December 3, 2008

DogFiles video on taking better photos of your pet

I always love to find someone who agrees with me! ;-) It’s especially nice when they do it with such pizzazz! The Dog Files has posted a video that illustrates many of the tips that I preach to folks taking photos that I will use for their pets’ portraits. Seeing video of the photographer setting up the shots with examples of both good and bad techniques is sure to improve your pet photos.

You can get more pet photo help here:

October 27, 2008

Artist avatars: The 50-pixel self-portrait

Lisa Stewart, a Net-savvy artist and designer has posted an excellent blog entry “Brand YOU: Your Avatar (Part 2)” on the art of the avatar, how important these tiny self-portraits are to online branding for artists, and how to improve artist avatars. Check out part 1 also!

Prompted by Lisa’s call for examples of creative avatars, I combed my Flickr contacts for some that I thought expressed their owner’s art and make you want to click through to their photostream:

944A2F16-538A-44E8-8F3F-D9197EC40C20.jpg 2C4CEBB9-ADDC-4BBD-9F0B-CD5F2CF78F2F.jpg 01D50560-DAF4-49AB-A5F3-FCB575A7CBF9.jpg 8B0DE435-5EE6-48CE-8AE8-5C41206DEF69.jpg C2761314-9ACE-4FC4-9E87-C92AEB42B09D.jpg

donley_sq_icon.jpgMy avatar is a simple reduction of a normal-sized (8×8 inches) graphite self-portrait I did a couple of years ago from a candid photo. After reading Lisa’s excellent blog post about taking, choosing, and creating a creative avatar, I’m going to be re-thinking mine. All that detail doesn’t reduce well and I’ve been told the pose isn’t the most flattering to me (heck, I liked it because it didn’t look “fat”! ;-) Another project for January, after the holiday rush!

August 18, 2008

Bully Portraits: Nikki and Allie, English Bulldogs in Graphite

Memorial Portrait of Nikki, English Bulldog

Nikki, English Bulldog. Memorial Portrait by Susan DonleyWe have two bully new members of the PetsPictured.com pack, a pair of English Bulldog sisters from Ohio, whose portraits were commissioned by their mom Cynthia…
Sadly, poor sweet Nikki died of cancer at only two years of age. By the very nature of memorial portraits, photo selection was limited. Thankfully, one of Nikki’s photos had both a delightful cocked-head expression and soft indirect lighting. What a sweet face! She must be sorely missed.

Graphite portrait of Nikki’s sister Allie

Allie, English Bulldog, Graphite Portrait by Susan DonleyAllie, Nikki’s sister, is still with her human family. Having the luxury of taking new photos, Allie’s mom kept snapping pictures, trying to capture one where Allie’s teeth weren’t showing. That never happened — those lower teeth are just part of Allie’s look! They stayed in her portrait.

Reference photograph of AllieAllie taught me a great tip to pass on to my clients trying to capture portrait-worthy photos: I wondered how they managed to get such wonderful lighting, combining the best of indirect and direct lighting. Here’s the secret: It was taken in the car!

Of course! Nice indirect light coming in from all sides eliminate deep shadows that hide details in sunlit photos. But the light is strongest from the window near Allie, so there is enough directional light to create highlights and shadows to create depth– the kind of 3-D shading that camera flash totally obliterates. What a lovely find!

I now recommend this trick to folks who are having a hard time taking well-lit photos without using the flash. Thanks for this bully new strategy, Allie!

July 24, 2008

USAToday: Attention to lighting can make a huge difference in your photos

Jefferson Graham’s article “Attention to lighting can make a huge difference in your photos” yesterday in USAToday’s Tech section summarizes some great advice from Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book. (There’s also a video on this page of Graham showing how to get the best lighting for your photos in the summer sun.)

After sifting through hundreds of photos people send me as references for pet and people portraits, I couldn’t say it better than the headline of this article: If you want to vastly improve your people or pet shots, pay attention to lighting. Don’t just “Point and Shoot”, in spite of what the camera manufacturers say, instead: “Think, Look, Point, and Shoot”!

Among my Top Five Tips for Taking Portrait-Worthy Photos, two involve lighting: Turn off the flash and avoid direct sunlight by taking your subject in bright shade.

The USAToday article includes these among Scott Kelby’s five concise tips for improving your photography by improving the lighting. As far as portraits go, I’m not sure I agree with his tip “Shoot into the sun” though. Even when using fill-flash, this can be pretty tricky to pull off. Try it, for sure — backlighting can be very dramatic — but hedge your bet by taking some other shots in bright shade, which is a sure thing.

I have several of Scott Kelby’s many books (does the guy ever sleep?) on photography, Photoshop, and Mac OS X and I highly recommend them for their practical approach, clear instruction, and great tips spiced with humor. The books that were the source of USAToday’s advice are The Digital Photography Book and it’s companion The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2. More of Scott Kelby’s books here.

I’m not a photographer, but I offer a free email mini-course “Taking Portrait-Worthy Pet Photos” that offers tips I’ve learned the hard way by taking my own pet photos and depending on my client’s photos to draw and paint pet and human portraits. Free free to sign up and learn along with me!

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