How to take a self-portrait with your dog

I think EVERYBODY should have a portrait of you with your dog! You have the option of hiring a photographer (excellent choice!), asking a friend (can turn out absolutely fabulous or really bad), or taking the photo yourself: a self-portrait. That’s what I have done today.

 

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Mårran and me

 

I make a difference between “selfie” and “self-portrait” in this blog post. Of course, a selfie IS a self-portrait, of a special kind! And I love a good, funny, original selfie! I don’t think it’s less valuable, or easier to take, just different.

The difference is (according to me): “selfie” is when you hold your phone/camera/selfie-stick in your hand, look at yourself in the display, and take the photo. “Self-portrait” is when you make a set-up, place your camera, and use the timer or a remote to take the photo. Advantage: you don’t have to try and hold your camera, and that makes you free to set the scene and pose as you like. Disadvantage: it’s harder to get the focus right, and you can’t see what you are shooting.

When I started photographing I took a lot of self-portraits. I was the only model around, I had no choice if I wanted to photograph humans! Then I got bored with my appearance and started shooting other things instead. Dogs mostly. But I gained valuable experience – and I will share my simple setup that I have used ever since.

  1. Choose your location and camera settings to get the effect you want.
  2. Place the camera on a tripod (or a chair or table).
  3. Put something at the spot where you are going to be. Whatever.
  4. Focus your camera on that thing, and then switch to manual focus. That way your camera will stay focused at the same distance.
  5. Press 10-second timer or use a remote.
  6. Place yourself where the thing was. Strike a pose (vogueing is optional). Wait for the click, or press the remote.
  7. Check how the photo turned out, make adjustments, redo as many times a necessary.

 

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Midori and me

With a dog, it’s easier – leave out the thing to focus on, instead put your dog where you want it to be, focus on the dog, switch to manual, press the trigger, and join your dog. That is how I did these two 🙂

I have one photo missing: Valle and me. That is because Valle does not like it when I get too close. He likes to be close to me – but it has to be his choice, and he has to be the one closing in. I will need another person holding the camera for that photo!

I challenge you: take a self-portrait with your dog. Do it now. It may take a few tries to get a good shot – but it’s worth it. I mean, it’s going to be a portrait of you and your dog!

That. Is. Priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use your feet to get more variation in your photos!

Last Friday I had an amazing photo session with Jixxa, and I have shown one photo already.

The photos are not finished yet – I will do a “fairytale-edit” on the ones the owner chooses- but I want to use them to make a point.

All photos in this session are shot in the forest. I wanted to use a shutterspeed at 1/150 because dogs tend to move a bit even in portraits, and I wanted ISO as low as possible to reduce noise and bring out the best quality. So I used my 50mm f/1,2 during the whole session (I used a smaller aperture than 1,2 at times).

That means no zoom.

Let’s look at some of the photos (remember, not fully edited yet!)

I want you to notice the variation. Not only in the pose, angle, and background (this place is absolutely fabulous and gives me all these backdrops in 100 meters) but in how close to the dog I am = how much of the environment is showing!

I shoot in gorgeous nature. Of course, I want that to show! But not in ALL photos.

When I do a session like this, I try to get some different kind of photos. Here is my mental checklist:

  • “Behind the scenes”, when the owner is working with the dog
  • Headshot
  • Full body shot
  • Environment-shot with dogs focus on me
  • Environment-shot of dog basically being dog
  • And I LOVE to do portraits of dog and owner together!

I find that basic list brings life to the shoot, and make sure that I “tell a story” with the photos.

So I encourage you to use your feet. Not only your zoom – your feet. See what happens!

 

Use natural frames to make your photo look better!

“Framing” is actually a term in photography, and it’s an easy way to direct the viewers focus to the main object. It’s easy to do – use a door, a window, or do what I do – use nature!

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The leafs on top and the tree-branch underneath makes a nice frame for this beautiful kooiker.

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Trees are great for framing! Be sure to choose an angle where the dog i between trees – a tree that looks like it’s growing out of her head is not flattering.

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Sometimes you find a “real” frame – a peephole of some kind. Use a small aperture to get the whole photo sharp!

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The frame doesn’t have to be in front of or beside the dog – it can be behind! The idea is to lead the eyes to the dog.

_DSF9181-wThis training obstacle makes a great frame!

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And with the right lighting, even straw can frame a small kitten.

I’m sure you can think of a million other things that you can use to frame your dog in a photo. (Ok, not a million, but say…ten? That takes you far!)

