Top five tips for beautiful portraits

I love beautiful portraits! Studio, outside, natural light, or strobelight does not matter.  What matters to me is that the photo is personal, brings out the dog’s personality, and that it makes me FEEL something. Happy. Loving. Smile. Sad. Angry. Of course I mostly want pleasant feelings (that’s why I love to photograph happy dogs), but some photos are important even if they are hard to see.

The “hard” feelings I mostly leave to other photographers, I fokus on happy, fun, loving, romantic, cute. Here are my top five tips to get those!

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Number one: blurry background

Portraits are not as dependant on light as action, because the dogs are mostly still = you can use longer shutterspeeds. But what you have to consider instead is the depth of field! That means how much of the image is in focus, and how much is blurry – and how blurry do you want it! And depht of field (DOF) is decided mainly by your aperture setting. Large aperture (small number) = shallow DOF. Small aperture (big number) = deep DOF.

Two other things that controls DOF is your distance from your motive (shorter distance = shorter DOF) and the focal length of your lens (longer lens = shorter DOF).

So…how do you get that beautiful blurry background?

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A short DOF. Aperture f/1,4, and I am close to Midori. Note that the foreground also gets blurry, a short DOF makes both things in the front and in the back blurry.

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Number 2: choose you DOF wisely

Sometimes maybe a longer DOF would be a better option. If you want both the eyes and the nose sharp on a dog with a long nose, you need to try a smaller aperture, or move away from the dog. In this case moving away was not an option (I had no ladder), but I really think the photo would have been even better with a sharper nose and probably should have chosen f/2,8 instead of f/1,7. Learn from your mistakes!

Number 3: let the dog show personality

What is your dog like? What does it do? What does it LIKE to do? Try to capture that in your photo.

My Valldemar is NOT a “biddable dog” like Midori is. He has a strong will of his own, and loves the great oudoors. So I portrait him like that. Looking into the Beyond. Not looking at me, that wouldn’t be true to who he is!

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Number 4: Show what your dog is made to do

Dogs come in different breeds (and mixbreeds). Every breed is selected for a purpose. Almost always the dog likes to do what it is bred to do. Show that!

Again with Valldemar. He is a Working Kelpie, a herding dog. He lives for sheep. Loves them. Is obsessed with them. That’s how he is made to be, by generations of selection and breeding. So this is another portrait of him, showing him work.

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Number 5: Teach your dog to pose

Of course that is not necessary. But it makes cute portraits!

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“Mom! Help me close it!”

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Coming up: What’s the deal with ISO?

 

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Top five tips for actionphotos

When I started photographing a long time ago, I had my mind set on action. Dogs running, jumping, doing agility, playing…a moment in time, frozen!

But it was A LOT harder than I thought.

As I learned more and practised more, I slowly became better at it.

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To save you some time and tears, I will share with you my top five tips on actionphotos. Learn from my mistakes! 🙂

Choose the right shutterspeed.

Dogs are fast. My kelpie is REALLY fast. to freeze her in motion I need to set my shutterspeed to 1/1200 of a second. My other dogs are a bit slower, and I normally use 1/640.

 

You need light!

Short shutterspeeds does not let in a lot of light, so you need it to be bright! Outside in the sunshine is perfect.

Use AF-C (or AF-servo).

AF-C means that the camera “tracks” the object, and continuously refocus to keep focus on the object. That gives you a much better chance of keeping focus on the dog even when it moves.

Shoot in continuous mode.

This means that your camera keeps taking photos as long as you keep the shutter down. Use the highest speed possible for your camera. As I keep repeating: dogs move fast!

Try to pre-focus!

This is a technique that I use when the dog runs towards me, because I find that most cameras have problems focusing on a fast approaching dog even i AF-C mode. I switch to AF-S (or one-shot), and I focus on something that the dog will pass – a bit of grass, i bush, a rock. Press down the shutter to start taking photos when the dog i about 2 meters before your focuspoint, release when the dog has passed it. You will get a lot of out of focus photos, but the one when the dog passes the object you had in focus will be sharp! You may have to repeat a couple of times, sometimes the camera takes one photo just before and one just after the perfect moment.

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Two kelpies playing…double the speed, double the fun!

