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Archive for the ‘Photoshop Techniques’ Category

Favorite Resources

Next week starts my graduate studies in earnest, so this will likely be my last post to this particular blog. Although I never say never, as you never know 😉 As noted in previous posts, I will keep the The Art of Schutzhund Photography blog live for those who are looking for inspiration and ideas on photographing IPO (Schutzhund) dogs are work. I have truly enjoyed posting and sharing my journey with you. I also appreciate your support and visits. Thank you!

In wrapping up my posts, below is a list of my favorite resources that have helped and inspired me these past years. I encourage you to visit these sites. Some are free; some not. Some investments are very reasonable, while others are a bit more expensive. But like most things, an investment of time and money is needed to make significant progress. I hope there is enough variety in this list for you to find something of value.

Note: I left the URLs where you can see them, rather than as links, to avoid broken links and what not.  If a URL is not included, I tried to indicate a possible source.

Books (Hard Copy and E-Books)

Blair. L. Photographing Dogs: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers. 2013. Amherst Media, Inc. Available from Amazon.

Digital Photography School. Publisher of e-books, tips and tutorials. Excellent resource. www.digital-photography-school.com

Hisch R. 2012. Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age. Focal Press. Available from Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Light-Lens-Photography-Digital-Age/dp/024081827X/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

Kanashkevich M. Natural Light: Mastering A Photographer’s Most Powerfule Tool (e-book). Digital Photography School. http://digital-photography-school.com/book/naturallight/

Laird, S. Artistic Elements (e-books). Using textures and layers to create digital photographic artwork. Stunning! http://www.stephanielaird.com/psd.html

Patel J. What the Heck is a HISTOGRAM. (e-book) Jay Patel Photography. All of Jay Patel’s e-books covering a wide array of photography topics may be found at http://visualwilderness.com/learn

Peterson B. Understanding Exposure. Revised Edition. 2004. Amphoto Books.

Peterson B. Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography. Revised Edition. 2003. Amphoto Books.

Peterson. B. Understanding Shutter Speed. 2008. Amphoto Books.

Peterson B. Understanding Photography Field Guide. 2010. Amphoto Books.

All of Bryan Peterson’s books are available on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=brian+peterson+photography+books&sprefix=Brian+Peter%2Caps%2C209

Pflughoet, J. Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide for Modern Pet Photography. 2012. John Wiley & Sons. Available from Amazon.

Articles of Note / Websites / Blogs

Action Photography. Photographic Magazine. August 2003. Reprinted with permission on Steephill.tv Bike Travelouge. http://www.steephill.tv/photography/action-photography-tips.html

Bigman, A. PPI vs. DPI: What’s the Difference? 99Designs Blog. February 26, 3013. http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2013/02/26/ppi-vs-dpi-whats-the-difference/

Copyright Guidelines. Reprinted with permission by the Photo Marketing Association International. http://www.kodak.com/cluster/global/en/consumer/doingMore/copyright.shtml

Creamer, D. Understanding Resolution and the Meaning of DPI, PPI, SPI & LPI. Ideas Training.com. 2012. http://www.ideastraining.com/PDFs/UnderstandingResolution.pdf

Johnston. M. Bokeh in Pictures. The Luminous Landscape. April 4, 2004. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-04-04-04.shtml

Sloma K. Exploring with a Camera: Printed Aspect Ratios. Kat-Eye Studio blog post. November 18, 2011. http://kateyestudio.com/2011/11/exploring-with-a-camera-printed-aspect-ratios.html

Organizations / Tutorials

KelbyOne (previous National Association of Photoshop Professionals). A website full of amazing tutorials for Photoshop, Lightroom and Creative Cloud, plus a subscription to Photoshop User magazine. www.kelbyone.com

Professional Photographers of America. Atlanta, GA. www.ppa.com. Excellent organization with many resources for emerging professionals and long time professionals as well. Dues are stiff, but worth it.

