Cheap and efficient home-studio for dog photographing.

As much as I love photographing my dogs (and other peoples dogs) outside, sometimes it’s really nice to be inside. And let’s face it – there are some photos that are, if not impossible, very hard to do outside because you can’t control the light enough.

So I actally have two sets. One in the barn, and one in my office. I use them a lot, not only for the endresult (a photo), but also to learn and test different kinds of lighting.

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In my barn. Super easy to move! I do on location studio photosessions 🙂

I love a cute backdrop, I love cute props, and I like the effect of an all white or all black backdrop as well.

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“Shopaholic on four legs”

As most people I don’t have a ton of money just laying around waiting to be spent. I do things cheap at first, and when I can afford it I invest in quality where I need it.

This is what I have:

  • Two softboxes with daylight bulbs
  • One small videolamp
  • One small speedlight
  • One reflector screen, small
  • One two-sided foldable backdrop
  • One backdrop stand
  • One large white backdrop in paper, that I cut when necessary
  • One large black backdrop that I haven’t tested yet
  • Four cheap fabric backdrops (the one above is one of them)
  • Three more sturdy vinyl backdrops
  • Boxes, suitcases, toys, blankets, pillows, and other cute props

I have invested about 7000 sek in all my stuff (not all at one go). That really is not much!

So…what do you need to have (in my opinion)?

You need light. I like continuous light, because it’s really easy to see what the effect is, and I think the dogs like it more than the flash. I know I do. I got my lamps second hand, you find something similar here: https://kaffebrus.com/produkt/dagsljuspaket-2-x-1000w-set-i-vaska

The videolight is perfect as a third lightsource that doesn’t have to be very strong. This one is the one I’ve got: https://www.cyberphoto.se/info.php?article=371027

I do have a speedlight, but I almost never use it. When I do use it, I bounce it off something or use it to light the background or create a backlight. Never directly towards the dog. It’s just not pleasant.

My reflector is this one: https://kaffebrus.com/produkt/reflexskarm-soft-guld-vit . I’m going to invest in a bigger one. The reflector reflects the light, to lift shadows on the shadow-side.

My foldable backdrop was the first one I got, it’s perfect to just put wherever I want it: https://www.cyberphoto.se/info.php?article=LA-5921

My backdrop stand and my fabric backdrops are from wish, they are cheap and not the best quality. But they work and they are fun!

The white backdrop in paper is this one: https://www.scandinavianphoto.se/produkt/4292863/lastolite/bakgrund-super-white-9001-2-72-x-11m

I bought my vinyl backdrops second hand, you can find nice ones here: https://www.kamda.se/bakgrunder-vinylbakgrund . Pro vinyl: lays flat. Easy to clean. Con vinyl: reflection from the light.

All my prop is stuff I have found in different stores. I see, I like, I buy, I photograph 🙂

This is what it looks like in my office:

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Ooops…maybe a closed door would look better on photo…

And this is the finished result:

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My main source of light is about 45 degrees in front of her, to the right. On the left is a small reflector, to give definition to the head. And I need to iron the floor-bit of the backdrop 🙂

My office is small and I don’t have room for the backdrop stand. The backdrop is attached to a round bar that is suspended from the ceiling next to the wall. Easy solution!

And I should point out that I am in no way sponsored by any of the companies I have mentioned. There is a lot of great stuff out there, this is just an example of what I happened to buy 🙂

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What is focal length and how does it affect a dog photo?

I got an e-mail from a reader, asking for more information about focal length. What is it? How does it affect my photo? When do I use what length?

As my English is a bit off when it comes to those terms, I did what any sane woman does. I googled. And I came across an excellent article that explains the basics so well hat I don’t need to!

https://expertphotography.com/understand-focal-length-4-easy-steps/

All I need to do is translate into dog photography 🙂

So we took two lenses, one 17-70 and one 75-300, and took some photos, the Princess and I. I apologise in advance for the lack of originality and aesthetic quality…Thes photos only purpose is to show what happens when you zoom in and out.

I started with tele 300mm and ended with wide angle 17mm. Aperture is set at f/5,6, because that is the largest one I have on my 300mm (I don’t have a super expensive telelens). I wanted to show what happens to the photo even if I move my feet to keep her the same size in the frame.

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300mm. Blurry background at f/5,6. Tele makes her and the bushes in the background look like they are close together.

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At 140 mm you see a big difference. The background is less blurry and appears to be at a longer distance from her.

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At 55mm it’s even more obvious. This I find to be a good lenght for portraits.

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At a crop camera such as I have 35mm equals (more or less) what we see with our eyes, no zoom, no wide-angle.  If you have a full frame this effect is at 50mm.

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Wide angle distorts the photo and exaggerates distace, making things near the camera big and things away from the camera small. The nose and ears gets really long. The distortion is more visible near the frame, not as much in the center.

Now scroll up and compare the photos. Quite a difference!

Next I stayed in “roughly) the same place and zoomed in.

 

 

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Small dog, lots of grass. Note that she looks really three-dimensional, the head is big and the body small.

 

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At 35mm she looks “normal”. The grass starts to get a bit blurry.

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75mm. Nice portrait! except for the crop, of course…but she looks in proportion and the grass is nicely blurred.

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At 140mm I had to change format, to make some of her fit in…

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And at 300mm I had to take a step back, because the camera needed me to be a little bit further away to be able to focus. And I had some trouble holding the camera still. 

Ask 10 photographers what focal length is the best, and you get 10 different replies. We like different styles, and we work differently to get the same effect. It all depends on what you want to see in your photo!

But I really do think that you should think about the effect that the focal length has on the photo. Don’t just zoom in because the dog is far away, zoom in because you want that effect! Otherwise use your feet and get closer to the dog.

So…what do I use, and why?

Almost never tele. Why? Because I can’t hold it steady. It’s a training thing, I know, and maybe I will change my mind. But it’n not JUST that, I often like to bring in the background in my photos, and I like to be closer to the dog and feel more connected. I use 50mm, 35mm, and 17mm, depending on what style I want. Portrait? 50mm. A bit of environment? 35mm. A funny photo? 17mm.

Light in dog portraits: dos and don’ts

Without light no photo. But how can we use the light to our advantage? And what do we want to avoid, as pet photographers?

Here are a few of my dos and don’ts, when it comes to light outside:

DO: Go up early. The morning light is warm and soft and makes everything pretty. It’s also low in the sky and ideal for backlight portraits.

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DO: use the sunset. Same reason as above mentioned, and lots of colours in the sky as well. I love to really bring out the sky, and leave the dog as a near-silhouette.

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DON’T: photograph in full sunlight mid-day if you can avoid it. The shadows are really sharp, the dog will squint, your shadow may appear in the photo. The contrast is not pleasing. You will either get an overexposed photo if you try to get the shadow-side right (see below), or an underexposed photo if you try to save the light part.

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DO: move the dog into the shadow. The light is much more even, her eyes are more open, colours and details are much nicer. Keep in mind that in the shade the tones are more blue-purple. Adjust with the white-balance if you don’t like that (I do).

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DO: wait for clouds. Cloudy weather is perfect! You still get some contrast, but not as harsh as in super-sunny weather.

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DON’T: use the on-camera flash. It’s not nice for the dog, their eyes reflect green, and the light is very “flat” and the background looks even darker. I don’t even have a photo to show…

DO: use an external flash, a bit from the camera, to avoid the green eyes. Adjust your settings to take advantage of the fact that the background gets darker, and make sure the dog is correctly exposed (=the background is nearly black). A small aperture and a fast shutterspeed should help you. I never use a flash because my eyes don’t like it, so no photo here either…but this one actually gives really nice results, it’s worth a try!

DO: take advantage of the beauty of low-light. If your dog is good at beeing still, use a slower shutterspeed and a larger aperture to capture portraits with a lot of feeling.

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DO: use window light or indoor lamps. Adjust white balance, shutterspeed and aperture. Raise ISO if you need to.

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Feeling a bit overwhelmed about camera settings? Get my free cheatsheet!

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And…action! Three ways to photograph your dog in action.

