I had almost forgotten about this blog. It's been so long, and what with social media and whatnot this seems a bit redundant. But, if anyone is still out there, forlornly wondering why I have forsaken this outlet of personal communication, fret not. I have returned.
One might assume that I have been busily creating in the long months of my absence, but I have not, sadly. It is only recently that I have had the energy, motivation and inspiration to return to my art. Thankfully, I have found them all.
Two of the images I recently worked- The top is "Peer Pressure", It's a look into the challenges that face today's youth in terms of temptation, coercion, and doing the right thing in spite of everyone telling them that they should do the wrong one.
The second is called "Wandering Minds" and it represents a new direction I'd like to take with my art- With color and style and theme. I want to explore more of imagination within ourselves, our universe, and our ever hungry need for learning (The best principles of science began in someone's imagination!) I haven't told anyone, because I figured nobody would understand the link- but this image is a silent tribute to the late and amazing Carl Sagan.
And nextly- What am I learning these days!? OH, the places I will go.
I have recently discovered (or overcome the fear of) using stock images to practice a technique I would like to learn. DeviantArt.com has lots of wonderful stock for use, if you read and agree to the artist's terms. I have been scouring the internets for tutorials on techniques and have two new ones that I am excited to try out this year. They will fall perfectly in line with my new direction. I'll show you my practice bits, because this is a blog and because nobody will likely read this anyway. I wouldn't dream of claiming these as my original works as I haven't shot the images myself. Instead look at it like a rough draft of images to come?
Now, for whatever reason, I forgot to save this as a final image, but luckily I sent a screenshot to my friend Becky, so I have SOME record of having done this. It's a patronus!! like from Harry Potter?! How cool is that? I found the tutorial at https://joelrobisonphoto.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/patronus-tutorial/
Joel has tons of amazing tutorials on his blog. Definitely worth checking out!
The next cool thing is the light portal effect. I learned this neat trick from Robert Cornelius on his blog here http://www.robertcorneliusphotography.com/blog/9-steps-to-create-a-magic-portal-with-photoshop
I can't wait to try these new tricks out with my own models. In fact, we had an awesome location for today and we got rained out!! Oh well, there is always next week, right?
So, That's that... Unless of course you count this new piece, that i love and adore because it's my daughter, for one, but two, because it drives home a point that as photoshop wizards, we are nothing short of magicians. My friend and I were lamenting the lack of snow this season with which to shoot our snowy landscapes and wintry ideas. I brought up how there are myriad ways we can make it appear to be winter/snowing without it actually having to snow. Case and point:
and. one last image to leave you with...
I CAN GO BALD AT WILL!!!!! I finally figured it out!!!
By no means would I claim to be an expert in any type of photography. I have been accused of being a "jack of all trades, master of none" and that is pretty true, I think. I do like to dabble, and with every new interest, I find that I've learned a bit, and I like to pass on what I managed to learn.
In September, we lost our beloved dog Zeeke, and in the days after his passing, we found ourselves grasping for little things to remind us of him. Naturally, you would think that as a photographer, I would have tons of pictures of my sweet boy, but no! I barely had a handful. We always much preferred to play with Zeeke and indeed, whenever a camera was pointed in his direction, he was quick to inspect it so that the best shot you could get of him was with his nose pressed to your lens. I decided that I would never make the mistake of missing out on precious moments again with my dear pets. We still have Ash, and in November, we welcomed Molly into our home. These will be the best photographed dogs in the history of dogs.
So, In the spirit of passing on knowledge, I will tell you a few things I've learned about photographing dogs. Ready? Okay, here we go...
It helps to have a dog who knows a few commands already- especially sit and stay. Lay down is also useful, as you'll be asking your dog to sit still for a few moments at a time. If you are photographing a dog who hasn't learned manners yet, you can sometimes get them to sit briefly by holding a treat above their heads and just over their noses until their butt goes down. Be quick! They don't stay that way for very long.
