Feed your creativity

You need fuel.

I mean, your BODY needs fuel, obviously, but so does your creativity. So does your mind.

I find that it’s easy to get lazy. It’s easy to do what you know will work, use the settings you are familiar with, use the poses you know will look good. Let’s face it: it’s easy to get stuck…(There is, of course, a possibility that this only applies to me – but I don’t think so.)

What you feed your body is easy, but what do you feed your mind? Let me share some of my best tips!

  • Join a photo community. An FB-group is one possibility if you find a good one. A site like Youpic, Gurushots, 500px, or Swedish Fotosidan is another good option. Engage. Comment.
  • Learn more. In Sweden we have Moderskeppet, internationally I like CreativLive and Skillshare. (Oh, by the way, I can get you two months free on Skillshare! Follow THIS LINK! I love Skillshare…)
  • Get inspired by social media. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook…Follow people whose work you admire.
  • Try a new field of creativity! I have recently started drawing and painting, something I looooved doing as a child but haven’t done in…20 years…
  • Get inspired by other great artists. Go to an exhibition. I love Louisiana in Denmark, but I also visit my local galleries and museums. Even the camera store shows photos by local artists from time to time!
  • Join a challenge. From time to time, there are challenges to participate in that gives you a task or subject, you create your image, and upload it with other participants.
  • Compete. Not to win. Just to produce a certain kind of photo, that you think will fit the contest. It’s all about participating!

There is one more thing I think you already do, but maybe you don’t think of it as feeding your creativity: watch moving pictures. Films, series, shows. The basics of how to create a mood, with light and composition and colours, are the same in moving pictures as in photos. Film-makers are often very, VERY good at this!

I started watching Stranger Things this Monday, and apart from being an awesome series, it is beautiful to watch! They use just about every trick in the book – and it works. I freeze my screen multiple times each episode and just look at the details in light and composition that creates the mood in the scene.

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Both photos from google

Next time you look at a film – watch for the small details that build the scene. Get inspired. Feed your creativity.

The art of flat lay photos

Yesterday I gave my students an assignment: take a photo of your school bag and its content, flat lay style.

They did a much better job than I did, to be honest…This is my own image:

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I wanted to show off my notebook, I love this notebook!

I can’t show theirs, but the exercise itself was a lot of fun! Tip: use your phone, and have it showing a nice photo that matches the background. Very cool looking.

I do flat lays for Instagram for my other project, The Creative Kelpie, and I am getting better, but compared to the best I have a LOT to learn. But then again: compared to the best I ALWAYS have a lot to learn…That’s part of the fun!

Let me share a few tips I’ve picked up this far:

  • I almost exclusively use my phone for Instagram flat lays. I edit in Snapseed and A Color Story. As I only show on Instagram or my blog, I really don’t need my big camera.
  • Start with finding the light. Near a window or outside on a cloudy day is perfect. I think even light looks the best, with few shadows.
  • Now for the background. It should be simple, and contrast against the items to really put the items in focus. I like geometrical patterns or a nice texture, but it can’t be too much. I use tables, floors, grass, asphalt, blankets, fabric.
  • Place the items thoughtfully. I like it messy, but messy with afterthought if you get what I mean..Look up classic rules of composition, like the rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, etc. They all work well. And play with negative space!
  • Keep to one colour scheme, that makes it easier to avoid it looking messy even if there are multiple items.

I like this one, with its mix of geometrical patterns and muted colours.

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As I prepared for my students, I even made a film. It’s very amateur (I’m NOT a filmmaker!), and in Swedish, but maybe you can get a few tips!

If you are interested…Search for “flat lay photography” on Youtube. There are TONS of creative people out there! I will keep learning and keep working on my flat lays – and hopefully get better and better!

(And if you have any feedback for me, don’t hesitate to share! A have no problem with critique!)

Behind the scenes

Often when I do a session I get ideas as I see something – I can see the finished photo in my head! Often when I di this, I work with a dog that is not my own. That means that I have absolutely no idea if it will work or not, but most of the time we give it a try!