I loooove action photos of my dogs. They are active dogs, and action photos show their true nature.

But when I started out, I found it really hard to capture them in action. I still do, but I’m getting better. And you can too!

From the side.

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This is fairly easy to start with. You know where the dog is going to be and can follow it with your camera.

  • Choose af-c, to make it easier to keep focus on your dog
  • Shutterspeed 1/800 or higher makes sure the moment gets “frozen in time”
  • Lower your camera! Eye-level with the dog is much more pleasing that a photo from above.

Dog coming towards you

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A bit harder…but in no way impossible!

  • Try af-s, and pre-focus on a spot you know the dog will pass on her way to the toy! That way you know that you will get at least one sharp photo with the focus on your dog.
  • Use a smaller aperture for longer DOF.
  • Shutterspeed at least 1/800.
  • Lower you camera as low as you can, to really capture the feel of speed!

Dogs at play

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Looking at dogs playing is fun. Photographing them is even more so! You get expressions that you never thought possible…

  • Af-c makes it easier to follow them
  • Shutterspeed 1/1000 or higher
  • Aperture small if you want all dogs to be in focus, bigger if you want to just focus on one dog at a time
  • And again – get down.

And the best advice: Practice. Practice. Practice! And while you practice – don’t forget that it’s fun! It’s playing and training with your best friend! Good luck 🙂

Want some advice on how to make your dog-photos even better? Download this free guide!

CLICK HERE!

Photoshop: how to use the clone tool

I’m not perfect. Sometimes when I photograph I get caught up in the moment and focus too much on the dog – and miss stuff in the background that really bothers me when I see the photo on the screen!

 

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Oh no! container, house, and a car…If only there was a way to fix this!

 

And sometimes when I take a photo I KNOW that there will be something in the background, a tree or a fence or something like that, that I will want to remove later. But it’s the best place possible at that location at that time.

And sometimes dirt or fur is in the wrong place.

 

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I believe the scientific expression for dirt under the eyes is “eye-guck”. At least that’s what I call it. And I want it gone!

 

Isn’t it nice that photoshop has several great tools to remove unwanted stuff from your photos? A BIG help for photographers like me, who is almost always outside and work with fast-moving animals! One of my favourites is the CLONE TOOL.

How does it work? See here:

Do you want to learn more? I created a free online course: A dog photographers simple guide to the clone tool in photoshop. It teaches you all you need to know to fix 99% of your photos, in a simple way. It doesn’t teach you EVERYTHING about the clone tool, that would be an enormous course, but what you need to know.

Coming up: Dogs in motion – how do you capture them in a photo?

 

Easter challenge – the results are in!

I’m so glad so many wanted to join the challenge, and I loooove the photos you sent me!

I’ll just put the photos here, in no particular order, for everyone to enjoy! I see happy dogs, a good time, and photographers who maybe struggled a little to find different interpretations of “easter” and now have a little more experience than they had before 🙂 And cute puppies! They are always right.

Don’t forget to click on the photos to see them full size!

All these photographers will receive a reward from me in their inbox this week. I am a reward-based trainer after all 😉

Coming up: a surprise that I think you will really like! I put a lot of time and effort into this, don’t miss it!

Top five ways to create depth in a photo

I love when I get the feeling that I can step into a photo. That the photo gives a 3D-effect, even if it is in reality, of course, flat. How can you achieve that?

Here are my top five tips:

1.Use the foreground

By putting something in front of your object, you help create the feeling of distance. You can use short DOF like here, and take advantage of the artistic effect of the blurryness, or you can use a smaller aperture and get it all sharp.

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2. Use a wide-angle lens

The distortion that comes with a wide angle makes things close to the camera look bigger, and things further away look smaller.

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3. Leading lines

When you compose your photo, look for lines that lead the eye from the frames towards your motive.

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4. Frame your object

Use natural frames: trees, fences, windows, etc. The eye will move towards the light, and you get the feeling of “moving in to” the photo.

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5. Get down!

Pretend you are a frog on the ground. Everything looks far away for a frog…

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Of course you can combine multiple techniques, try and see what works!