Treats are a must! But, don't use great big normal size treats, have some "training bits" handy. These are little kibble sized bites so that you don't make your dog's tummy upset while training. Food is always a great reward for good behaviour, but then you run the risk of over-feeding. Molly and Ash love "Beggin' Strips", So I tear them into tiny bits and use those as incentive.
An assistant is also very helpful, but not 100% a must. Most of Molly's photographs I have done with just Molly and myself. I hold the camera with one hand, and a treat in the other, just above the lens. But Molly is a very patient dog. Your assistant can stand just off to the side holding treats and giving commands, and in some cases, wiping drool from mouths.
I've found that when there are elements I want in the photo besides the dog, it's easier to shoot these by themselves and composite them into the photo later. Molly didn't like having paper hearts dumped in her face and would flinch and walk away, so what I did was lock my focus with her sitting and looking up at me. I got the photo of her that I wanted, and then, with the camera still in place, but without her in the frame, i dumped the hearts and clicked away. This took several tries to get the "falling hearts" effect I wanted. Then, using masking layers in photoshop, I merged the photos together.
(For a brief video of how I use masking layers- see here https://youtu.be/TukmAS2JHGg)
If you want to put a headpiece or a hat on your dog, make sure the dog is comfortable with it. Some dogs hate having anything on their head. Molly doesn't care. If your dog is like Ash and simply hates it, you can try to build his tolerance by practicing with the headpiece or hat a little everyday and offering lots of treats if/when he leaves it on. Praise him muchly.
Watch for signs of stress in your dog while you are photographing, especially when you've introduced props. Sometimes it's a good idea to let the dog get used to your setup, smell whatever he/she wants and generally explore. You won't get any good shots if your dog is freaked out. Signs of stress can include excessive panting, yawning, or wide eyes. In a calm dog, you should not be able to see white in their eyes. In a stressed dog, you'll see a lot of white around the iris.
If your dog gets stressed, take a break and let them relax for a bit. Don't force them into anything. Give them plenty of time to get used to anything you are doing. Sometimes, it's best to just call it a day and try again another time.
If your dog is completely unwilling to shoot "on set" with props and backdrop and lights, try using his/her natural environment. A set can be really intimidating for a dog, but they are not un-used to cuddling on a couch or curling up in bed, so sometimes, the best pictures are of your fur-baby in his everyday life. Treats and encouragement always work, whichever situation. Good lighting is a must for good photos. If your dog is afraid of studio lights, look for natural light options. Open windows or use a white sheet on the opposite wall for a reflector. In the photo above, there is a window to the left, and I hung a white sheet to the right for a more even light. I didn't want her to be backlit, so the window behind her is shut.
And, of course, if all else fails, you might need to let your dog call the shots. Take him/her outside to play and see what you can get. I have a fenced in yard, so 3/4 of my yard is either ugly chain link fence or the back of my house. Not very appealing for photos. But the back fence is easy to blur out with the right camera settings and the yard behind us is filled with trees. Ash here is sitting on top of our trampoline with his favorite ball, and honestly, this is my favorite picture of him, because it reminds me of how funny he is jumping all over our trampoline and playing keep away with his squeaky ball.
I think you can find a pretty place to shoot even if you don't have a great yard. Take your dog for a walk in the woods. If you have a thin leash and collar, they are easy to edit out in photoshop. If someone else is holding the leash- have them stand off to the side while you shoot. If your dogs attention is on you, holding the camera, you'll end up with a nice portrait of your dog, ears erect, and probably at the happiest you'll see him, since he's outside and on a walk. Remember to take one shot of the scene without anyone in it. That way you can composite the scene and the dog and "mask out" the person and the leash.
(again, for a video on how to use masking layers- see here https://youtu.be/TukmAS2JHGg)
These three photos have one thing in common. It's a mistake that novice photographers make in most of their photos and I was no different in the beginning. Perspective is important, and an interesting photograph will have a perspective that one doesn't see everyday. Everyone can see a dog from this angle. These were taken from a standing position shooting down on the dog. A more interesting angle would be to get more on the dogs level. That means having to get down on the ground yourself, or at the very least squat low. It takes some work on your part, but it's worth it!