Coming up: get a blurry background in your portaits! Aperture and depht of field.

 

Camera settings for dog photographers

This will be a hard one for me…the language barrier is high, but I will do my best to be understandable. If you have any questions, or find me impossible to understand, feel free to write a comment! I will google the terms in english, and I won’t give up until I get it right 🙂

So…you have an expensive SLR and you use it in…auto? You buy the possibility to fine-tune your images, and then think a machine will read your mind and choose the best settings for what you want? Let me tell you a secret…when it works it’s nice. But as soon as you want to do something a little bit out of the ordinary – fail. Because how is your camera supposed to know that you WANT the object in the background to be in focus, or you WANT the photo to be really dark and just a hint of light outlining the dog, or you WANT the dogs legs to be a little blurry to get the feel of speed?

It’s time to take control over your camera!

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A good looking photo needs the right amount of light. Not too much – that makes the photo too bright and “overexposed”, not too little – that makes the photo too dark and “underexposed”.

To get the correct exposure there are three basic variables: shutter, aperture, and ISO.

I think of the camera as an eye.

The shutter is the eyelid. Most of the time the eyelid is closed, and then we open it to let light into the eye (camera), and close it again. The longer it stays open, the more light gets in. This is called “shutterspeed”.

The aperture is the pupil in the eye, the hole that lets in the light. It can be big or small. Big = much light gets in. Small = less light. Logical.

ISO is how good your nightvision is. High ISO = good nightvision and can see with less light. Low ISO = needs more light to see.

These three components are dependant on each other, and need to “match” to get a correct exposure in your photo (the right amount of light). Sounds complicated? We’ll do it one step at a time!

Just want to get some tips you can use with your compact och your phone?

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No settings, no hard stuff, just better photos in five steps!

I will walk you through shutter, aperture, ISO, and how to adjust the exposure to black dogs and white dogs to get them looking great.

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Coming up: shutter speed! How do you freeze time?

Training for Top Dog Models

What is the two most important things for a Top Dog Model to know, according to me?

  1. Love the camera
  2. Stay in position

I train both these things! And I´m going to tell you how.

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One click one reward

Many dogs seems to be uncomfortable in front of a camera. They look away. They leave. How can you change that?

It’s easy. Make sessions with the camera mean FREE REWARDS for your dog! Every time you click with the camera, give your dog a treat (or a toy, depending on what your dog likes best). You don’t even have to point the camera at your dog the first times – some dogs are reactive to the shuttersound and needs to associate it with food. When your dog looks “hungry” when you click the camera, put it up to your face. This is another thing some dogs find scary, but since they already know the sound they will soon make the connection “camera = click sound = treat”. They don’t have to do anything, it’s free food! Heaven!

When your dog willingly looks at you and anticipates the sound of the shutter, you can start directing the dog. You click the camera when the dog is where you want it (obviously, to take picture), and get this – since the dog likes the sound (it means treats), it will get rewarded for doing exactly what you want it to do – pose in front of the camera!

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Stay in position

I teach all my dogs to stay in position, because it´s really handy. When it comes to photographing it’s essential that the training is positive for the dog! If we correct the dog with hard words or punishment the dog will loose it’s nice attitude and look sad in the photos. You don’t want that – you want photos of a happy dog!

A wonderful trainer named Emily Larlham has made a step by step video on how to teach Stay and keep a happy dog. Watch it!

When your dog can stay in one position – teach it others as well. This will really help to get nice photos!

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Did you find these tips useful? Do you want a free PDF with my “Five steps to better dog photos”?

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Coming up: are you stuck in automatic mode? Let me give you a few pointers to help you take control of your camera!

 

Dogs, dogs, dogs

A lot in my life is about dogs, as I think you have noticed by now…So this week is all about dog photography! Let me start by introducing my Models:

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Midori is an Australien Kelpie, a princess. Four years old she is convinced she knows everything there is to know. Loves to train, and a natural model! She has her own instagram and facebook, as all models do.

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Valldemar is a Working Kelpie. Six years old, a free spirit that refuse to be fully tamed. We have a special bond, and mostly he will do what I tell him to. Just because he loves me.