Try it! I really think you will like it! And it’s easy – just open your eyes and open your mind, and you will start to see possibilities everywhere!

 

PSD, JPEG, TIFF…the short guide to choosing the right file format for your image.

I have finished editing my photo, and it looks good. I want to save it. Now…what file format to choose? Why are there so many? And most importantly:

which one should I choose?

 

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Don’t ask me! I have no idea!

 

Well…The formats exist for a reason. And which one you should choose depends on what you want to do with the photo!

I will give a short description of the ones I use:

PSD is Photoshops own format. It saves your image, and your editing: the layers, the history. Perfect if you want to keep working on it! But hat also means that the files are large, and there will be programs that can’t open them. Suitable as long as you stay in PS!

TIFF is your photo, uncompressed. Can be read by every program, and I have used it when I have sent photos that will be printed in a book (to make sure they can use the file in their program).

JPEG is the most common choice when the photo is done. When you save you choose size and quality depending on if you want to print it or share it on the web or send it to someone. Most programs can read it without problems.

PNG is for graphics, line art, or images with a lot of text. It is also perfect for images with transparency or fading (like logos).

PDF is for when I make downloadable price lists or “mini books” with text and images. The files are big, but it looks good!

So, to summon:

Want to make more changes? PSD

Need to send it to someone who might use it in another program? TIFF

Done with your photo? JPEG

Made a logo or an image with a lot of text? PNG

Made a price list that you want people to download? PDF

 

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I’m almost always in JPEG!

 

Hope that helps a bit! It covers the most common scenarios, and help you avoid little mistakes (like saving an unfinished photo in JPEG…been there, done that!). And when in doubt: save it twice in different formats!

Dog Parkour Week

This week has been Dog Parkour Week for me. I have trained with my own dog, I have started the road to becoming an instructor, and as a part of that, I have trained two other dogs as well.

This is Banjo:

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Fun-loving, enthusiastic, meatball-fanatic, and really easy to train.

And this is Yapp:

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A bit fearful and suspicious, but slowly starting to warm up to me. A dog with a lot of integrity, and I feel honoured that he is now wagging his tail when he sees me, and allow me to feed him by hand.

And of course, I wanted to take some photos that show the two parkour-dogs!

Banjo was easy.

These photos show (or at least I hope so) the body-control, balance, strength, and self-control that is needed in dog parkour. To be willing to put their paws on different surfaces, and to know where each paw is. (When I train this we use a harness and a leash, to make sure that I can support the dog if he/she put a paw wrong. These poses, however, are really simple for Banjo.)

And Yapp was a bit harder. It was important to me that he is happy, so ears need to be in front, tail high, and posture alert. I wanted to combine that with a portrait, dog parkour-style. This is what I came up with (and I’m really happy with it!):

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To put the front paws on something is a basic parkour-move, and the facial expression is absolutely perfect!

Now, I could not have taken these photos without help. A good owner is key when you want to take portraits of other people’s dogs!

Behind the scenes:

A lot of praise, a solid “stay” and a lot of meatballs…

Typical parkour poses to try:

  • Front paws on something
  • Standing or sitting on top of something
  • Back paws on something
  • Begging pose
  • Bow down pose
  • Balancing on something

Just remember to be fair to your dog – train BEFORE you try to photograph. It’s so worth the time to have a well-trained behaviour when you reach for your camera, and it’s FUN!

 

 

How to make a silhouette photo

Summertime the skies here in Sweden are often fantastic – at sunset with purple, pink, orange, or when a storm is closing in and beautiful clouds are dark and every shade of grey imaginable. Even a bright blue summer day, with some fluffy clouds making a pattern across the sky.

I love to photograph the sky. And what I love even more, is when there is a silhouette of a dog in the photo.

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Your camera is made to give you correctly exposed photos. A silhouette photo is not “correct”, and that means you will have to tell the camera to underexpose the photo. Often at least two full steps, maybe more.

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Also important is that the form that is the silhouette is easy to read. A dog with hanging ears from the front – not so good. Same dog in profile – much better! You need to immediately see that the silhouette is a dog.

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You can even make a silhouette photo during the day, all you need to do is underexpose the photo enough. I usually “help” the photo along in Lightroom, use the “dehaze” slider to brighten the colours, increase contrast, and paint in black where I need to.

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Sometimes it’s more beautiful to make an “almost-silhouette”, where you can still see some colours and details. Especially if the sky is an even colour without clouds.