Find your niche with pet photography. I've borrowed my ideas from some of the artists listed below, but these are mostly for my personal use, I'm not trying to sell these. I've seen artists with nothing but photos of dogs jumping in the air, or dogs trying to catch treats... Sophie Gamand made waves with her "Flower Crowns on pit Bulls" (which I've borrowed shamelessly from) All for good causes and bringing a spotlight to their breed of choice.
Maybe your thing is dogs splashing in mud, or dogs getting baths. Who knows. Be creative, think outside the box and never be afraid to try new things.
Once you've become comfortable with pet photography, What do you do with it? Well, It's been a proven fact that great photos can play a large part in helping shelter dogs get adopted, so why not volunteer some time to your local ASPCA or Animal Care and Control and see if they would like you to photograph their adoptable dogs?
Yesterday, I had the incredible honor of photographing Marley, from Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition, a local rescue dedicated to helping Bully breeds. He has an amazing personality and such a sweet demeanor. It was the most fun I've had on a shoot and I got to cuddle a doggy, so BONUS! Marley's rescuer has dedicated Monday's on her blog to telling his story and you can read about it, and our photoshoot at Peace-a-Bull Assembly under "Marley Mondays"
Would you like to see some other amazing pet photographers? These photographers are also giving to local shelters and rescues with their time and talent- So, if you're looking for inspiration or just looking to oooh and ahhh over cute pups- check these out:
Seth Casteel Photography_
Sophie Gamand Photography
Jessica Trinh Photography
I'm freaking out just a bit, because I've just realized that I'm in a group on facebook with Robert Cornelius. And how flipping awesome is that?! He posted this amazing blog today about the self deprecating comments we make that are actually pretty harmful- and how we all just need to calm down and realize that with work and time we can all be "as good as" our favorite photographers. Go read his blog post and then come back to me, because I have some stuff to add. -------> "YOU CAN DO IT- BY ROBERT CORNELIUS" <------------
Did you read it? I love every bit of what he says and it's really really true. All of it. I remember when I first got back into photography after a long hiatus, and at the time, I was internet stalking family photographers and still life photographers and getting frustrated that my work didn't even come close to theirs. So, I practiced, and then I learned through a multitude of failures and very few successes. I asked questions mercilessly of every advanced photographer who would talk to me, and eventually I made a picture I was very proud of. It does happen! Have you ever heard this quote?
"The difference between a novice and a master is that the master has failed more times than the novice has yet to try"
It's true. You cannot beat yourself up when things don't go the way you want- your only true failure would be if you take nothing away from the experience.
If you line up all the work you've created from start to finish, I'm guessing you'll be able to see a great improvement if you've been at it for any length of time. If you don't see improvement- then ask yourself what you love about each piece, and conversely, what you hate. Think about the result you got vs. the result you wanted and if you don't know where you went wrong, don't be afraid to ask someone. Facebook has some really amazing groups for photographers to share knowledge and ask questions. You just have to develop a bit of a thick skin and be ready to accept critique. (Yes, some people can be real douchebags, but just blow those idiots off and listen to the ones who can be respectful and helpful)
Secondly- I'm going to parrot what Robert says in his blog. Be mindful of the language you use and how it hurts you mentally. If you are constantly telling yourself that "you'll never be as good as..." or "It's never gonna happen for me" you are eventually going to believe it. Instead, change your language. It worked miracles for me. Instead of saying "This work sucks compared to... " I started saying to myself "I'm not that good, yet- but I am getting closer" or "When I have mastered that, I will create this" Or even, "This might not be what I wanted to do right now, but when I improve, I'm going to try it again"
Those are truths you need to start telling yourself. You WILL improve, You WILL learn, You WILL reach your goals if you put the work into it. Don't let that negative voice in your head tell you the lies that suffocate your creativity and drive.
I thought it was awesome that Robert added a slideshow of his very early work, So I thought I'd show you mine. It goes from my earliest attempts at photo manipulations, back when I was still using Paint Shop Pro 8, to some of the stuff I made over the last few years. Try not to laugh too hard...