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Mårran is my Grand Old Lady, a mixbreed with a mother from Guatemala and father unknown. 14 years old and still going strong!

Do you like the photos? Not only am I a photographer, I am a teacher as well.

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Coming up: basic training for Top Dog Models – two easy exercises!

All the single ladies!

I live in the country, in a small town called Rolsberga in the south of sweden. We have a house, a stable, a barn, and some land. In the house you find the dogs, in the barn four cats have moved in, and in the field rules the SheepLadies (and yes, they are single…and they like Beyoncé).

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It’s not the nicest weather, and they have two houses: the small house out in the field…

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…and a garage that they have decided is theirs. Who am I to argue?

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The SheepLadies are quite nice. They eat their grass and keep out of the way and inside the fences, and we shear them twice a year. Even though I have two herding dogs – kelpies – I find it unnecessary to train the dogs to herd such a small group of sheep. It’s easier to grab a bucket of food – they follow food anywhere!

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The stables are quite big, “with room for a pony” as Mrs Bucket used to say…Actually room for two large horses, and some sheep. We even had pigs at one time. But nowadays its only the SheepLadies.

Small house, small garden, always renovating. I know everything there is to know about plaster and paint…(No i don’t. But I know a lot more than I ever thought I would!)

It’s nice, and we enjoy living here. But we still plan on selling, buying a large motorhome, and just…moving to Fuerteventura with dogs and all. We’ll see!

So…what is it I do here, for a living? Quite a lot, actually. I teach at a gymnasium, my subject is “dog-knowledge”. Yep, it’s a real subject in a real school…;) I teach ordinary dogowners to train and develop a nice relationship with their dogs. I write books, two so far, about dogtraining. (Start to see a pattern…?) I make videocourses online with a company called “Moderskeppet” about photographing dogs. I teach classes online as well, same subject. And I get to photograph stuff for money. Mostly dogs.

I know…a lot in my life is dog-related, and photo-related. I’m terribly lucky that way! I get to earn my living doing the things I really, really love!

Just add springtime, and I am one happy person 🙂

Coming up: Photographing dogs – how?

 

 

Me

So…Now that I’m no longer on vacation, my life is a bit different. This is me:

  • Addicted to coffee, chocolat, and dogs. And work, it seems…
  • Work as a photographer/writer/teacher/entrepreneur
  • Live with three dogs and one husband
  • Think that life is about being kind and have as much fun as possible

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My hair is a bit longer now, but basically that’s me.

My kids have fur…

So. This blog is about me and my life. About doing stuff I love – training dogs, photographing, teaching. About just…living life to the fullest. I write for me, and I write for everyone who is interested. Think of it as a window, not to my soul (cliché!) but to my daily life.

If I have made you a little bit curious, you are welcome to comment or ask a question. Or not, sometimes it’s nice not to know all the answers. It’s up to you 🙂

Coming up: My place – house, garden, and say hello the The SheepLadies

 

Sunday: Windy! and Monday: last day…

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We really, really wanted our last days to be beach-weather. But nope…even though the sun was shining there was an “orange wind-alert” on the weather-app in my phone. How bad can it be? you ask. Weeeell…when the wind blows on Fuerteventura, it really blows!

First thought: find a nice spot on Flag beach, sheltered from the wind. How hard can it be?

Try impossible. And the wind made the sand fly. Flying sand is NOT nice when it hits your naked skin. Peeling de luxe…

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The water was wild, the waves wanted to go right, but the wind blew left, and they crashed in the middle. The water was soooo far out.

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So we struggled back to the car, and left the sand. In sweden we have snow that blows on the road and makes it slippery. Here it was sand!

A few km away the sand ended, and the cliffs don’t fly in the wind as easily…New try!

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I could feel the car move as we parked, but further down we were well protected and stayed for a few hours.

What to do next?

We went to La Oliva. There was even windier. We came back home, and placed our butts at a café in town. Much nicer! A bit of shopping, feeling a bit down because it was our last day, gift-shopping for the dog-sitters at home (and for me). And more coffee, and more just looking at people and enjoying the atmosphere.

