Photography Week: Get Creative

Welcome to Photography Week where we’re covering all things photography! We’re wrapping up after discussing the basics to capturing a good photo, manual settings for a DSLR camera, tips for improving your photos, and post-processing pointers. Thanks for stopping by this week, and I hope you’ve had as much fun learning as I did writing!

We all love having pictures of our pets, right? Sure, you can snap some when there are family gatherings or when you and your friends go out for a hike or maybe even when you’re out in the yard with them. But have you ever considered having your own little in-home studio shoot with them? Let me guess: you’re thinking, “Oh, I can’t do that, I don’t have the gear for that set up.” Think again. Some of my favorite photos have come from using nothing but my pet and a solid colored bed sheet!

I grabbed this old comforter at work and put it up in front of a desk, and voilà! You have a backdrop. I mentioned Monday that you should try to use clutter-free, non-distracting backgrounds. Well here is the perfect way to create that! It’s easy and it results in some unique photos compared to what you might be used to taking.



Bobbi02Sure, sometimes it doesn’t always go as planned (like everything else involving dogs) but I love the look of a backdrop. Take a big sheet and put it in front of table, keep it secured with a few piles of books and then arm yourself with lots and lots of treats.

Photography is all about letting your creativity come through in a photo. Even within one simple setting there are hundreds of ways to alter it; to try something a bit different. I think the most fun I’ve had while learning my way around my Canon is getting to put my own personal perspective into my work, both through what and how I photograph subjects.  Things like trying backdrops and messing with composition and playing with different depths of field and even dressing up my dogs are all avenues that have helped to shape my preferences as a photographer.  You too will see your own creative strengths shine through your photos the more and more you practice.

Can’t get much more creative than this (I know it’s a little premature for Valentine’s Day but we were talking about backdrops and I couldn’t help but think about Baxter’s little hiney in these shorts!):


Happy Friday, everyone!

Photography Week: Intro & Basics

After a year and a half of messing around with my Canon EOS 40D camera, I can finally say I am in full blown I-love-you-and-can’t-live-without-you mode with photography.  I find myself not only working every day to improve my own photos, but also studying every aspect of photos I see in my every day life, from advertisements to the portfolios of professional photographers, and noting what I like or dislike about them.

I am still amateur, and most of the time I feel like I’m the most amateur of all the amateurs, but the truth is that I’ve learned a TON over the last year about how to work your camera and capture a good photograph.  This week on the blog will be dedicated to photography. I will cover many aspects of photographing animals, starting with the basics to post-processing and end results.

I would never have gotten anywhere without starting with the basics when photographing my foster dogs.  I think it was Love & a Six-Foot Leash that first turned me on to some of the best petography tips I’ve learned, and they’ve stuck with me ever since.  It doesn’t matter what camera you use at this point – a point & shoot or a DSLR – these tips are mostly about controlling aspects besides your camera.

My top tips for photographing pets are as follows (and a lot of them you’ve probably heard before, like on Kate with a Camera, whose awesome blog is much more photography-based than mine):

1. Turn your flash OFF!  Everyone’s gotten a picture of their pups (or cat or bunny) looking like a demon with bright, reflective eyes. Not only does the flash screw with the light in an animal’s eyes, it often reflects off their fur and, in my opinion, creates an unnatural shiny look.  To make sure your photos still turn out well without a flash, move either outdoors or into a spot in your home by a window with lots of natural light.

With a flash: Zee’s fur is shiny and if she looked at the camera she’d have reflective eyes.


Without a flash: Zee is much more natural looking, and you can see more of the soft details or her eyes and fur.


2. Use lots of treats! Or squeaky toys, or tennis balls – whatever your dog will fixate on while you quickly capture the shot. In general, I put the treat in front of their nose with my left hand so they know I have it and then bring it up directly above the lens so that they are looking right at the camera.  The bait has to be pretty high value so that it keeps their attention long enough for you to get a few good photos.  This is how we catch those dreamy “I could stare into your eyes forever” pictures – you know, the ones that really draw adopters in ;-).

In addition to treats, I often use very high-pitched, odd noises to get the animal’s attention. You look like an absolute lunatic screeching and squealing at your subject, but it really gets good results. In the same vein, I try to avoid using their name – I’ve heard and noticed that they’re more inclined to ignore their name quicker than a noise they’re not used to hearing.


3. Be aware of your background – and try to make it as distraction free as possible.  Sometimes you don’t have control over your background, but if you do, see if you can take photos somewhere with a solid backdrop (which is tough to do) or at least a clean and clutter free location.  If I’m outside I really like to shoot against the green grass or even fallen leaves because it makes most dogs pop out of the photo. If I’m inside, I try to avoid areas of my house that are very messy. The shot below of Baxter is cute, but I find the background very distracting. The one following it of Sinclair is an example of how you can use a natural backdrop for your photos.

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Sinclair is still waiting for his forever home! See how perfect of a dog he is in my posts about when he stayed with my family for a few days.

While those three tips are simple, they can make all the difference!  Tomorrow I’ll discuss some advanced adjustments for a DSLR camera.  Many people shoot in auto because they don’t understand manual options, but once you learn about how the settings work and how they can improve your photos, you won’t ever want to go back to automatic!

Snow Dayyy!

I somehow managed to avoid any snow around Christmas, even though my hometown got dumped on Christmas Eve while I was headed up north where snow is supposed to be inevitable, yet wasn’t. When I went to visit Mark’s parents my luck changed, and we got an entire day’s worth of thick, fresh powder.  By Saturday afternoon his neighborhood was blanketed in white.

We took my two favorite golden furballs out to play in the snow after we finished shoveling the driveway.  They love the snow just like we do, and right away started pouncing and digging around the fresh piles.  Their favorite thing to do is try to catch snow balls we throw in the air. Profitta is getting a little old for it, but Seamus is still as athletic as ever.

I didn’t have my Canon on this trip so Mark’s dad let me borrow his Nikon D5000. It was a lot of fun using another type of camera, even though I had to shoot in auto because I could not for the life of me figure out how to change any settings (which also made me so appreciate my Canon’s manual option!). The Nikon was a really neat little camera, and took some awesome photos.

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We hope those of you who got some snow enjoyed it with your pets – whether it was playing outside or snuggling up on the couch inside.

Happy last day of 2012!