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Posts Tagged ‘Shellshots Photography’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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For those of you who had the pleasure of attending this year’s AWDF Championship and Team Challenge in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you would have seen a familiar figure up and down the sidelines snapping photographs of all the competitors. Betty Lindblom, of 5 Dogs Photography, is (in this photographer’s humble opinion) the master of Schutzhund photography. As we wrap up the series on Composing the Shot, it is well worth the time to view a video of some of her best shots, as well as visit Betty’s website to view the galleries of the more than 100 competitors at this event. Part 2 of Betty’s AWDF 2011 highlights has just been posted on YouTube.  Check it out!  You will see examples of many of the things addressed in the Composing the Shots series, including many of the challenges Schutzhund photographers face every day, which sometimes can be dealt with and sometimes not. Betty always makes the best of any situation!

As Betty has posted parts 1 and 2 of the video on Facebook and YouTube, many of you may have already seen it. But watch it again, this time with an eye towards composition and managing the often difficult lighting conditions. Also notice how she crops the photos to make the best of competition field with many visual distractions. Both Betty and Shelly Timmerman (of Shellshots Photography, the official videographer of the event) deserve a standing ovation for their efforts. They both work tirelessly at 12 to 14 hour stretches with no breaks. Thank you.

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