I can’t help but look for interesting images of dogs while on vacation, especially when abroad. This was taken in Hoi An, Vietnam and is the ubiquitous “brown dog” that you see every day in the shelters here in the US.
Another from my “dogs around the world” series. I couldn’t believe my luck when this pup struck a pose with the setting sun of Oia, Santorini Greece in the background.
I would have to say that this was the shelter image that kicked my portrait photography education into high gear. Captured completely by accident, I HAD to learn what I did so I could repeat it again in the future and on purpose.
Photographing cats at the shelter can be a challenge: not much room to work, green cinderblock walls and fluorescent lighting. But when it all comes together as it did with this image, you can get something pretty special (and this guy was adopted the same day this picture was posted by the shelter).
I work hard to “humanize” pit bulls at the shelter. They have such a bad rap that they need a little extra oomph in their images. I liked the closed eyes as if this dog was wishing for a family to come and adopt him (and the little crooked teeth just added to the charm).
I’ve learned that the “Oh the poor shelter dog” image only really works with puppies. No one wants the pathetic-looking adult dog, but the little baby “matchstick dog” can pull on the heartstrings and get a pup quickly adopted.
This Bassett Hound would not stop baying so I just worked with it. If you’re going to adopt a Basset Hound then you’re going to have to get used to baying. I also loved the way the image accentuated his long ears.
Pit bulls with closed mouths can look scary. Shooting them from above with a wide-open mouth looks like a huge grin and can be the difference between a dog getting adopted and one being overlooked. If you want an image of your dog with an open mouth, toss a ball a few times for them before picking up the camera.
From some of the workshops I’ve taken at DCP, I’ve come to love documentary/photojournalistic photography so I’m always on the lookout for strong images while at the shelters.
Another documentary-style image from a second shelter that I volunteer at. They named this guy Dorian Gray after seeing this photograph.
Puppies usually don’t need much help to get adopted, they tend to be the first ones to find homes, but they are fun to photograph. So much shelter work has really honed some of my editing skills, like leash removal!
After years of photographing at the shelters and many workshops at DCP, I finally felt confident enough to start my own portrait photography business (Penny Whistle Photography). This is an early environmental portrait of a client’s dogs where I used additive lighting to fill in the shadows.
After about a year in business I found a small, affordable studio space and booked a private session with Peter at DCP for help determining the best lighting equipment to purchase for my needs and budget (a decision that has paid off in spades and eliminated costly mistakes, I couldn’t be happier with my equipment). At first I wasn’t sure if dogs “belonged” in the studio, but after a couple of sessions, I was hooked. Working in the studio really lets my creative side out so when I saw this orange chair on Craigslist, I had to have it and Maggie the Great Dane looked fantastic in it.
I try to keep the props to a minimum. I like photographing dogs in the studio, but I don’t want to approach “kitsch”. The client wanted to document her Dane puppy’s size at the age of only 4 months. He has such an expressive face that I thought paring it down and keeping it simple was the way to go. This was taken with 1 light and a reflector so you can do a lot with just a little equipment.
Multiple dogs aren’t easy, but when you get it right, it can look fantastic. You’ll also get good at head swapping in Photoshop as in many cases there’s no other way to pull off “the shot”. I’ve learned that portraits are not taking pictures, but making a photograph – from the capture to the final edit.
I’ve fallen deeply in love with environmental portraiture and have taken on the challenge that it presents. You can’t always rely on natural lighting, sometimes you need to augment, but how? And with what? Speedlight? Strobe? Reflector? I used to look for background first and then try to figure out the lighting. Now I look for lighting first and it’s made all the difference in my portraits.
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