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To summon up:

  • Underexpose as much as you need to
  • Choose “exciting” skies with many colours and some clouds
  • Make sure the dog makes a silhouette that is easy to read
  • Try the dehaze-slider to make the colours “pop” even more
  • Sometimes it’s better to leave some colour and detail in the dog.

Get out there and try! Good luck!

 

Will your dog live forever?

Of course not. That, I think, is the one mistake God made when he made dogs: they don’t live as long as we do…

My eldest dog is 14 years old. I am very aware of the fact that she will not live forever. But I find comfort in the fact that her memory will stay alive, and as long as anyone remembers her she is not really gone.

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Why do I think about this today? Because yesterday I was reminded that not only old dogs eventually leave us – freak accidents happen and my dog can grow wings and cross the rainbow bridge at any time. I know this. But the risk of it happening is small, and I don’t think about it. I mean – anything can happen. I could die today. That does not mean I should be afraid of death, but rather that I should embrace life.

But in one aspect I do think about it, perhaps only in my subconscious mind: I photograph my dogs. A lot. For sure every week, and almost every day.

Because one of my dogs, my Jack Russel Terrier, is already waiting for me on the other side – and I have found a great comfort and joy in looking at pictures of her!

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Photos trigger my memory, and my feelings.

As a dog photographer, I sometimes photograph old dogs. I talk to the owner about the dog’s personality, and then I try to capture some of that personality in a photograph. I always work extra hard, because I know how important that photo may be in a few years time. Or maybe just a few weeks.

 

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Sometimes it’s the love and affection in a look.

 

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Sometimes we find the playfulness from younger years.

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes dignity and wisdom shine through.

 

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And sometimes it’s the love for that sunny spot on the floor.

 

 

How may photos do you have to remember your dog by?

Get some more.

The joy of snapshots and an imperfect life

Some of my all time favourite photos are bad photos. Messy background, really poor light, blurry…But I love them anyway because I love the content.

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The faces…the faces! ❤

So I use the camera on my phone a lot. A Lot! To capture the moments that are Life.

 

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Happy Esther!

I print them and put them in my journal because they make me happy. Or I keep them in my wallet.

 

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Mårran, on a morning walk about five years ago. This morning I searched for her because she got lost in the high grass…Memories!

So…what is this post about?

The quest for perfectionism. And how I really, really, REALLY think that it’s a quest no one should be on. “Perfect” is boring. “Perfect” is blocking our creativity. The quest for “perfect” cripples us, and make us afraid to do anything at all.

 

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One of the few photos I have of my family, that shows us just the way we are, Relaxed. Enjoying each other’s company. Is it a “good” photo? NO! But to me – priceless.

And I think it’s a mindset that goes deeper than photography…

If you are afraid to fail, how do you get the courage to try? And let me tell you a secret: Nobody cares except you! (At least nobody that matters.) People, in general, are forgiving, and they don’t judge you for making a mistake. Most of the time they don’t even get that it’s a mistake at all…

Life is imperfect. Life is about being imperfect, and loving the imperfections. Through the cracks, the light shines in…

So relax. Dip your toes in the water of imperfection (a bit farfetched, I know, but I really wanted to show the photo of Valle dipping his paw…)

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Take a snapshot. Allow yourself to love it. Forget to be perfect. Live.

 

 

 

The Creative Kelpie

First of all: big news! I have decided to keep things nice and tidy in my head, so BuJo for dog owners (and for everybody else) is getting a blog of its own. Visit TheCreativeKelpie and see for yourself! Sorry about the double posting, I promise that it will only be new material from now on!

So, this blog post is about how you can use the fact that your dog is creative. And by “creative” I mean that he or she thinks for him/herself, and finds stuff to do. I also mean that you may be creative together, and train fun tricks!

My kelpies are very creative. I love to just follow them around and observe, and see what they do!

A little patience goes a long way…Sooner or later they will forget that I am there, and do something kelpie-ish! (And as you can see in the first photo – the technique works with every breed!)

The trick is to be ready when that happens. I often bring my camera along for walks, and I always check my settings to match the light. My standard settings during a walk are 1/400 (handles slower action), f/2,8 (I like short DOF), and ISO 200, but I always adjust to the light! I normally use AF-C to be sure to get focus quickly even if my dogs are on the move. Want to learn more about

(Want to learn more about camera settings? Look HERE  for tips on portraits, and HERE fo tips on action. And don’t forget ISO!

