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


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
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
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.


Project 52: Celebrate

This week’s theme for Pet Photography 52 Weeks is “Celebrate”.  The year is winding down, everyone – including me – is busy with the holidays and it’s almost an understood that “celebrate” translates into a holiday theme.  Needless to say, no time to take a new photo, but recently took photos of pets with Santa that raised money for a local shelter.  Most had the owners with Santa and the pets, and it worked out great.  The location was a corner of the courtyard of a local restaurant.  So, there was very low lighting.  I brought my TD6 stand and softbox that was on one side of Santa, and my 5′ panel reflector on the other side.  The coordinator of the event decorated the backdrop.  I practiced and practiced to get the right settings by trying to replicate the location in my house.  I’m glad I did ’cause I realized that the aperture I tend to use would have been too soft.  I tried very hard to keep everyone on the same plane and it worked out pretty well.  For every group, I’d say, “Now get really, really close to Santa!”

The photo below is an example of one of the “get really close” photos.  This wonderful couple was just so much fun and they were all on the same plane to keep all in focus.  The Mrs. just LOVED her babies, who, being typical small dogs, would boss around the bigger dogs.Mendez

This next one is a photo of the organizer of the event with her two dogs.  I loved the angle of the black dog and, even though it wasn’t possible for him to be on the same plane, it worked out.Duke

And isn’t Santa wonderful.  He was so sweet and calm.  Everyone loved him.

Now click here to see the entry from Rachel Moore of Hoof ‘n Paw Fine Art and Photography.

If you live along the Gulf Coast, contact me at Ono Pet Photography for your own celebration photo.


Project 52: Dressing Up

“Dressing Up” is the theme for this week’s Pet Photography 52 Weeks group.  Personally, I do not dress up my pets.  The closest I come to it, is to put a sweater on them if the weather during their morning walks goes below 32.  They don’t like it.  Doesn’t happen too often here in southern Alabama, but it does happen occasionally.

Where I do some sort of “dressing up” are with my shelter photos and, on occasion, a client.  Below is a photo of a recent client, Molly.  She is 15 years old, walks very slowly, but my last-minute addition of the pearls really added a sort of dignity to her.  The owners loved it.Molly

The two photos below are how I “dressed up” two shelter pets.  Sometimes adding something like this makes the animal appear more appealing to any potential adopters who are then more inclined to see them as part of their family.









Click here to go to Suzi Pix Photography to see how they “dress up”.

If you are in the Gulf Coast Area, please contact me at Ono Pet Photography for a professional photo of your furbaby.

Project 52: Low Light

LOW LIGHT is this week’s topic for Pet Photography 52 Weeks.  For many years, I’ve always admired the drama of low light and thought I’d need so much equipment to do it.  Not so.  For the cat photo below of my sweetheart Momi, I put a piece of seamless black paper on the wall, had my TD6 continuous light stand with only one light on at the left of this photo, and turned off all the lights in the room.  Of course, the cat was very cooperative.  And Voila!  There’s my girl.  To me, pure drama.Momi_LowKey_Wk50

At about the same time as the above photo, I put my Chloe girl on the bench with the same set up to see how she’d look.  While there is drama, I really love the cat’s photo because it’s black on black with those beautiful golden eyes.Chloe_LowKey_Wk50

Click here to go to Suzi Pix Photography and see her interpretation of this fun topic.

If you live in the Gulf Coast Area and would like a dramatic photo of your own 4-legged friend, please contact me at Ono Pet Photography.

Project 52: URBAN

This week’s theme for the Pet Photography 52 Weeks group is Urban.  The dictionary definition is “of, relating to, or designating, a city or town.”  I live in a small southern town on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and I chose to escort my Chloe around town at various spots.  Trying to get a clean shot can be a bit of a challenge when the background one way is cars and busy streets, while the other way is a parking lot.  In addition, it’s equally challenging to take photos and hang on to a dog who’d rather explore her surroundings.  But, I managed a few.  Opening the aperture wide to get a really blurry background helped eliminate – somewhat – the unwanted stuff.

Chloe between two downtown stores
Chloe between two downtown stores
Chloe in front of a popular downtown store
Chloe in front of a popular downtown store

The photo below is several months old.  I took it in Canada when I was mentoring with Scruffy Dog Photography.  This lovely old girl is Charlotte who, I believe, is about 13!  This shot was taken in an alley between two old brick buildings.  Very Urban.Charlotte_wall

To see another interpretation of this urban theme, go to Elaine Mueller Tweedy at I Got The Shot Photography and take a look-see.

Do you want your own urban shot?  If you live on the Gulf Coast, visit my website Ono Pet Photography and let’s arrange a fun session.

Project 52: Depth of Field

I was recently accepted into this group – Pet Photography 52 Weeks – that, hopefully, will encourage me to challenge my photography skills.  This week’s assignment is “Depth of Field”.  While many think that depth of field is when you have a very blurry background, that’s only one aspect of it.  That is shallow depth of field.  When everything is in focus, from foreground to background, that’s deep depth of field.  As a pet photographer, I always strive for shallow as it will highlight the animal and, at the same time, blur the background or make it go out-of-focus.  Many things can affect the depth of field.  Normally, with a wide aperture (f-stop is small number), the better able one is to get that shallow depth of field.  Landscape photographers want the photo to be in focus from foreground to background, so they opt for a smaller aperture (f-stop is larger number).  That’s only one small aspect of depth of field, but it’s a start.

These three photos are of my dog, Chloe.  I have two dogs, but I use Chloe most of the time for practice since my other dog is afraid of the camera.  It’s November here in Alabama and some flowers are blooming, but they won’t last too much longer.  We have knock-out roses in our backyard, so I put Chloe in front of each color – rosy pink, light pink and white – before they all start to die.  I used my 70-200mm lens with an aperture at f3.5.  Distance is also important in determining depth of field.  Since I wanted a shallow depth of field, I placed Chloe about 3 feet from the bush, and I myself had to go back another 6-8 feet to get as much of her as I wanted.  I might have been able to put Chloe a little bit closer to the bushes, but you get the idea.

DoF_Wk47_Chloe_2DoF_Wk47_Chloe_1_white DoF_Wk47_Chloe_3

This next picture was taken several months ago while I had Chloe tied to one of our front trees.  It was sunset and I was facing in the setting sun’s direction.  I again used my 70-200mm lens with an aperture at f3.2.  I simply LOVE this picture with the grass so totally blurred as it does not indicate at all that it’s grass.Chloe_FaceFront_Lt_noGr






Click the underlined link to Cincinnati pet photographer,  Suzi Pix Photography   who will show her examples of this week’s depth of field project.

Those in the Gulf Coast Area, if you would like a professional photo of your 4-legged friend, click here at Ono Pet Photography to get the ball rolling.  Have a happy holiday!