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!

 

 

 

Train your model-dog to be close

Today I met one of my best friends and her beautiful dog. The task was, in addition to talking a lot and take a walk together, to take some portraits of her and her dog.

Scout is a well-trained dog, and they have a strong relationship built on trust. The only problem that occurred was when I wanted to take a close-up, with their faces close together. “That is not done!” said Scout. “I know how to kiss and cuddle, but cheek to cheek? Why?!”

After a few meatballs and some patience and training we got the shot:

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You can tell from her ears that this is weird. It’s OK but still weird.

I always find it interesting when dogs react on things I want them to do in photos. My thought is always: “How can I make this enjoyable for the dog?” No photo is worth making a dog do something it’s not OK with, and I NEVER force a dog in a photo shoot.

My own dogs have a dad that always cuddle lots with them, even more than I do, and he has taught the dogs to press cheek against cheek. It can look a bit violent at times when Valle, the middle dog, is a little too eager and slams his cheek against my husbands poor head, but normally it’s a really cute trick.

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He is so going to hate me for posting this terrible photo…But you get the idea! My husband and Midori.

All my dogs do a version of this trick. Here’s me and my Old Lady:

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Mårran likes to really add some weight and press hard!

It’s the dog that puts her face against mine. Because she wants a cuddle, or – in the case of Valle – to get something he wants. I use no force. Of course, if your dog is comfortable with being held, you can gently hold its face against yours. Just be careful – if the dog isn’t comfortable you will lose the attitude. Bad photo, and a bad experience – it’s just not worth it!

So it’s a trick. A target-trick. My dogs all know how to target nose against hand, nose against post-it-note, put their chin on the floor (or table…or sofa…) and that made it easy to teach cheek against cheek.

Do you want to teach this to your own dog? Start with a nose-touch. I love Emily Larlhams videos on Kikopup, so here’s how she does it:

It’s quite easy to teach them, and it’s fun! When they get the basic nose-touch it can be a little harder to get them to understand how to do it with other body parts, but time, patience, a bit of shaping, and a lot of treats make it a perfect winter project 😉

Five ways to make your motive stand out!

When I take a photo I always have a main motive, something in the photo I want the viewer to see as the main focus. (Hint: it’s often a dog…) There are a few ways to direct the viewers eyes to the right spot, and I will share my five favourite ways!

Contrast light

This dog is quite small and there is a lot going on in the photo. Yet my eyes are drawn to the dog. Why? Because it stands out – black dog against a bright background. It works just as well with a white dog against a dark background, of course.

Composition – leading lines

This dog has about the same brightness as the background. Here I have used the lines of the tree to bring the eyes toward the dog. It works well!

Composition – frame

Tree branches are good for lots of things, here I use two branches to frame Midoris cute face. There is also a contrast (dark dog bright background) that makes it even more obvious where the main motive is.

Contrast colour

This dog is about the same brightness as the backgrond, but the colours are opposites: orange dog against green grass. It really compliments the dog’s colour as well!

Focus

I saved my favourite for last: make the dog stand out as the sharp object in a soft and blurry photo! Our eyes are drawn to what is sharp, make it your dog (preferrably the eyes)! 🙂 You get this effect with a large aperture, this photo is taken with f/1,2.

Practice makes perfect

There is hardly a day that I don’t photograph, at least with my phone. To make it work when it counts I have to know what I’m doing, not only in my head but in my hands. And the only way to get good at something is to practice.

So I take lots of photos. Lots! Do I save them all? NO! I can come home, flip through my photos on the camera, and erase all of them. Sometimes it just isn’t there. I can bring my camera and just practice focus or composition, or movement, or light, and I already know this is just for practice and I’m probably not going to save anything – I do it anyway. Why? Because when I actually have something in front of my camera that I think is important, the chances that I get the perfect shot are so much bigger Because I know what I’m doing. Because I have practiced.

So that’s what I did today, I went to a dog show with some students, I brought my compact camera, and I practiced shooting agility in bad weather. The photos are as expected not my best work (far from it), but I got to try a few different settings, I got to try and find angles that I could use, and now I’m a bit better than I was this morning!

 

Early mornings

One good thing about autumn is that sunrise is a bit later. My dogs wake up at 6, so we might as well take a walk and let Ola sleep late on the weekends 🙂

I even took my own challenge from last week – the same motive in ten different photos. These are my four favourites:

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And the dogs were really happy to just follow me around. I think they can enjoy the beauty too.

Brighten dark dogs eyes, Lightroom and Photoshop

Often when I photograph dark dogs, I can’t get the light to perfectly enhance their eyes. (It’s hard to do when you are outside and the dog is moving very fast…) But, I can easily fix that in my computer!

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Let me give you a walk-through of my go-to-tips, in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop:

I hope you found some new tricks, and keep experimenting!