If the dog is hungry and the owner patient most of the time I get my shot. Sometimes it takes a little time and effort, and a lot of creativity, but as long as the dog thinks it’s a fun game we keep trying and see what we get!

This time I saw a tree.

“Do you think we can get Ciri to stand on her hind legs and rest her head between the branches?”

“No idea! Let’s try!”

And the finished result:smakprov-3761-2

I think Ciri had the most fun!

The perfect model

Some dogs, you just know are going to look fantastic in a photo. They have…that. My Midori does (at least in my eyes). My Valle even more, but it’s harder to capture. And as soon as I saw Fargo, I just knew…This is a dog supermodel!

Let’s start with “Don’t touch my Mom”-Fargo. I loooove how they match!

And then there is beautiful Fargo.

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Fargo on an adventure.

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Fargo at full speed.

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Goofy Fargo.

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Fargo on the lookout.

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This dog has like a million expressions!

And he’s well trained, (how else do you get a dog to put his head through a hole in a fallen tree…?) and a joy to work with. All of a sudden I feel a craving for a Cane Corse of my own…

Working together

I feel a bit guilty, normally I post twice a week but these past two weeks have been kind of busy…I have had some absolutely amazing photo sessions, and I will show as soon I get the editing done the way I want it. I have got two from today, so let’s start there!

Autumn is the best of seasons when it comes to photographing, and today was no exception. Overcast but bright, the colours are fantastic, and it’s still warm enough to let the dogs be in the water.

Ulrika wanted photos that reflect their relation and how they love to work together. With a dog this well trained, and a relation filled with mutual love and respect, that was an easy task!

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Seeing two individuals working together like this, and to get the privilege to capture it with my camera, that makes me all warm and happy. Thank you!

A photo that tells a story

The more I look at photos and create my own, the more I appreciate photos that tell a story. Sometimes they are a little bit harder to “get” at first, it’s easier to appreciate a beautifully lit portrait, but to me, they are the photos that I return to and look at time and time again.

It’s hard to know what makes that kind of photo. It’s hard because it’s all about how I associate, what memories and feeling I get, and that depends on my past experiences and what I personally like and dislike. I can get totally stuck on a photo that no one else likes. And I can find photos that get a million likes totally uninteresting to look at. Photos, images, are a personal experience.

Yesterday I met a friend and her dog for a session. They always make me smile because they really and truly enjoy being together. They have a strong friendship, and it always shows. They have fun together.

When everything was done and we headed for the cars, she looked at her trousers that were muddy and her shoes that were wet and asked me for one more photo. One that shows what it’s all about when you are out having fun with your best friend. So I took this, and I absolutely love it:

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This makes me think of their joy together, and how they never care about dirt or water – they are all about the great outdoor adventure. A tracking line and a toy tell what they have been doing together. A whole story in one photo.

It also brings me back to my own walks in the woods with my friends, working together, training, och just hanging out. What it feels like when we are…you know…connected with nature? I can see that it may sound a little weird, but that’s how it feels! Me and my dog, in the forest, doing fun stuff.

I think this photo requires that you have those experiences (or similar). Otherwise, it’s just dirty feet and paws, and a toy. Or maybe I’m wrong?

As you can tell, I’m a bit fascinated with how images speak to people in different ways. I’m curious – does this one speak to you?

How to: photograph multiple dogs, keep all of them sharp, and still get a blurry background.

Most of the time I photograph one dog at a time. But sometimes I want to make a portrait with multiple dogs, and that can be a bit challenging…There are three main problems:

  1. Getting all dogs to look nice. At the same time.
  2. Getting all dogs sharp.
  3. get a blurry background.

This is an equation that can be a bit hard, but I think I have some useful tips!

Let’s start with the tech-stuff…

Depth of field

Three dogs are seldom at the exact same distance from the camera, so you need to work with a larger DOF. The easiest way is to use a smaller aperture. But – you also want the background to be soft and blurry and out of focus…Impossible equation? Not at all! The answer is to move the dogs further from the background! Allow me to demonstrate:

 

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f/2,8. Valle, to the right, is slightly out of focus. I need a larger DOF.