Monday morning we woke early, and went to the badlands for one last walk. The wind had increased even more during the night, now it was much calmer and we saw evidence of the high waves only as traces all the way up on the pavement. Incredible! Forces of nature are not to play with…

Now the wind was minimal and the sun warm. We kept seeing more traces of the nights storm: a lot of water where there was dry the day before!

And the plantlife. One night of rain, and the plants really enjoy themselves!

Surfschools were out looking for the best places, keeping in touch and telling eachother what works and what doesn’t.

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And some furniture ended up in a new place…

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One last view, and then off we went to the airport.

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Goodbye Fuerteventura! See you soon!

And like that, our vacation/escape/adventure was over. At least for now. Time to deal with real life again…

Coming up: So…what do I really do then? When I’m not on vacation?

 

 

Saturday: Cofete Beach

Saturday we went on our last, and longest, adventure of the week. From Corralejo way up north, to Cofete Beach down south! We started at 9, and the GPS said 3 hours to drive 140km. That couldn´t be right? The roads are surprisingly good over the whole island, and surely we would be there before that time? Anyway, the GPS has been proven wrong before, and we started.

The weather was warm, but cloudy and rain was in the air. A good day to drive! We passed Morro Jable at 10.30. 20 more km, and we would be there!

We followed the signs to Cofete, to a small dirtroad. Bumpy is an understatement, the road resembled an old washboard! We were a bit worried about the car, and when the turns started we understood why the GPS said 3 hours…

That road still gives me nightmares. Literally. Yes, two cars can pass, but just. On one side: the mountain. On the other: well…the mountain still, but kind of going down into the sea…without even the smallest fence…and a bit eroded at places…The road torned over 90 degrees left and right, so there wasn´t the slightest chance of seeing oncoming traffic until they were right in front of you. Steep uphill, steep downhill. And what happens with 10 km left? Our car starts screeching and screaming like a cat in agony! The brakes? The steering wheel? The wheels? Could we even go on? And more importantly: did we have a choice?

We decided to keep going at snailspeed, and take a closer look at the car and rest at Cofete beach.

OMG. That place. It’s totally worth the nightmares!

Cloudy and foggy, and we parked our car and took a coca cola and a sandwich to get in a better mood. It helped some. Ola examined the car – nothing obvious wrong. We decided to just put it out of our minds for now, and enjoy the place we had fought to get to.

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Here lives a few people, in houses that looks like they are about to fall down and with sturdy cars that can drive anywhere.  Around us: mountains. And a beach, that goes on forever and is almost empty.

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Tourists come here, of course. We followed a caravan of tourist cars to a cemetary that is located down by the beach.

And the we just kept on walking…about 30 minutes, and we didn’ t seem to get any closer to the end of the beach.

When we looked to the right, we saw Villa Winter. Built by a german nazi officer during WW2, now abandoned, and the subject of lots of speculation…Why here? Why so closely guarded? Why are there tiled rooms in the cellar? (If you want to read more, look HERE).

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On the other side, more mountains. Cofete is well protected on all sides!

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A few years ago there was a film made here (partially), “Exodus, Gods and Kings“, and they left a bus behind. That bus now drives tourists to Cofete, and is a fun element!

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And of course here are goats.

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We decided to get to Morro Jable and see about the car there. So…we started the journey back. Slowly (and loudly).

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We got 10 km, and suddenly…the car went quiet. (OK, not quiet, the motor was running.) No more screeching. No more tortured cat-sounds. We stopped to pet some goats just to celebrate!

The goats had an abondened house as a shelter, and there was written in graffiti: “Freedom is not defined by safety”. Then and there, that felt very true!

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So, we headed home, after a brief stop at Morro Jable. That seems like a really nice town, we have to come back and spend a day there! The roads felt even wider and nicer now that I had the dirt road to Cofete fresh in my mind, and the rest of the evening was uneventful. We had had enough adventure for one day!

But I still recommend Cofete. It is worth it.

Coming up: warning for strong winds!

Friday: the badlands

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We left Puerto del Rosarion a little sooner than we planned, and decided to take a walk in the badlands instead. The weather was not inviting – windy and chilly – and a brisk walk felt like just the thing!

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Ola and me, classic selfie

I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves, for once…

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Coming up: We risk our lifes at Cofete Beach!