Christina and Fant the Fant-astic!

I’ ve known Christina on the web since she took one of my online classes, and I’ve admired her work. She and her beautiful cocker Fant lives in Paris at the moment (enjoy her insta! ), and as they were passing by Sweden she asked for a private session. Some new ideas on street photography, and how to pose Fant in order to not make him look posed, was on the wish list.

We met in Västra Hamnen in Malmö (a beautiful part of the city, do not miss when passing by!). I know the area fairly well, and as Christina wanted to work with the composition of lines and shapes with her 16mm wide-angle, I added the idea “dog goes on an adventure in town” to give a bit of backstory.

And then we got to work. For me, one of the keys is to really “work through” an area. Different angles, compositions distances, poses…Little by little that makes me realise what I want from this scene, and I often end up with something completely different than my original idea. So that’s what I had Christina doing.

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Fant is a very well trained model, and seemed to really enjoy himself! Lots of treats were involved 🙂

We deliberately chose poses that did NOT involve looking into the camera. The idea was to capture Fant’s view of the town – how would a dog explore? If he was a bit adventurous, and more about seeing than sniffing (I know, it’s not super realistic, but the images get better…)?

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This part of town has lots of big windows, and that means lots of reflections. So much fun to play with!

Of course, a dog visiting Malmö would want to look at the sea and the bridge to Copenhagen. We got him to look in the right direction with a little help from some strategically arranged treats.

I really liked the idea of him lying almost like a statue, overlooking the city with the Turning Torso behind him. Him – not so much…But hey, anything for Mom!

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And my last one of a very warm and tired Fant. He did not actually seek that shadow by himself, we put him there. It still tells the story 🙂

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My shots are a bit haphazard, I wasn’t there to shoot but to teach and give feedback and suggestions. I know Christina got some really good ones, and can’t wait to see them!

So. Lesson learned:

  • What’s the story?
  • Try, try, try!
  • Change something in every shot
  • Leading lines
  • Diagonals
  • Rule of thirds
  • Play with reflections
  • Avoid poses that look posed
  • Work with the light, make the subject stand out
  • Don’t be afraid to go close
  • Don’t be afraid to back up
  • Keep the dog happy!

And to finish: keep your eyes open. What happens around you?

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Halloween is closing in!

I love to do theme-photos. Halloween is extra fun because there are no limits! Inspired by a favourite book this is my Halloween contribution for this year. I hope you like it!

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It’s a bit obvious, I know, but it was a lot of fun! Happy Halloween everybody!

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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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 😉

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…:)

 

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!