Exercise in creativity

Creativity is not something that “just appears”, or that “some have and others don’t”. It’s easier for some, but it really comes down to learning how to think differently. And that is a training thing!

I often do little exercises to boost my own creativity. and I will share a really simple one here:

Take ten photos of the same object, all different. End of instructions.

Now. What can you change? Let me give you some ideas:

  • Composition
  • How big the object is in the frame
  • Light
  • Angle
  • Environment
  • Background
  • Props
  • Depth of field
  • Is it moving or not
  • Focal length

And that’s just when you take the photo. Add editing, and your possibilities are endless…:)

I did this exercise with a tennis ball (to Midoris great joy). Which one do you like the best? (Click on them to see them individually!)

 

So the question is:

Are you up for a creativity challenge?

 

The importance of feedback

When I was just starting out and learning to take photos, I joined a photography page and uploaded some photos (flowers, I think). No reactions. I changed motive and uploaded some self portraits. Quite a few comments…all of them from men (I was about 30 and looked kind of cute) BUT actually some of them were about my photography and not my looks. And two of those were about helping me get better. So I contacted the one I liked the best after looking at his portfolio and asked if he would mentor me a bit. And he said yes.

That was extremely helpful to me – have someone to ask, someone who critiqued my work and pointed out what I needed to improve (everything…), and at the same time was encouraging and kind. We kept in touch for about six months before he wanted to meet and I moved on. (Yes, he knew I was married. No, no nudes, nothing like that. I guess he just took a chance 🙂 )

 

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One of my photos from way back. It has so many flaws…But the motive and the feel of the photo is nice!

After that, I have mostly tried to critique my own work. It works…but it’s hard! And the disadvantage is that I can’t see my photos with someone else’s eyes. I can’t “un-think” my thoughts when I created it. I have tried a few times to get new mentors, but it’s hard! And there really are no e-courses or online classes that are made that way.

So I created one. (Three, actually…but let’s concentrate on the one for now). “Lär dig fotografera hundar” (learn to photograph dogs), at the time only available in Swedish.

I have done this course three times by now, and every time I get to see my students learn how to manage their camera, see the light, choose locations, find a good angle, and improve from newbies to “wow”-photographers. It’s all online. You get four lessons, one every two weeks, and in the meantime, you get me as your mentor. Ask all your questions. Get feedback on your work. Get better, fast!

Sounds interesting? CLICK HERE for a closer look.

No prior experience required. All you need is a camera and a dog!

The first lesson starts 4/9. The price is 130 dollars (about 1.050 sek). Don’t miss it. Learn to take the photos of your dog you want to put on your wall.

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Behind the scenes: create photo art with a piece of cheap fabric

I still have two photos left in the Content Creation Challenge, and this weekend I got some beautiful fabric that gave me an idea for “time”.

Yesterday I worked at school all day, and I felt totally empty when I got home. I love my students, and I give all I have…

So, a perfect time to do something that requires a whole different mindset than teaching! The dogs followed me, curious about what I would do. I really liked this sky, but soon saw that the light didn’t work at all.

So I moved, and soon learned that horses are 1. very curious, and 2. easily scared.

But I got some shots to use, the light was perfect, and I liked the sky even better!

Now, I wanted some extra shots of the fabric and moved to an area with shorter grass. I was careful to use the same angle, to get the same light.

It was windy, and that means I would have to flip the photo later to get the flowy fabric on both sides. Not a problem. Much harder to get the fabric to cooperate! I have 50 shots of me holding fabric in the wind…

And the final photo looks like this:

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I am really pleased, this is almost exactly the image in my head 🙂

So to make this photo you need:

  • Two dogs as company (absolutely necessary for the creative process)
  • Two skittish horses (optional)
  • A piece of fabric, about 100 kronor (10 dollars)
  • Patience
  • A tripod for your camera
  • Remote (I use my phone and Fujis app)
  • More patience and stubbornness
  • A few hours in Photoshop (three, I think it took me)

 

Challenge (almost) completed!

Today is day 15, and I have done my last photo. Well…almost…I’m still two days short, and I will do them. Some day 😉

I have really pushed myself, done things I have never done before, and learned a LOT!

Some photos I’m really proud over. Some not so much. Live and learn 🙂

Here they are, in order!

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And the challenges:

  1. Rebirth – enclosed space (inside my mind)
  2. Emotion – no face (fear)
  3. Endings – door
  4. Beauty – my idea
  5. Spellbound – warm light
  6. Potential – open space
  7. Breaking – shattered (my self esteem)
  8. Curiosity – new location
  9. Being alive – rope
  10. Pressure – water
  11. Forgotten – paper
  12. Flight – wings (mine are made of light)
  13. Growth – myself

Some of these are very emotional to me, and I have put a little (or a lot) of myself in every one of them (visible or not).

What have I learned?

Apart from the technical stuff (thank you, youtube!) I have started THINKING differently. And that is always interesting! Let’s see where it leads…:)