The other type of creativity is a bit more planned. I teach my dogs to trick-pose! Well…at least one of them 😉

I’m sure your dog knows some cute tricks. Sometimes it’s hard to get the dog to hold the pose while you take the photo, a tripod and a remote are good investments.

 

Bullet journal for dog trainers – where do you start?

When I do things I have a tendency to overdo things (it’s more fun that way). Bullet Journaling is no exception…I now have my everyday green leuchtturm 1917, I have one for my dogs, I have just started one for my business, and last week I laid my hands on this beauty: a Midori Travelers Notebook. Hey, I GOT to have a Midori! I mean…it’s MY DOG! It’s just meant to be. And the Midori paperclips are shaped just like her.

 

I haven’t really started it yet, but I got all my wonderful students to leave me a message at graduation in it. That makes me happy! 🙂

And, yesterday, I did something I have thought about for…well almost two weeks! I started a “show-and-tell” BuJo that I will use to show you and tell you about BuJo for dog trainers! I even started an Instagram called “BuJofordogtrainers”. Spread the word, there is a need!

So…why plan your dog-life? I am a firm believer of “Think – Plan – Do” when it comes to dog training. I have written extensively about that (in Swedish) here, and I have written about setting goals for your training (also Swedish) here.

“Without a plan, your goals are just dreams.” /unknown

So, I have planned my training for the last 7-8 years, in different ways. In Bullet Journaling I have found a system flexible and simple enough for my needs, and it’s really, really fun!

So first step – you need a notebook and a pen. Any notebook. Any pen. It. Does. Not. Matter. Wich. One. As long as you start 🙂

I like pretty things, and I’m a shopoholic, so I get stuff all the time. Not because I need it, but because I WANT it. There’s a difference! But as I buy and test stuff, I might as well share it with everyone. It makes me happy to do so, and as I enjoy watching other people’s tests I guess some of you will enjoy mine.

So for this project I chose a black Nuuna with dot grid, as I want to colour a lot the thicker paper works really well.

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So far I have used my Tombows and Stabilo 88, and a Frixion clicker 0,5. And a ruler. You do not, I repeat DO NOT have to draw or write pretty or use a lot of colors. I do because I love to do it, not because it makes me a better dog trainer. But planning and evaluating my training does make me a better dog trainer, and I think it’s more fun this way.

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The first pages are my Index. The index tells me where to find stuff. The index allowes me to put everything literally on the next available page, because the pages all have numbers (if they don’t I write the numbers), and I find that really great. i love the feeling of “organised chaos” of NOT having everything in neat piles but STILL be able to find it.

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In my previous journals (because I have had so many… just kidding – I have NOT, but I’m a fast learner) I just played by ear and wrote the pages down as I went along. That works fine, but I already know some spreads I want and I have chosen to categorise a bit. So the first column spread, the next column page(s). As I need more space (or want to do it differently) I add pages. Dog facts may appear at page 8, 15, and 106, depending on if I want to add more fact and need more space. But it will only be listed once. Get it? (I’m sure you do, you’re not stupid! But if you don’t that’s my fault for not explaining it right – please ask so I can get better.)

And the next thing I love is the key.

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The key is a reminder of symbols, and mean I can write less and still get what I mean. I can use colours (Midori is green, Valle is blue) to easily see wich dog does what. The washi tape will be used around the edge of the paper to show which category, so if I want to look at “everyday stuff” I look at the yellow pages. Easy-peasy.

“Migrate” means that I planned a task we did not do, so I move it ahead. To the next day, next week, or…never. The arrow makes sure that I make a choice.

“Look out” means that I see a small thing in ur training that I need to work with or just monitor in the future.

And the flowers are because they are pretty and I like colouring.

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Those of you that follow me on Instagram may feel a little confused at the moment… This is how it works:

@kelpiephotography is my photo-insta. Here you will find photos from my work as a photographer.

@TheCreativeKelpie is my personal Insta. I post things I like. A lot of it BuJo-related.

@BuJoforDogtrainers is my Insta for…well…this! Bullet Journaling for dog trainers!

And @MidoriThePrincess you find Midoris own Insta.

I would love for you to follow me! I hope to be as inspiring for you as the ones I follow are for me 🙂

And…there is the FB-group (swedish) Bullet Journal för hundtränare. Join it, it’s awesome. If I get enough followers on Insta, or I see that this blog gets attention, I’ll host an english-speaking FB-group as well. Tell your dog-loving friends!