Caponigro, JP. John Paul Caponigro Illuminating Creativity. His website includes online tutorials, DVDs, ebooks and printed books. www.johnpaulcaponigro.com

Cheat Sheets, Online Tools

CameraSim. Simulates camera settings; great way to play with lighting, distance, focal length, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. http://camerasim.com/apps/camera-simulator/

Color Temperature. Useful chart. http://www.3drender.com/glossary/colortemp.jpg

Cost of Doing Business Calculator. National Press Photographers Association. https://nppa.org/calculator

DOF Master. Depth of Field Calculator. http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

The Photo Argus. Cheat sheets for portrait lighting, photography, photo tips, light fall off, reflectors, plus more. This site also features tutorials and other resources. http://www.thephotoargus.com/resources/helpful-photography-cheat-sheets-to-make-you-life-easier/

PhotoBert CheatSheets and Accessories. http://www.photocheatsheets.com

Photopoly. Another great resource. http://www.photopoly.net/22-useful-photography-and-photo-editing-cheat-sheets/

Ultimate Exposure Calcultor. Fred Parker Photography. http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm

Web Design Ledger. 13 Super Useful Photography Cheat Sheets. http://webdesignledger.com/resources/13-super-useful-photography-cheat-sheets

Until next time…Happy Shooting – and again thank you for visiting!

 

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Schutzhund photography has come a long way since I started this blog in 2009 and since my friend and mentor Betty Lindblom taught me many of the finer points of shooting working dogs in action, starting in 2004 or there about. I am delighted with the quality of images I see, and I hope this blog has been helpful to you. But I can’t help thinking it’s time to take our photography to the next level. This is one of the reasons I spent a lot of time these past months learning to enhance photographs of dogs via digital painting.

Below are several new paintings. By combining digital paintings with textures and other enhancements, you can create photographic artwork that is unique and stunning! Not just another photograph similar to the thousands just like it. I encourage you to keep developing and learning!

If you’re interested in giving this technique a try, check out Scott Deardorff’s Mastering the Digital Canvas tutorials. Key points to keep in mind beyond those offered in these tutorials: Be patient, use a small brush so you can get in every stroke, be careful not to blend the tones too much as you brush, paint zoomed into 200%, and most important – have fun developing your own style.

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My final post before I start my graduate work in earnest will provide a list of the many resources that have helped me develop my artistic vision and technical skills. Until then, Happy Shooting!

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These past few weeks have been restful and fun using digital painting, textures and other techniques to create unique photographic art. Below are some examples:

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There is so much you can do with these techniques to enhance images. So far I’ve primarily done head shots, but I think they will work well with action shots, too. The key, I’ve discovered, is to work with close up images that have a lot of detail, clarity and strong colors. I am not sure images with blown out highlights or deep shadows will yield good results, as there is not enough detail.  While I am in-between classes, I am accepting commissions and running a special, which you can view here.

Last weekend, I attended the USCA Southeast Regional Championship. The weather on the first day of competition was an awful (rainy and dark); better on the second day for photography. While I did not shoot the event myself, I did spy several other photographers snapping away. Remember when shooting from the sidelines, you need to zoom in to catch the action. In general, the camera lens does a much better job of focusing when it is zoomed in on the dog rather than trying to catch a more panoramic shot of the entire field. There are not many clear focal points on the IPO field so the lens will often focus on something other than the dog, especially if it is lighter than the dog’s fur. It takes some practice, but being able to anticipate the dog and handler allows you to zoom in, which in turn greatly increases the chance of snapping sharp images.

Next up is preparing to shoot the Chattahoochee Schutzhund Club trial the end of April and more digital painting. Until then…Happy Shooting!

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When photographing dogs, whether in a lovely pose or in action, paying attention to small things before and after the image is taken can make a big difference between a photograph that looks like a snapshot or one that looks polished and professional. For many photographers, grabbing that quick shot is all they are after, and that’s fine. But if you want to take your photography to the next level, remember small things do matter. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

Consider this image. It looks pretty good. It’s in focus and a nice pose. Yet, it could be much better.

Little-Things-Matter-1

Notice in the image below how much more dynamic it looks. All that was done was cropping to a 5 x 4 aspect ratio (8 x 10 print), using the histogram to make a few tonal adjustments (shadows, highlights and mid-tones), touching up with the dodge and burn tool here and there, sharpening the eyes just a tad, and finishing up with cleaning up the bits of yard dust on his head, eye crud and bubbles on his tongue. All told – 15 minutes of work.

