Changing gear

 

I feel like I’m cheating on my camera.

I have always been a “sony-girl” from the day I fell in love with my a350 almost ten years ago. Today I’m in a steady relationship with a sony a77II, and we have had some good times! Always there, always working hard, always delivering good quality. And the raw-files are just…yummy!

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But four months ago I met Fujifilm XT-2.

You know how it is…someone you know tells you about that “new friend” that they really like. Kind of “Haaaave you met…?” And you can’t help but look, and chitchat a bit. You don’t want to be impolite! Next thing you know you sold your second camera and is in the store listening to a salesman praising Fuji. And you try it…even though you know you shouldn’t…

I’m sorry my darling Sony, but our love story has to end. I will still keep your little sister RX100 v, so I’m not “sony-less”, but I will have to let you move on to someone who will love and appreciate you for the fantastic camera that you are. It’s not you – it’s me…We just grew apart. I will always treasure the time we had, and I hope we can stay friends.

We will always have Fuerteventura.

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(What do you mean “It’s just a camera”? The relation between photographer and camera goes much deeper than that. Or maybe I’m a bit odd. Again.)

 

Dreams of future pasts

“What do you want to remember in five years time?”

A friend of mine asked me that question, as we spoke about my new puppy and what I wanted to do with her. Competition, what sport, etc. That is four years ago.

I thought it was an odd question, so I began thinking about it. Now, four years later, I think it’s a great question! What are my most cherished memories with her? Well…a lot of fun training. A few competitions. But mostly…life together. When she snuggles up in the middle of the night, with a sock in her mouth, just glad to see me. How she sleeps in my lap as we watch TV. That she loves toys, and treats, and jumping up in my arms, and lick my face. How she found a bag of fruit and vegetables and played with it whe she was home alone, and we came home to a sofa covered in grapes, zucchini arranged on the table, lettuce leafs all over the floor, and one happy pup (we laughed. What can you do?).

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Cutest pup ever!

So, as I thought about what I thought I wanted to remember, and how it differed from my actual favourite memories, I learned about myself and what is really important to me. Self-insight. Really useful 🙂

And I expanded the concept. What do I want to remember, not only from my time with my dog but from my life, in five years time?

“Well…I worked a lot. Fun? Yes, sometimes. Not what I really wanted to do though, but…you know…got to pay the bills. Travel? Yes, some. Funny, I always thought I would travel more. See the world, you know? But there was really never the time, with the house and all.”

No. That is so not me. I won’t let it be. If you want something, work for it!

And right now, I truly believe that in five years time I really want to remember that I left my teaching job, made it as an online teacher and photographer and can work from anywhere, and live part time in an RV with my husband and dogs.

This is my future home (or something like this, we won’t buy one until next year):

 

That’s the plan right now. Let’s see what happens. Sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes you just change your mind for whatever reason, but right now – this is the start of getting to a life that I don’t want to take a vacation from 🙂

A new life…

Two weeks ago I met the most adorable couple, their dog, and a child waiting to enter this world. The love and the connection was so strong, and I feel blessed to have had the honour of capturing these moments.

And they had a dog, of course 🙂

What wisdom do I want to share with this post? None. I just love the photos, and hope they bring you joy. Take care of your loved ones!

In my life as a photographer, right here right now

I’ve had two busy weeks, and feel like I’m playing catchup right now…and it will probably be like this for another week.

Last week I had four big dog related photo sessions and one without dogs, and I am so grateful I get to do what I love! Pregnant and Staffordshire terrier, wedding and pinscher, three beautiful retrievers,  9 different dogs at mini sessions at my dog club, and portraits and group photo at a confirmation in my local church.

I haven’t had time to edit more than a handful yet – but next week is all about editing! Here’s a small taste of what to come:

This week so far, I have been working around the clock with my upcoming video course for Moderskeppet. How to photograph dogs in action! But now I think all the material is filmed, all the photos are in, and all the voiceovers are recorded. Now my part is done, and the editor I work with makes the magic happen and the course comprehensible. I am really proud – it is some great stuff in there!

And today I’m focusing all my attention on my other job, as a schoolteacher, and will oversee and help my students at a camp where they learn clicker training this week. I look forward to meeting my colleagues at Glädjeklick 🙂

And I’d like to finish with a cliffhanger…We are going to look at an RV this weekend… Why? Wait and see!

 

How to pose your dog, three simple poses that stand out!

Posing a dog is different from posing a human, because the anatomy is different. With dogs you have to consider ears and nose, and they may not take directions very well.

To really get the Tops Dog portraits, you have to know your breed. What is this dog supposed to look like? Which features do you want to exaggerate? A bulldog is not the same as a greyhound.

But, you don’t have to get that advanced. Most of the time you just want to take a portrait of you furry friend! What matters most to me when I photograph my dogs is that they look happy, alert, and like they are enjoying themselves.

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Ears: in front. Even dogs with heavy ears have muscles at the ear base that makes them look more alert.

Eyes: calm or engaged. Looking at the camera, or calmly looking at something interesting.

Posture: Relaxed, interested, or alert.

Mouth: I love dog-smiles or mischief-lips…A closed mouth is better than a stressed panting mouth. Yawns are really cute on photo, but usually means that the dog is starting to get stressed – time for a break.

Pose one – “I love you mom!”

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A portrait from above, with large aperture. Focus on the eyes. A treat on the camera gets the look just right.

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Works really nice as a close up that really brings out the eyes (f/1,2). If you want the nose blurry or sharp is up to you, use a smaller aperture to get the whole head sharp.

Pose two: “Nose down”

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Again with a large aperture. This requires some training in advance. Perfect to put some flowers in the foreground!

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You can always take this photo when the dog is tired and near sleep, if it doesn’t put the nose down on command.

Pose three: simple profile

Dogs with really long noses often look nice in profile. It’s easy: a helper with a treat does the trick 🙂

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You can also turn the head a bit towards the camera, to get variation.

There you have it. Three really simple poses! Try them with your dog. Let me know which one is your favourite!

 

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 🙂

Can I tempt you with more news and offers? Join my newsletter! I solemnly swear that I will not spam you 😉 I´ll even give you a free cheatsheet with what camerasettings to use!

 

 

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!

CLICK HERE

 

 

 

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?