Here are a few exercises you can do to help you grow and learn:
1. Start a 52 or 365 project- This is where you make it a priority to make an image once a week or once a day for a whole year. It does take some stamina, but it is so worthwhile. Make the most out of it and make a list of things you feel you need to work on, or would like to try- use that list as inspiration.
2. Hit up websites like CreativeLive or Phlearn.com and make a point of watching one video or class a week, and then apply what you've learned to your own work.
3. Find some like minded photographers or artists (in the real world or on facebook) and set up challenges with them. Keep it fun and keep the competition at a low boil. That will motivate you to do your best and try your hardest.
4. Take Self portraits. The thing about self portraits is that nobody has to know you're even shooting!! So, if you come up empty handed, if your image just doesn't work out, then there is nobody to know but you. That takes SO MUCH pressure off and leaves you free to create and experiment. I cannot count the number of times I've set up my living room and tripod and just shot stupid stuff. I wanted to experiment with lighting- so I did, I wanted to try an idea... Whatever! Who's watching? NOONE. Be as weird as you want to be.
5. Quit being afraid to fail. That is where you learn!! I can't remember who told me about this, but she said that whenever someone in her family suffers a failure, they throw a "failure party" to celebrate the chance they've had to learn something. The celebrate it. Because it's not really a failure- it's a learning opportunity.
I hope that this has helped you, if you're feeling like you'll never get there. Trust me- every single artist out there is feeling like that too. Even the ones you think are amaze-balls. They still have that self-doubt. The really successful ones have learned to stuff it in a corner and pep-talk their way out of it.
Good luck out there!
I glimpsed the statue from the corner of my eye. It was a simple garden statue of a woman- holding a pitcher that continuously poured water into the fountain. I think somewhere in the world, there is a larger, more famous version, but I can't name it. From the brief glimpse came the idea to do this shoot. I wanted a woman- painted statue white and mostly nude. She needed to look frail, almost deathly sick.
The plan was to get as much stock as we could- for me to edit later. That part didn't necessarily happen, but we got plenty to work with.
We brought in the talented makeup artist Kristy Jahn to do the body paint and commandeered my mother's living room to do the shoot.
None of us slept very well before the shoot, we were all too excited, bursting with ideas. When Rae and Kristy arrived, they immediately got started on the makeup- first things first- we had to make Rae bald.
The bald cap alone took an hour to apply, and then the rest of the makeup took another two hours. While Rae was getting made up, we were setting up the living room and lighting.
The makeup Job is almost done!
No doubt, you will see images taken at this shoot popping up for some time to come. We also had so much fun that we all want to explore this again. The makeup, the poses, the ideas. We also learned quite a bit too, which you know I believe makes it all worthwhile on it's own. But, luckily we got plenty of good images too.
Another thing I wanted to explore while we were at it, was figure studies. I've been studying the work of Jennifer Hudson lately, and I'm so impressed with her ability to get models to contort themselves into interesting shapes. One of my favorite quotes from Rae during this exploration was "I didn't know I could do that!" which made me smile- because one of Jennifer's own models said the exact same thing during her creative live class.
This one isn't quite "done". It was the first image I edited that night, because I was so impatient to crack open the shoot. I should have waited until I was well rested- because I was too tired to give it the attention it deserves. You can expect to see this one- redone soon. Another "Figure Study"
I have been insanely creating textures these last couple days because I want to make something but lack motivation to actually do a shoot. And it's cold out.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I've been hoarding some possibly useful stuff, and it was about time to give it away.
If you'll notice that now, under the blog tab, there is a freebie tab- click on each of the pics that take you to a dropbox folder and download what you need.
Remember who loves ya best- ME!
Check it out here :
My Fellow Fine Artists
Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio | Memphis, TN, USA | Fine Art/Illustrative Photography Gallery:
Pam Korman of District Photography | Philadelphia, PA, USA | Fine Art Photography:
www.bonniealrifai.com Fine art photography
Handy Andy Pandy