually 1-1/2 years) and he was at the end of his photo session.  Even a lively dog can get tired!  Taking a photo of a brown dog on green grass can make it look rather dull. I’ve learned that a pop of color can really make the photo stand out.  Fortunately, the owners azalea’s were in bloom.  The owners loved this photo.  I tried to remove the blades of grass by his nose, but I’m not fully PS proficient (but I can remove a leash or eye goop like a pro!). Jan1516_Chloe_Backlighting

This is a photo I took this past week of my dog, Chloe, with about 5 minutes of sunlight remaining.  I wanted to practice backlighting and I’m not sure I nailed it.  I used my 70-200mm lens (at 135mm) which is a lens I really need to practice on.  The aperture was at f3.2 – I wanted a decent depth of field to blur out the back which is just our subdivision’s street and part of a neighbor’s yard.  I’m not too happy about the pine straw at her feet, but I needed to secure her to one of our front trees (they all have pine straw around them).  I got down on the ground, trying to maneuver into a position with some trees between me and the setting sun.  Kind of hard since there aren’t too many leaves on the trees right now.  In order for her face to have been a little more bright, I probably could have used an OCF (if I was proficient with it), or my Nikon speedlight with diffuser.  I could have put a reflector near me, but I was alone, the sun was setting fast, and Chloe was a skirmy worm.  Just have to keep practicing.

Only two chapters into this book, and there’s a ton to reflect on.  Click here for Pet Love Photography to see her interpretation of this chapter.

If you live in the Gulf Shores area – Mississippi, Alabama, Florida – contact me for a professional portrait of your pet at onopetphotography.com

 

Project 52: Consider Your Vision

A little over a year ago I set up my pet photography business.  I was still working part-time, so my full-blast marketing didn’t start until this past August.  My vision has always been to capture the soul and personality of the animal, whether they are for a paying client or at an animal shelter.  Developing a style to manifest that vision is what I’m working on.  While I tend to compare myself to others too much, preparing for this blog and reviewing my past photos have shown me that I have improved, small steps at a time.  Below is a progression of photos that I took of my cat, Lana.  The first, taken in 2007, was snapped with a point-and-shoot… I thought it was pretty good at the time, but, OMG, look at the composition.  In front of a pet carrier???  (NOTE:  If anyone wants to steal this photo, they can have it since I didn’t watermark it)  The next photo was shortly after I got my second – and one of my current – cameras, my Nikon D600, in early 2013.  I was endeavoring to get close since the lens was a 24-70mm, 2.8, but it is a bit soft.  The 3rd one was taken a couple of days ago – this is the style I’ve been doing lately – clean, unobstructed surroundings, all on the animal.

What was I thinking????
What was I thinking????
A bit soft, but getting better
A bit soft, but getting better
This is much more reflective of what I'm doing now.
This is much more reflective of what I’m doing now.

Below are some recent photos that I feel reflect what I’m trying to achieve… one is of Mickey from a shelter photo and the other is a recent client, Old Dan, who’s far from old since he’s actually a little over 1 year.  I learned a lot from this photo of Old Dan.  I wasn’t going to show it to the owners as I thought it didn’t show his face that much, but, last minute, I added it and they absolutely loved it.  In fact, it was their top choice – go figure!

Gorgeous Mickey from local shelter
Gorgeous Mickey from local shelter
Old Dan - one of his quiet moments
Old Dan – one of his quiet moments

I’m grateful for this opportunity to review my “style” and see that I am progressing; just have to keep at it.  Next in the loop is Shelley Castle Pet Photography in Northern VA, DC, MD.  Click on to the link and see what her vision and style is.

If you live in the Gulf Shores area – Mississippi, Alabama, Florida – and you’d like a session for your 4-legged friend, contact me at Ono Pet Photography.

Project 52: New

New Year, New You, and, hopefully, New Me.  I have some quirky ways to define new, so here goes.

Below is a picture of my love, Chloe.  She just had a new bath and is sporting a new scarf to start the New Year.  She’s shown in our garage where we had a new motor installed for our garage door opener, which broke on Saturday (Jan. 2 – Happy New Year!).  The light on the ceiling and reflected on the car is part of the new motor.  Photo was taken with a new camera that I’m just starting to use – the Nikon D750.  In fact, this is the first photo.  Now I have two cameras with the intent to have one lens on the D600 and another lens on this new D750.  Then I won’t have to change lenses in the middle of a session.

Chloe sporting a new scarf from her new grooming session
Chloe sporting a new scarf from her new grooming session

New Year means more photos at The Haven, the shelter I’ve been associated with for 10 years.  Up until June, I worked there, but now have my photography business, so my camera volunteers to help make their animals look great for potential adopters.  This photo below is Pickles, and he was the first (new) pet I photographed at the shelter in 2016.  Somehow, he didn’t like any type of noises, didn’t really want a treat, and the closer I got to him, the more he would bark.  But, he eventually calmed down and I got this great picture.  Also, rather than going once a month, the shelter director would like me to come to the shelter once a week so that they can be current on their photos.  So excited for this new year!Pickles

Mostly, new for me is fighting thru my uncertainties about my photography, stop stressing, and enjoy the sessions more.  I have new advertising options coming up, new businesses to partner with, and will be sponsoring several events throughout the year, including a local Mardi Gras dog walking parade where I’ve been taking photos for several years.  New Year should be a fun year!

Let’s continue the loop and visit Pet Love Photography, Cincinnati & San Francisco Bay Area with their interpretation of “new”.

If you live in the Gulf Coast Area – Mississippi, Alabama, Florida – contact me for some new photos of your 4-legged family member.

Project 52: Year in Review

The theme for the final week of 2015 is “Year in Review”.  Since I only started several weeks ago, I don’t have a lot to share.  However, I went back to some of the previous themes and decided that, if I had been a member of this group earlier, I would have chosen certain photos.  First, below, I’ve selected some from when I joined at Week 47, with the theme that the photo projects.

Depth of Field
Depth of Field
Urban
Urban
Low Key
Low Key
Dressed Up
Dressed Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, below, are those I might have selected for earlier themes if I had been a part of this group.

Shooting From the Hip
Shooting From the Hip
Color, Vivid, Wide Open, or Backlighting
Color, Vivid, Wide Open, or Backlighting
Motion
Motion
Red
Red
Low Angle
Low Angle

Looking forward to next year’s projects.  Keeps me on my toes.  Now click on over to Suzi Pix Photography to see her Year in Review.

If you live on the Gulf Coast – Alabama, Mississippi, Florida – contact me at Ono Pet Photography to see if your 4-legged friend can be part of your 2016’s year in review.