 

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f/4. All dogs are well in focus, but the background isn’t as blurry as I like it.

I moved the dogs about 2 meters away from the background.

 

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f/4. Much better background! 

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As the dogs were nicely in line, I tried f/2,8 (love that swirly bokeh…). Success!

Another move.

 

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f/5,6. At this aperture the dogs can be much more apart than they are in this photo, they will still be in focus!

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And… a squeaky toy to get their attention. Got it! 

So: dogs together, distance from the background, use the size aperture you need to get them all focused.

The further away from the background, the blurrier the background gets.

 

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f/2,8.

And it’s worth to keep in mind one more thing: the closer you are to your subject, the shorter DOF you get. Look at the leaves to her right, with the exact same settings except for the focal length (I would get the same effect on the DOF if I moved my feet…)

 

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1/125, f/2,8, 66mm

Still the same settings, but moved my dog about 1 meter (obviously a bad idea in her mind…no idea why…)webb-2011webb-2014

Kind of interesting, right? I know, one more thing to think about…but this is actually a great help! F/2,8 and a close-up a bit away from the background gives me a nice, sharp face AND blurry background.

The last one: my favourite from this session! I just love the leaves…

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Get perfect exposure with exposure compensation

Everyone who has a black or a white dog knows how hard it is to get them correctly exposed, especially if you want to have a bit of environment in the photo. A black dog goes all black, a white dog all white.

This is what happened when I took a photo of my dark brown dog against the sky:

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The camera compensates for the bright sky, and my dog is underexposed.

A quick and easy way to fix this is the exposure compensation button! exposure-comp

It works a bit differently on different cameras, but you get a slider that looks like this:

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It is probably (hopefully) put on 0 and not +0,5 as the picture shows. If you want the photo to be brighter (as I do), you move the slider to the right. You add light.

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Of course, it works just as well the other way! If your dog is too bright like this:

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Move the slider to the left instead. Subtract light.

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How much you need to move that slider varies, so you need to do a little try and error if you don’t get it right at once.

And as you see, it’s the whole photo that gets affected. That means that sometimes the background gets incorrectly exposed in order to expose the dog correctly:

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To get my dog bright enough, the background gets overexposed.

My “ule of thumb” is that if the dog is the only interesting part in the photo, I always expose the dog correctly. If the dog is a smaller part of the photo, as above, I expose to make the background look nice. webb-1827-2

But it’s just a matter of taste, really!

I also try not to put a dark dog against a bright background, you can see the difference when she is on the green! And her colour comes out much nicer 🙂

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Want to learn more? I found these two helpful articles online:

https://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-use-exposure-compensation-to-take-control-of-your-exposure/

https://photographylife.com/what-is-exposure-compensation

 

 

Use what you have around you

Autumn is well on its way, and that is yummy for a photographer…Autumn colors are amazing!

 

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Yellow, red, green, and a warm autumn sun. And a kelpie! 

It’s easy to think that you need to live near a forest or have a beautiful garden if you want to take photos like this one. Actually, you don’t. You just need to see what’s around you, and use that to your advantage!

The leaves behind Midori grow at the side of the road near my place, and it looks like this:

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Five meters further and there´s the freeway (with a fence!).

With a 50 mm lens and a well-behaved dog, this is what I can do with two orange bushes.

 

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It’s all about choosing the right angle and crop.

From another angle the bushes look like this:

 

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The road to my house to the left, freeway to the right. One small bush with red berries.

Midori and I got this shot:

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In all of these photos, she is seated almost inside the bushes and peeking out. You can actually see the road in this one, the gray behind the leaves and berries at the top.

To make these photos work I used a 50mm lens with f/1,4. I chose an overcast day to get nice and even light. in post processing, I have enhanced the yellow and red a bit, added a vignette to draw the attention to my beautiful dog, and that’s all.

Take a walk in your surroundings. I bet, if you look closely, you will find places you never thought about as backdrops to a photo before!