I've said it before and I'll say it again; digital photographs need to be developed. Period. I strive to "get it right in the camera" to begin with because then the possibilities are virtually endless as to where you can take an image, but in pet photography, things don't always go as planned! The developing (or post processing, editing, retouching - call it what you will) is where your photographer's artistic vision comes to life. I spend an equal amount of my education budget on capturing an image as I do on the software and skills that come after the image is in the camera.
In week 2 of the 2019 Pet Photographer's 52 Week project the theme is "before and after" so read on for how I put those skills to work to enhance, rescue and sometimes even transform an image.
(click on any image to view it full screen)
Safety first. Always. That means that most of the time, the dogs are on a leash. That's always the first thing I retouch in an image. It's like I can't envision how I want to develop a portrait until I take the leash out. If you're going to be a pet photographer, then this is Editing 101! After removing the leash I enhanced the colors and the sunlight along with standard toning and sharpening resulting in a stunning sunrise portrait.
It happens to the best of us. An unfortunate, and unintended, in-camera crop of a foot - or feet - on the best photograph ever! This was a 9-week old puppy who I just let do his thing off leash in the studio to capture his puppy-ness. Well that means a lot of moving around on my part and despite my best efforts, sometimes I'm not in the right place at the right time. I am heartbroken when I see an image like the one on the left pop up on my screen only to see that I was a second too late on the position and cropped his feet out of the frame. In the studio I knew on that image that I was too high so adjusted my angle immediately and the very next frame was perfect, except for the fact that he didn't have that big puppy laugh but luckily his feet were pretty much in the same position. I did a bit of magic in Photoshop and combined the two images so I can deliver the perfect laughing puppy portrait to the client. If you're convinced that it's the same image, then I've done my job well; I promise it's not!
I knew that Rex (the red dog) did not like the camera so I put on my 70-200mm lens and hid in the bushes like a paparazzi for this family photo session, but what I had not planned for was his constant barking at the strobe light and my assistant holding it. After 10 minutes it was clear that it, along with my assistant had to go back to the car for the rest of the session. That means natural light photography, which I love, but can present some limitations in where you can photograph as well as different results in the camera.
When photographing pets, I like to have everyone close together, so that means people low and dogs higher if possible so I'm always looking for locations with low walls and stairs that I can pose everyone one. I don't like to put adults on the ground and they typically don't like being on the ground either! This is Grapevine Botanical Gardens in Grapevine, Texas and despite it being a week before Christmas, it's green! That, along with the low walls, makes it one of my favorite places to photograph people and their pets.
This image was almost perfect but the little cocker would not raise her head away from the piece of hot dog in front of her meant to keep her there. I did. It kept her right there staring at the hot dog! The couple look great and relaxed and Rex doesn't even notice me behind that shrub LOL. But I've got some specular highlights going on the background (those too-bright blobs of light) and some unfortunate light and dark shafts of light behind the couple's heads. I knew this would be their favorite family portrait so I dug in and transformed the image to what I wanted it to be and they were thrilled when they saw it and ordered it in a 16x20 print for their wall.
Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography is a Certified Professional Photographer with the organization Professional Photographers of America; a designation held by fewer than 2,500 photographers nationwide and a hallmark of consistency, technical skill, artistry and professionalism. Penny Whistle specializes in both natural light and studio photography providing pet, couple & engagement, family and high school senior portraits as well as corporate headshots and commercial photography services in her studio located in historic downtown Carrollton as well as on location in Coppell, Grapevine, Southlake, Flower Mound and surrounding communities in Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas.