Project 52: Bokeh

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.

Keep the loop going and go to Jessica Wasik with Bark & Gold Photography, celebrating the joy and love between Pittsburgh pets and their people to see their bokeh photos.

Project 52: Low Key

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.

Low Key can be so dramatic.  Head on over to Elaine at I Got The Shot Photography, Northeastern PA Pet Photographer to see how she interpreted the theme this week.

Project 52: Before and After

Several years ago when I started taking my photography seriously, I swore I would never use post-processing and always get it right in camera!!!  Right!  How naive!  It is something I still strive to achieve, but, of course, post-processing is a must!  Presently, I go between Lightroom and Photoshop to post-process.  Most is done in Lightroom, but I’m starting to use PS to remove leashes, blemishes, distracting background, etc.  I took an on-line course last year on PS Layers and do understand them a little better, although I should use them more often.

This past Christmas, I had a client who wanted to photograph her two white dogs for a Christmas card.  She owns a beauty salon and that’s where we took the photos.  She covered her small vintage-type couch with a white sheet, brought in some artificial greenery and holly, as well as a “Merry Christmas” sign.  She even put the decorative bows on her dog.  I picked one photo for the card and, below, is how it looked straight out of camera.  The client wanted a winter-type scene.  Well, we live in Alabama and a white winter doesn’t happen.  I found a product called “Twinkle Blanket” (similar to fiberfill) from Hobby Lobby and fluffed it on the couch.  We then placed the dogs on the couch.  Well, one starting to eat the “snow”, roll around, and, well, just be a dog.  So, as you can see, there’s very little “snow” left.  But I liked their expressions, they were close together (as opposed to on either side of the couch), and they were looking up at the owner.  But I had to do a lot of work.

In PS, I cloned a lot of the “snow”, smoothed out the wrinkles, and cleaned up the dogs, using Spot Healing Brush, Patch Tool, Clone Tool, etc.  The dog on the left, Ruby, only has one eye.  But in this photo, that one eye was covered by her hair.  So I copied a more visible eye from another photo and placed it over the covered eye in this one.  Also, the dog laying down, Moonlight, had a bow that was hidden by the “snow”.  I did the same thing and copied a more complete looking bow and inserted it in the photo.  The result is below.

The photo below is a scan of the card.  (NOTE:  Just in case you wondered, I did not have the watermark on the card)  Perhaps to some in this group this is no biggy and I’m sure you might see where I could have done it differently or better.  But to me it was a huge accomplishment, and the client was happy.

Click over to Linda of DogShotz Photography serving the Indianapolis IN area to see their take on this weeks’ theme.

Project 52: Different Perspective

The topic this week is  “Different Perspective.”  As a photographer, we try to get the best composition before we snap the shutter.  Often, we get frustrated because it just doesn’t seem to be the right one.  Many times, just composing the photo from a different angle,  or the photographer physically moving a few inches either way can make a great difference.  I took an e-photography course last year and the instructor told us to, occasionally, look down.  For that class, I got on a very high ladder and snapped the foliage in my backyard.  Let me add, that I very seldom do this and it tells me that I should do it more often in my sessions.

For this week’s theme, I just stood on a chair and hovered over one of my cats, Misty, as she was sleeping on the bed.  I got her to look up and the result is more interesting than if I had just put the camera on the bed in line with her face.

Head on over to Dog Shotz Photography serving the Indianapolis IN area to see their interpretation of this week’s theme.


Project 52: Negative Space

Negative Space is the topic of the week.   Negative space can be defined  as “the empty or open space around an object that defines it.”  I don’t think my selected photos are a true example of negative space as there is something in that area, but busy week, so I grabbed this one as a possible example.

Just a few days ago, I photographed Glenn, a senior dachshund (about 17 years old).  This little guy can’t walk well and is incontinent, but he still has a lot of energy.  After trying, not too successfully, to take some photos on a bench, the owner suggested putting him on the floor.  Shortly after she did that, he looked up at her and I knew I had a good picture.  Have not yet finished the post-processing, but the direction of his eyes told me a bit of space was needed.  Below you can see the difference from the two different crops.  I favor the second one as it tells a bit of a story.  Those eyes seem to be asking: “Why am I down here?”, “What do I do now?”

Cropped close….


Cropped with a bit of space….


Head on over to Natural, Playful & Soulful Pet Photography in Melbourne, Australia to see their take on negative space.



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.