Archive for September, 2012

No doubt about it, silhouettes and Schutzhund photography are meant for each other. The action and fields (tracking and stadium) lend themselves to some great silhouette opportunities, especially given the lighting at day break for tracking and harsher, brighter light at the stadium. Below are a couple of examples of silhouette images taken recently at the Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Association club field.



Even though these images are dramatic and show the action in a different way than the usual Schutzhund image, there is still more than can be done to give silhouettes an artsy look. By layering textures and backgrounds and using Photoshop’s ability to blend these layers with the original image, the image can take on a different life and look. Consider the image below:


This is a very nice photo, especially if the parking lot at the top is removed. It’s an effective way to show a black dog’s retrieve in a dramatic, pleasing way. Yet, there is more than can be done to add dimension and texture to the image. By using Photoshop (or another photo editing program that has blending layer capabilities) to add layers and blend them, some very interesting effects may be achieved. The image below is a good illustration:


Same photo, but with the parking lot removed. A couple of layers were added, including two images of a sunrise. These were then blended and the opacity reduced to about 50 percent. Then, two filters were added each in a separate layer: one for oil painting and the other for fibers. These two were blended and the opacity reduced. The layers were merged to create the final image. Photoshop offers many blending and filter options, so no one image will likely be the same as another, and it is very much a personal choice of what types of textures, blending options, filters and opacity levels to use.

For a helpful overview of these techniques, see Stephanie Laird’s Artistic Elements e-books. These are written for Photoshop Elements, but the techniques can be adapted to Photoshop or other photo editing programs. So, get creative and share your results!

Until next time, happy shooting.

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As the first taste of fall is knocking at my doorstep (yes – even here in Georgia, the next few days will feature gorgeous warm days and cool, crisp nights), summer’s incredibly bright sunlight still haunted me today at the Greater Atlanta Schutzhund Association club field. The challenge, of course, is the grass, which with the morning dew becomes highly reflective. Rather than become annoyed, today I tried something different – silhouettes!

Classical silhouette photography features a part of the image blacked out, with the brighter background that also is in focus. The blacked-out part of the image has well-defined edges. To achieve this look, be sure the sun is directly behind your subject, in other words back lit. Focus the camera on the background and set the exposure for the brightest part of the image. A large aperture opening (f/8 or higher) will bring the background into focus as well. At sunrise or sunset, try focusing the camera at the sky to the side of the sun. Keep the aperture set and use the shutter speed to get the desired exposure.

For today, I elected not to have the dog be all black as in a traditional silhouette, but to allow some color and detail of dog to come through. I used aperture priority at f/5.6 at ISO 800 to expose for the background. With traditional silhouette photography, a longer exposure may be needed, especially at sunrise or sunset, to achieve the classic look with well-defined edges. As long exposures are not possible with dogs at work, the best bet is to set the aperture and use the shutter speed and ISO to create the desired exposure for the background. Remember that to get a fast moving dog in focus, a higher shutter speed will be needed. I also tried not to focus in too closely on the dog, but to use the reflective grass to help create the silhouette effect. I then cropped the image in post production.

Give it a try and let me know how you do. Until next time, happy shooting!

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