Tag Archives: pet photography

The making of a dog portrait (in this case dogs)

I’ve photographed my fair share of dogs. It’s all about speed when you work  with canines. They are a lot like a two year old with a relatively short attention span. Dogs are easily affected by any distractions in their environment so I prefer to photograph them in the studio. I prefer head shots when I can get them and I seldom use props with dogs. I feel props take away form the portrait. Most dogs react to a sudden noise such as a a squeak sound or a dog toy with a squeaker. I elevate my subject on a carpeted box that can be rotated several ways to get the proper height. By elevating the dog they can’t move around as much and you can get your studio lights to light their eyes properly. Most larger dogs are a little leery of being placed on a box and they may jump off several times. The secret is to get their attention quickly and take the shots quickly. Quite often my best photo is taken on the first or second shutter click. I seldom work with a dog beyond 10 minutes. They lose interest very quickly.

I ran into a guy at the park who had 3 gorgeous white huskies. I asked him if I could get some photos of them and invited him to my studio. When he arrived I asked him to bring one dog at a time in for pictures. Trying to photograph all 3 at once would have been a real challenge. I told him to bring in the easiest one to work with first and we would take the toughest one for last.

I preferred a high key portrait so I used a white background and a white base. The secret is to try to get proper lighting on the background to get a pure white, while not getting flare from the background as it reflects light toward the camera. I may have erred a bit on the underexposure side of the background but I got reasonable results.

Sugar

Sugar

Lobo

Lobo

Saphira

Saphira

The above 3 photos were the selections I made for a composite of the 3 dogs.  I had to blend and match the whites to get a decent composite which was a bit tricky.

Saphira

Saphira

Lobo

Lobo

Sugar

Sugar

I added vignettes to each photo to get a better blend.

White Huskies

White Huskies

I then added the individual images to the composite which I printed to a 20×24 for the client. He was thrilled with the photo.

White Huskies

White Huskies

I used a Photoshop add on filter called Lucis Art to produce a print that looked like an artist sketch. Below is a closeup of one dog using this filter.

Lucis Art - Husky

Lucis Art – Husky

Images done in Lucis Art have considerable impact when printed 16×20 or larger.

A photographic tribute to my canine family present and past

Since 1971 I have had 6 Springer Spaniels and 1 Brittany as pets and hunting companions. They have enriched my life and brought me joy. My first Springer was Archie. I got him as an 8 week old pup in Platte Center NE. He was the pick of the litter and the best hunting dog I ever owned.

Archie

Archie

I lived in Leigh the first 3 years of Archies life. I remember him chasing up his first bird on the edge of town at about 6 months of age. He was an aggressive hunter and caught some bird when he was young. I had my best years hunting in Nebraska with Archie.

 

Archie - 9 years

Archie – 9 years

Archie hunted until he was 14 in spite of a hip injury which required the removal of the hip joint because of severe arthritis in it. Dogs form a muscular hip and can continue to function after such surgery. The early years of hunting in Leigh were the best I ever had in Nebraska and I could normally hunt 2 or 3 farms during the entire season and take 30 birds or more. I really miss those days of hunting with Archie. As I said Archie was an aggressive hunter and you had to keep up with him when he was on a hot trail. I could do that in those days, not so any more.

Augie ca.1987

Augie ca.1987

My second dog was a gift to my wife at the time. She loved dogs as much as me. It was a smaller female tricolor and I bought her from a broker whom I later figured out was selling for a puppy mill. The pup was not healthy and coughed a lot. We took her to a vet several times before she improved.

Ginger as a pup

Ginger as a pup

Ginger turned out to be a disappointment in the field since she didn’t like hunting. She was a nice pet though. Neither Springer was neutered and we had a litter of pups on our hand within a year. We did find homes for all of them. Several years later she had another litter. We kept two of the pups. I wanted a black and white and my wife wanted to keep the pup we named “Harry” who was born with a harelip. His birth defect required that he be fed by hand when he was of suckling age.

Augie and Harry

Augie and Harry

Augie was really attached to me. I remember holding him as a pup and his little claws would dig into my chest. Both dogs grew into adults and both were hunted.

Augie

Augie

Augie had real skills as a hunting dog. I think he had the best nose of all my Springer’s but he was a little lazy. When I hunted he was reluctant to go into heavy cover and would stay with me on the outside of cover patches. However, he was a great retriever and was right on top of any birds I shot. He let the other 2 dogs do all the hard work and he would take the credit. I hunted the 3 dogs together until 1986. Harry and Archie both died in 1986. Augie hunted pretty well on his own but he was nowhere near the dog Archie was.

 

Augie ca.1987

Augie ca.1987

The picture above was taken sometime in the mid 80’s. I had a picture of both Augie and Harry together with this setting but put it in a veternarian’s office and never retrieved it.

 

Harry

Harry

Harry had several surgeries on his harelip as a pup and although it looked better it was still obvious if you viewed him up close. He was a beautiful dog but didn’t like his picture taken and he didn’t photograph well. I really think he was self-conscious about his harelip. He had more personality than any of my springers, always excited and full of spunk. He had gold colored eyes that would really stand out as you looked at him. When he hunted he ran out of steam after a half hour or so. This was on a consistant basis and I never could figure out why. When he was approximately 7 years old he started losing weight and eventually he lost his sight. I had taken him to a vet and mentioned that he seemed to have trouble seeing. Although there never was an official diagnosis, it is quite obvious he had diabetes. He had a good seven years.

In 1992 Augie was 10 and beginning to slow down with his hunting skills. I mentioned that to a customer and that I was looking for a springer pup. He said he knew someone in Columbus who had pups he wanted to give away and that they would be 8 weeks old in another week. I drove to Columbus and picked Guido out of the litter.

Guido

Guido

Guido lived up to his name. He was a bit tempermental at times and got downright  grumpy in his old age. He wasn’t overly cooperative when taking pictures and I never did get a close head shot of him in all the years that I tried.

Guido during a hunt

Guido during a hunt

Gudio enjoyed hunting and was quite good at it although he didn’t retrieve birds well. Hunting in the 90’s was pretty good in Nebraska and it was during Guido’s tenure that I started hunting South Dakota.

South Dakota 2003

South Dakota 2003

Gudio was 11 years old on this photo and still enjoyed the hunt although he did let my younger dog Cosmo do a lot of the hard work. Guido died in 2006 at the age of 14. He was a little hard to live with his last year but I enjoyed his company and hunting skills in his earlier years.

Gudio,Cosmo, and myself

Gudio,Cosmo, and myself

Unfortunately the average age of Springers in my life have been around 14 years.  After year 11 most dogs slow down considerably and hunting with them is not as effective. I’ve always tried to get a new dog while the older one still hunts because they do learn from the older dog and I can transition into the younger dog rather smoothly. I added Cosmo in 2002 when Guido was ten.

I will have another post covering the two dogs I have with me today. Their names are Cosmo and Tbone.