This week’s topic is Catchlights. I never realized it until recently, but I am obsessed with making sure the pets I photograph have catchlights, even if I have to add them myself. Just a little light can add so much personality into the shot.
Below are two photos… one without catchlights and one with. Sweet 11-year old Oscar has very dark eyes and they just don’t grab the light easily. My own dog is the same. I learned in a workshop I attended last year that you can further enhance existing catchlights (very subtly) by using the history brush tool in Photoshop. We were actually in a church and a flash would have added those needed catchlights, but Oscar’s caretaker told me that he doesn’t like flash. So, what I did was use the clone tool and grabbed something light (either the white in his fur or the tile) and just dropped it lightly on his eyes. I think he has much more appeal with them.
Textures – of which wood is one – always adds interest and character to a photo. When I have a photo session, I always strive to have pleasant surroundings but I sometimes fail to look for textures. Something I have to improve on. In the meantime, for this exercise, below are two examples, one very old and one very recent.
The photo below is of Old Dan. As an aside, that’s an odd name since he was only about 1-year old when I took that photo. And that was about 1-1/2 years ago. The client and I were walking around her yard finding interesting spots to take photos, and she mentioned that Old Dan loved to climb the pile of logs that they kept for their fireplace. Because of that, I wanted to take a photo of him on top of them. But they lived in a subdivision and, if I had, I would have shown all the roofs of the near-by houses. So, I just asked Old Dan to pose by the pile of logs. PS – you can tell it was an older photo; I removed the leash, but the collar is still positioned as if the leash was still there – Oops!!
This next photo was taken at my most recent session with Jack. Not only was it my favorite picture of the session, but it turned out to be the client’s favorite one too. I think it was a combination of the wooden fence as well as the leading lines.
As soon as I saw this week’s theme, I knew the photos I wanted to share.
I’ve recently added horses to my portfolio and during my first session, I managed to get a few humorous encounters. My friend, who owns and runs a pet sitting business, also boards her horses at a local stable. She knew I’ve been wanting to practice photographing horses, so she invited me along when she fed them. Her one horse, Mariah, is so gorgeous and, apparently, a retired polo horse (we have polo matches locally). Several photos were rather amusing and perfect for this week’s theme.
Below is Mariah giving me a lip curl. Although rather amusing, my friend said that it was her way of analyzing scents.
We all know that dogs roll in the grass. Well, so do horses. Since there were a lot of droppings in the pen… yes those kind of droppings… I inquired if horses roll in that, too. “Yes” was the response. Yuk!
I’ve always felt that this photo demonstrates Mariah’s feelings about what I was doing. Sorry, Mariah!
One of the great techniques of photography that most of us love is Bokeh which comes from a Japanese word that means blur or haze. And that is our theme for this week’s Project 52. Simply put, it’s blurring out the background to highlight the subject. Those who do it well will say you need a fast lens, open it as wide as possible, and be a fair distance away from the subject. For my first photo, I actually was at 70mm on my 70-200mm lens, and I was at f2.8. But, I went in our backyard, not to practice getting bokeh, but to practice back button focusing (which, as an aside, is FABULOUS). I used that particular lens since I always tend to miss a well-focused shot when my Chloe is running around and I’m using that lens. Have to say, most of the shots were in focus (Yah, BBF). It was after 6pm and the sun was setting, but, as you can see, we have a 6′ privacy fence and a lot of trees around the side where the sun was setting. But I noticed that I did get some nice bokeh. Not “Wow” but it’s there!
The next photo is from a session I had just yesterday, so it’s not completely post-processed yet. This sweetheart is Jack. It was very hot, even though it was after 6pm. Mr. Jack, as you can see, is very senior (about 14 years) and he did a lot of lying down throughout the session. Don’t blame him. This was taken in front of a pier near his house. You can see I was able to get some pretty decent bokeh.
One of the tenets of photography that can make a photograph compelling is leading lines… moving the viewer’s eyes toward the subject so as to spotlight the subject. Leading lines can be anything… train tracks, an architectural design, buildings, roads, trees, or, a pier on a body of water. This first photo has no pets, but it’s a great example of leading lines. I attended a polo match that was raising money for the shelter where my camera volunteers, and took this photo of the entrance. Believe it or not, this is private property, and it’s only the entrance!
The next photo is of Buddy, a recent client whose companions live on the Gulf of Mexico. It was a beautiful day – one of so few these past several months – so putting him near or on the pier seemed natural. I really wanted to place him in the center of the pier, but his owners said he didn’t like to go on the pier. While the lines may not be “leading” by the strict definition, they do help to spotlight the dog.
This week’s theme is “Framed”. By definition, “framing is the technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene.” I was photographying this gorgeous Great Dane, Reagan, at her parents’ home. They had a lot of pine trees around the house and I saw these two close enough together to think they could frame this beauty. The client loved it!
This week’s theme is Low Key. Of my five animals, my black cat, Momi (mo-me.. means “pearl” in Hawaiian) is my most cooperative model. She will stand where I place her while I attempt to get the shot. This time, because she was black, I wanted to capture her black on black. I placed a piece of black seamless paper on one of my walls, turned off the lights, and placed my TD6 light stand to the left of the set-up. I turned off 5 of the lights, and placed the softbox so that the light kind of skimmed in front of her, not aimed directly on her. Below are two results of that session.
I love green. It’s my favorite color. I painted my kitchen green, even repainted the cabinets medium olive green (believe me, it’s all light and lovely, not overpowering) when I renovated three years ago, as well as installed granite counter tops with specks of green. So, when I saw that the theme this week was green, I knew exactly what picture to share with you.
A while back, I took my dog Chloe to our front lawn as the sun was setting, tied her to a tree and started snapping. She looked at me and I kept snapping. When I got back to my computer and saw these, I loved them. Now, green can be too much, I realize that. Some may not like this, but I do. My camera was at 200mm and pretty wide open at f3.2, causing the grass to blur very nicely. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough light to lighten her face, so I used the adjustment brush in LR and also intensified her catchlights, which can be a challenge with her. I think the way her eyes are made, catchlights can be difficult. I also used the adjustment brush to remove a slight green caste she got on her face.
I learned about high-key lighting when I took a workshop from a professional pet photographer. I do not yet have the lights that are normally used – flash strobes, etc. I presently use either natural light or continuous lights. At the shelter where I volunteer to take photos, I use the continuous lights and it can be hard to get a white background to appear white, but, below, is pretty darn near close to it. And I think pretty close to high key. This is Bishop and I took his photo several weeks ago and love how it came out.
Personally, I see love when I look into the eyes of my pets. One in particular is my Chloe. She’s my velcro dog, she follows me around the house, but, one thing she doesn’t really like, is for me to kiss her. So, I got a little playful last night and inserted a red lips overlay on her in this photo showing her gazing up at me, as she always does. Sorry Chloe!
Now, moving on to the actual photo representing love. I very seldom include people in my photos, but rather want to concentrate on the pet. But, the end of last year, in another Christmas card session, I took this photo below. The owner had wanted a silhouette type of picture. The sun was setting from the left and between the pier we were on and the sun were trees, boat houses, boats… not really conducive to a clean silhouette. So I told the owner that we would take a semi-silhouette photo. This is my personal favorite of the session since you can see the dog gazing into her owner’s eyes. Shows the wonderful bond between us and our pets.