Little-Things-Matter-2

In Schutzhund photography, backgrounds are a real challenge. The action gets lost amongst all the clutter. Even after considering all the options, it’s sometimes very hard to avoid unwanted background elements. Now, I love Shelly Timmerman of Shell Shots Photography. She is among the best around, but even Shelly would admit that she doesn’t add much to this image. So, by taking her out in post processing, along with the tent and fencing tape, this image goes from a snapshot to a cleaner, more professional image.

Little Things Matter-5

Little Things Matter-6

The following is a list of some of the small things I look to correct:

Unwanted elements in the background: Okay – these can be big or small, but look for the small things that can be distracting and either shoot around them or remove them in post processing.

Sun position: Ideally, it’s best to shoot with the sun over your shoulder. In addition to fully lighting the subject, sunlight adds a glint to the dog’s eyes, which brings a lot of life to the image. Remember that early morning or late afternoon are best for photographing dogs, especially dark or black dogs. The warm light brings out the detail and highlights in the dog’s fur. By mid-morning, the light is too harsh and often all you will get is a blob without much detail.

Eyes, ears, nose in focus: Your viewers will naturally look at a person’s or dog’s face first. It is what draws viewers into the image, along with the action. Make sure the eyes, ears and nose, especially the eyes, are tack sharp.

Dust and debris: To me, removing bits of dust and debris from a dog’s coat along with eye crud and mouth drool really helps smarten up an image. After all, who likes to look at drool or a crusty eye? It’s distracting at best and gross at worst.

Glare: Even the best Schutzhund photographers struggle with balancing exposing for the background and the dog, especially at trials. Take the time to adjust each area separately in post processing by isolating the dog from the background and vice versa. In addition, Photoshop’s dodge and burn tools are great for lightening or darkening a small area of an image.

What’s on your list of small things that matter? Let me know, and I’ll share them in an upcoming post. Next up, sizing images for printing and the web. It’s both easier and harder than you think! Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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As discussed in parts one and two of this series, histograms are very useful for assessing dynamic range, contrast and exposure while in the field and using what histograms show to adjust camera settings. Histograms also are useful after the shot in making adjustments on your computer, referred to as post processing. As noted, this series of posts shares some excellent material from Varina and Jay Patel’s ebook, entitled “What the heck is a HISTOGRAM?”  For a more detailed discussion on how to use histograms in post processing, check out their ebook. It’s excellent!

All Schutzhund photographers struggle to conquer the ever-present challenge of properly exposing for the background and the dog. Often, these are conflicting goals, as by themselves the dog and the background more often than not require completely different settings to achieve proper exposure. And, unlike landscape and portrait photography, our subjects don’t sit still, so using HDR and bracketing techniques is not an option. Shooting in RAW, while preferable, also is not practical when shooting in burst mode, at least not in my experience.

Consider this image and its histogram:

Histograms Orig 1

Histograms Org RGB 1

The background and the dog appear to be similarly exposed; that is, the dog is not significantly darker or lighter than the background and the quality of the detail and color are compatible. The level of detail also is apparent in the histogram as the bars are tall. Yet the image is a bit dark, except for the bleachers, which are bright white. This is indicated in the histogram as the spike up against the right (highlights) wall. Most of the other pixels trend towards the left (shadows) side of the histogram.

In post-processing, histograms are helpful in adjusting contrast to bring out the color and details as well as overall dynamic range to brighten highlights and deepen shadows. In this image, the shadows are already pretty deep.

Within photo editing programs, such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop (the two I use), photographers make these adjustments using curves or levels tools. First step is to adjust the dynamic range by moving the white point at the top of the curve or the far right in levels and the black point at the bottom of the curve or the far left in levels “so that they line up with the outer edges of the histogram. Jay and Varina caution to be sure to watch the histogram to “avoid lost detail in the highlights or shadows. But don’t ignore the image itelf. Extreme adjustments can add unwanted noise, artifacts and banding.”

The next step is to adjust the mid-tones. In curves, adding a “simple s-curve adds mid-tone contrast without eliminating details in the shadows and highlights…Pulling the right half of the curve upward stretches the right side of the histogram outward – effectively adding contrast to the brighter tones, with out moving the white point.” Pulling the curve in the opposite direction or downward opens up the left side of the histogram “adding contrast in the darker tones without moving the black point.” In the levels tool. these same effects may be achieved by moving the middle arrow.