Do you want to grow as a photographer? Got the basics, but want more? And understand swedish? I have just the thing!

Check out my online-course that starts 24/4. And…if you sign up before sunday 16/4, you get a nice bonus!

CLICK HERE to find out more!

 

Photoshop: How to add text and frames to your photos, the fast and easy way!

I love postcards. Christmas, birthdays, easter…And I make them myself, real quick and easy, in photoshop.

It’s really easy, and fun! In the short film below I show how to add text and frames to your photos. Fast and simple! Ready to print and send or give to your loved ones, or put on facebook for everyone to see 🙂

Share your work with me! I’d love to see what you make!

Coming up: Put something in front of your dog – create depth with foreground!

Five easter-photos that will bring a smile to your face. Kelpiestyle!

The week of easter has begun!

To give you some inspiration for the perfect easter-photo with your dog, here are five different ideas to try out!

  1. Sitting with an easter-basket. This is the one I already had in my head. Now, I wanted her to lift her head up towards me (left), but as I look at the photos I like the one to the right better. Lesson: ALWAYS try different angles and perspective!

Want to see how I taught her to lift and hold the basket? Look at the film in the challenge!

2. When you work with a dog, things will happen and the dog will move. Go with it! You can always put the dog back in a location where you want it to be, but it’s the photos of the dog doing her own stuff that often comes out looking the best!

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I love this one! Maybe she caught sight of the easterbunny?

3. “My precioussss…” Midori knows how to touch stuff with her nose and hold still – perfect to make her pose with an egg!

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4. Let the creativity flow, and put some humour in it! (No real chickens were harmed during this shoot!)

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5. Don’t forget to just let the dogs personality come out! I chose the background and light carefully, and just started shooting. After about ten photos I got this.

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I look forward to seeing your photos! E-mail me at hello@kelpiephoto.com, or post a comment with a link, or post your photo at Kelpiephotos facebook-page, or tag me on instagram @kelpiephotography!

Coming up: use photoshop to create an easter-postcard!

Photoshop – combine three photos

So…You have seen my end result “Honey, I shrunk the dog”, we have covered how to choose your photos, now it’s time to combine them in photoshop.

I have used the lasso-tool, layermasks, contrast, and burn/dodge, to make the montage. After that I have added some saturation, and a vignette, to the entire photo.

These are my three photos:

And this is my finished result:

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Interested in learning about editing? There will be an online-course coming up this summer!

Easy step-by-step instructions, films of how I edit, and a chance to ask questions and get personal feedback. Interested? Join my newsletter to find out first of all AND get a bonus-offer!

I will walk you through the process.

This is where I start, because I want this to be the main background:

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First, I noticed that the big flower would be behind the dog and I wanted it to show, so I duplicated it by selecting it with the lasso-tool, copy and paste, free transform to move it where I wanted it, add layermask and fine-tune the selection:

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Next, I added the branch.

I circled the branch on the branch-photo with the lasso-tool, copied it, pasted it into the bakgrund-photo, used free transform to move it where I wanted it, added a layermask, and used my brush on the layermask to make the selection perfect. White where I want the background to show, black where I want the branch to be. You can see my layers at the right.

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Time for the dog.

Same thing as above. I also flipped her horizontally, to make her walk in the right direction. This time I had to be very careful with my layermask, it needs to be just right to blend in nicely! I also make sure to get some part of the leaves to be in front of her, that makes her blend in even better.

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I noticed that the contrast on the dog was too much and looked out of place, so I added a contrast-layer and lowered it a bit. It’s not much, but it makes a difference! Again a layermask, to only change the dog.

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She is still hanging in the air – she needs a shadow! A new layer, and I used the burn-tool to make a shadow under her.

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Now I think the montage looks nice. I want some more saturation and a vignette on the whole photo, so I flatten it and choose filter – camera raw filter. This opens the photo in camera raw, and even if it’s a JPEG the controls still work nicely. A little vibrance, clarity, and vignette.

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Done!

It takes some time and patience, but it’s not complicated.

Coming up: How’s that easter challenge doing? I’ll show you mine and hope you’ll show me yours…