Archive for October, 2011

Photojournalist Robert Capa (1913 – 1954) once said,

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

I have been thinking about this statement since I read it in Robert Hirsch’s Light and Lens: Photography for the Digital Age (strongly recommended resource). There is great wisdom in this one statement. Consider, which photos looks better, Picture 1 or Picture 2 below?  Which shows the most drama and captivates your eye?  The tendency is to try to capture all the action and/or the entire Schutzhund field, thus providing too much information and no focal point for the photograph. When composing pictures, think about what it is you want to show – not just the action but the mood, the drama, the overall emotional impression. What are you trying to say to the viewer or would like the viewer to take away from your photo? What I hope these questions will elicit is a shift in focus (pun intended) and for you to consider looking beyond your photographs as just great action shots, but approaching your Schutzhund photography as creating art.

Picture 1 - Dog Playing Ball Far Away

Picture 2 - Dog Playing Ball Up Close

Speaking of creating art, there is a new trend in Schutzhund photography of using selective coloring. I really like this technique, as it is a very effective method to de-emphasize the background and dramatically emphasize the key subjects (action) in the photo. Creating selective colored images is not hard. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, here is a quick tutorial. If you are not familiar with Photoshop and need more detail, please message me with your e-mail address, and I’ll send you an expanded tutorial with everything you need to know.

Open the photo in Photoshop.

  1. Make any necessary adjustments to the image.
  2. Create a Hue – Saturation Adjustment Layer on top of the image layer.
  3. Slide the Saturation slider all the way to the left to create a black and white photo.
  4. Using the magic selection brush / wand, select the area you wish to color.
  5. Using the eraser tool (and make sure the brush color is white and the brush saturation is 100 percent), brush the selected area to bring back the color from the layer below. What you are doing is erasing the Hue / Saturation layer mask. By selecting the area first, you can brush freely over the area without concern that you’ll erase more than you wish to.
  6. De-select the selection. You can clean up any missed areas (such as areas that didn’t get selected) by making the eraser brush smaller. If you make a mistake, change the brush color to black, which will add the Hue / Saturday layer mask back in.

A cautionary note: As this technique is easy and fun to do, it is tempting to use it frequently. Be careful not to overdo, less your photos begin to look all the same. This is definitely a technique where less is more. Also, this technique works well with photos where the selected color area is strongly contrasted with the background; that is, selectively coloring a black or dark sable dog on a dark background may not be as effective as selectively coloring a tan or lighter sable dog. Selectively coloring shadowed areas also may not work as well for the same reason. Of course, the opposite is true. If you have a very light background, selectively coloring a black or dark sable dog may work just fine.

The following two pictures are examples of this technique, as well as the power of getting close yielding good photos.

In the image above, I really like the spectators watching the training. Schutzhund cannot be learned entirely from books and videos; it is very much an oral tradition. So watching the training is as important as actually doing the training. This photo depicts this, but I didn’t want the viewer’s eye to be drawn too much to the crowd, less it take away from the dog and helper engaged in the moment right before the re-attack. Also, notice that the crowd is in the upper left of the photo. This is the first place most western viewers will look, as we read left to right. The spectators’ eyes take the viewer to the dog and helper, and the dog’s eyes lead the viewer to the point of the whole exercise to get to the sleeve (at least from the dog’s point of view).

I tried mightily to remove the truck and post from the photo above, but I couldn’t get it to look just right, so I decided to leave it in. By selectively coloring the dog, I was able to de-emphasize the undesirable elements in the background and bring the viewers’ focus (yes, another focus pun) to the dog. I also wanted to emphasize this dog’s gorgeous coloring and eyes. Another option would be to move the dog to another background.

Let me know if you have any questions and if the tips in this posting help you. As always, thank you for visiting!

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