Which tool you use is personal preference. I prefer the levels adjustment tool, but many other photographers like the curves adjustment tool.

These adjustments can be seen both in the image and the histogram below. Notice that the bleachers have been removed and the image cropped to bring greater emphasis on the dog. The histogram shifted more towards the middle and the spike next to the right (highlights) wall is significantly reduced. There is also more detail in the highlights area that was missing in the original photo.
Histograms Adjust 1
Histograms Adjust RGB 1
When confronted with a background that is brighter than the dog or a dog that is significantly darker than the background, the best bet is to isolate each area and adjust each one separately. Consider the image below with its histogram. Both the background and the dog are very dark, yet I know from experience that if I adjust both together, the brighter areas of the dog and dumbbell will end up looking really weird, with some blown out highlights. The histogram bears out how dark the image is, yet there is a lot of detail.
Histograms Orig 2
Histograms Orig RGB 2
First step is to isolate the dog and adjust to bring the shadow area of the histogram towards the mid-tones, which will brighten up the darker areas of the dog. When I selected the dog, I did not select the dumbbell or the dogs legs and feet. They are more closely aligned with the background, so I elected to adjust them with the background. Once satisfied, inverse the selection and then adjust the background. I also used the burn tool, set on mid-tones at about 20 to 30 percent opacity, in Photoshop to fine tune the dumbbell and the tan fur on the dog’s legs. Below are the results, with the histogram at the top right:
Histograms Adjusted Image 2
The image is brighter, the dog’s face shows more detail, and the one really bright area along the dogs back leg is toned down. The dog and background look in balance. I could have brightened up the image even more, but it was taken early in the morning, so I wanted to be sure to retain the warmth of the light at that time of day. Notice how the histogram in the upper right is broader and extends into the mid-tones area, while still retaining the nice bell curve shape.

This series is just an introduction to histograms and how you can use them to enhance your photography. I encourage you to read Jay and Varina’s ebook, as well as view tutorials on the curves and levels tools. As always, thanks for visiting and Happy Shooting!

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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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Today dawned bright and sunny, cool but not cold – a perfect Schutzhund day and an almost perfect day to photograph Schutzhund dogs at work.  I say almost, because the sun was very bright, which meant another day of trying to photograph dark sable and black dogs without having them turn out like black silhouettes against a bright and sometimes over exposed background.

The Polarizer lens is a great asset and has really helped me with the exposure issues, but I discovered that when dogs get into shadow, the camera photographs them very dark and there isn’t time to adjust. This happens quite frequently as the dogs often get into their handler’s shadow as well as in the shadow of the blinds during protection work.  I think it’s a rule of nature, kind of like whenever I try to photograph a dog at work, the handler and dog manage – more often than not – to turn their backs to me.  Why do they do that?

In addition to the technique described in my last post, Photoshop also features Adjustment Layers, which allow the photographer to correct the image without permanently affecting the original image.  What it also allows is for the photographer to select specific areas of the picture and correct just those areas.  Very cool.

In the before image (top), you will notice that the background is very bright but the dog is very dark.  I first selected the dog and corrected the contrast / brightness and color of the dog.  Then I selected the background and did the same thing.  Not to mention a little work with the Clone stamp to get rid of the leash.  This is my first attempt at using Adjustment Layers, and for those of you who are familiar and proficient with Photoshop, this may seem like a no brainer.  But for photographers like me, who are just learning Photoshop, this is a very useful technique that will allow me to focus on taking the best pictures I can (exposure and composition), without being overly worried when the dog comes out too dark.  The Eraser Tool, as noted, is very useful as well, especially when time is of the essence.  Try both and let me know what you think.

No, this does not mean I have declared my mission of photographing dark sable and black dogs a success.  Far from it.  I still want to learn how to properly expose the images so I don’t have to spend a lot of time in Photoshop – and it is a matter of pride to master taking photos of dark dogs in bright light.  So stay tuned – and share your experiences and tips!  We all will benefit and appreciate your insights.

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