Dog Shoot and Photography Tips - Beginning to end

August 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Recently I was asked to give a photography seminar at an open house for a local print lab.  The seminar is supposed be specific to dogs, seems I (figuratively) shoot dogs, a lot.  Indeed I do, my wife and I own a Dog Training and Photography business.  I'll be the first to tell you, I am not a dog trainer, and my wife will quickly tell you, she is NOT a photographer! However, pair us together and we can rock anything, in this case, our businesses.  We're both 100% self-employed.

More often than not, the dog training clients will become photography clients.  Who doesn't want a picture of their dog?  While I do shoot much more than just dogs, there's always a dog around that can be an unwilling participant in the studio.  With this post I hope to provide to you all the main steps I take when preparing, shooting, and editing my four legged friends.

This shoot was totally ad-hoc, made up, spur of the moment....get it?  As for creativity, I didn't have any expectations here.  I was making it up as I went.  You see my studio below is in a sad state right now, haven't cleaned up from a newborn shoot, haven't put my equipment away from the on-location senior, yes, looks messy...and it is!

So what you see above is what I was looking at while deciding what and where I want to shoot.  Just as an FYI - my windows and door are southern facing.  I wasn't even sure if I wanted to shoot strobes or natural.  I chose natural because I saw some beautiful light being reflected back from the silver sheet.  That, by the way, is a 4x8, 3/4", sheet of insulfoam from HomeDepot, comes with the silver on one side.  Over on the right hand side is a sheet of foamcore and two more 4x8 sheets of insulfoam.

At this point I gravitated to the window with the thought of boxing the dog in.  NOTE: I would NOT recommend this method unless you know the dog.  This could be a real issue for some.  Having to do a light clean and move some stuff around I moved the insulfoam up to the window.  For the backdrop I was looking around for a minute.  I didn't want the plain grey, white...wasn't quite sure.  Then I saw my garbage special in the corner.  No joke, this canvas was being thrown away.  The owner asked if I wanted it, I said sure!  I'll find something useful for it.  Photographers = hoarders.

Now I'm starting to "feel" the shoot.  With this canvas I'm already feeling like I want something a little cooler toned, with some warmth as well.  The film presets from NIK came to mind, also the Instagram filters came to mind...yea yea, I know, jus say'n.

And here's my totally happy dog (maybe not), Chianti.  She's a German Shepherd...very dark!  Right now I'm not thinking, OH dark, open up by two stops...honestly, I don't think about that anymore...not much anyway.  I'll adjust as needed as I'm shooting.  With dogs, it's very helpful to always keep in mind that what you want may not be what you get.  What you get when a dog is relaxed is much better, at times.

So here we go, start shooting.  Wait.  What's the exposure?  Hmmm, I'm not sure.  I thought about this for a moment.  In the end, I used my 5DMKII, 50MM 1.4 @ f4.0, ISO 640 and my shutter was 1/50.  I got to this point all by wanting a very shallow depth of field, and by wanting to keep Chianti boxed in which meant I needed a short lens so I was closer to her.  In fact, I was shooting right at the edge of those clear plastics and the reflector.  I shot for roughly 15 minutes and took 31 images. Of those 31, I kept 11.  I also shoot in RAW.

Time for editing.  100% of my images go through Lightroom, from there I'd estimate that 25% go through Photoshop. The first thing I do in Lr is make sure focus is sharp, then I add one of my presets.  In this case, CD - LR4 Studio 1.  This is my go to.  I created it based on my shooting style and studio.  If you want it, email me and I'll send it to you.  You can see the guts of it on the right side there.  Like I said, it's my go to.

Next, a crop.  Why this one?  Because I liked how she filled the frame.  Getting a German Shepherds ears up and in the image is very important!

Now open up in Ps and add another layer.  I open up the image directly from Lr, as in the image above this one.  Time to start cloning out the eye goobers.  I set the close stamp to 70% opacity.

Done, and on to adding some curves.

I added a curves layer and backed the opacity of that layer down to 75%.  Here I'm wanting the blacks to pop out a bit more without blocking them up.

On the layer mask, I set the brush to 30% and erased out the areas you see above.  I'll also be adding a texture to this so I want to make sure I have some detail in those darks.  Time to add the texture.  I use a combination of my own and ones called StreetScape textures They're pretty cool, check them out.

Here I've added the texture layer, changed the layer's blend to Overlay and left at 100%.  I chose Overlay because after scrolling through the blends, I liked this one the best.  No magic, just time.  Next I'll be cleaning up the texture from Chianti's face.

As you can see from the layer mask, I've completely removed the texture from her.  In general, I don't play with the eyes.  She has bright glowing eyes on her own.  I may dodge them a bit here and there but not enough to even blog about.  Finally, I save back to Lr.  That's it!

Here's a before and after:

The final exported images are here:


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