It used to be that a photo could be taken as evidence, even in a court room, simply because what was displayed in the image could not be altered. These days, however, with the vast array of tools at our disposal, images can be changed to such an extent that what is portrayed can be complete fiction. My style of pet photography is such that I like as much realism as possible and so, like a lot of photographers, I aim to get as much of it right “in camera” rather than relying on fixing it afterwards in photoshop. But there are certain things and situations that call for a little more manipulation. So, I let my clients know that, for example, while their dogs are always on leash during our session, leashes will be cloned out later on.
Every week, I volunteer my time to photograph the adoptables at Toronto Animal Services. In that environment, animals can be a little unsure of themselves and some do not necessarily want to meet the new person with the big black box (my camera) in hand, no matter what treats I offer. That was the case this week with this little guy, Bailey. Sure, he would take the treats and the little pats on his head, but turn the camera on him…and he took off. He really was the cutest thing though! So, I gave him his space and took out my 70-200 zoom lens. That way I could sit back and take images across the room. However, I couldn’t get close enough, so this is what I ended up with.
Bailey really is very cute in this image, but you wouldn’t know it because he is so small in the picture and his is surrounded by beige! So, it was off to a software program called Lightroom for a few tweaks. The first order of business was to check Bailey’s eyes by magnifying them. They have to be sharp or I essentially ignore the image. In rare instances, where I was purposely throwing the eyes out of focus (maybe focusing on the nose or a paw), then I am happy to see out-of-focus eyes. Otherwise, for my style of pet photography, the eyes are where it is at and they have to be in focus.
Second, I fixed the grey haze that all digital images seem to have. Truthfully, I never noticed it when I first started in photography until someone pointed it out to me. Now, I see it everywhere.
Third, I croped and straightened. Now, in this image, I cropped in a lot. In this situation, I felt confident to do so because I knew where this image would end up – as a very small picture on the web. I also photograph with a camera that has a large number of megapixels, so it can handle being cropped in quite a bit. However, please understand that I purposely used this image because it is rather extreme example of cropping and it demonstrates what is possible. But, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone routinely take images this far back and try to crop them in afterwards. In any case, it is amazing what a little crop and straighten will do for any image!
Lastly, I throw a little light on my cute subject. And, because I like the backgrounds a little darker, I often choose to do a little vignette. Not always, but quite often.
Then the image gets transferred into Photoshop where I will do any other heavy duty post-processing. This is where I will remove leashes on dogs, remove dandruff and fly away hairs if necessary. I might also choose to convert an image to black and white if I think it works.
After that, for every image, I look at the eyes and give them a slight pop (again, this is my style and not everyone will want to do that). Finally, every image gets sharpened and prepared for output depending on how it will be displayed.
Whew! Here is Bailey’s final image…what do you think?
So, that is about it for the Posh Pets workflow! I don’t use a lot of textures or actions (although I do like to experiment with my personal work) because I like to keep it as real and simple as possible. Hope you have enjoyed this sneak peak at the work done long after a Posh Pets Session has ended!
Next in the blog circle is San Diego Pet Photographer, Terran Bayer of Westway Studio. Please check out her work and the rest of the Beautiful Beasties gang this week. And please leave comments – everyone loves to receive feedback. Have a great weekend!