Photography Basics: Pets


How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR


Lesson Info

Photography Basics: Pets

- [Julia] Little critters, puppies, dogs. Well, not puppies necessarily. Judy, how old is Judy? I guess if her mom was… I don't know how old she is. Is she a rescue? She's a rescue dog? She's a rescue dog. Judy is a pug mixed. Do you know what she's mixed with? - [Woman 1] Chihuahua. - Chihuahua, a pug-Chihuahua mix. And she has got the personality, wow, just like of 10 dogs, just a sweetheart. So we're going to photograph her. But I want to go through some things. I used to actually specialize in pet photography and then got bit by the kid bug when I had my own child and so I switched over to newborns, and children, and families. I still do photograph pets on a regular basis, I just don't say that I specialize them or show them a lot on my website. But one of my first actual marketing projects was getting a rather large display at the Humane Society in Central Oregon, and working with their donors, and photographing their donors, and displaying them on the walls of the Humane Society,...

and helping pets get adopted, and stuff like that. So pets are near and dear to my heart. However, they are actually quite good training because they're a lot like kids. Pets are wonderful but they have very short attention spans. Pets are less negotiable. You can't really communicate that well to them unless they're very well trained animals. You need to use things that appeal to them. So as artists, to get our subject to do what we want, we have to conform to their mentality, not only with children and adults, but also with animals. Animals' mentality is treats, squeaky toys, trigger words. Judy's mom has told me her trigger words… I think I'll remember them all. She'll probably remind me, but the trigger words like, "Do you want to go on a walk?" Or, "Who wants a cookie?" Things like that. Cookie is not it. Cookie. Judy, treat. There we go. That's a trigger word for Judy. And her name as well. Anything "E" on the end, oh, her cookie did not work. So you'll learn a dog's trigger words. I always ask my clients what those are and then I always ask them if they're sit-stay trained, excuse me, sit-and-stay trained. It's much more challenging if they are not. Leashes are usually required order if you have a dog that is not sit-stay trained. So just keep that in mind. Now, these last two segments we've been talking about long focal lengths, portrait-style lenses. And while, yes, I'm going to be taking portrait of Judy, lens choice is a lot more flexible with children and…oh, excuse me, with pets. This is my dog, Winston. Winston has since passed away. He passed away about four years ago of very sudden cancer. He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs that you just will never have again. He saved me through a lot of bad relationships and was just an amazing animal, and died suddenly so it was a little heartbreaking. But no sad stories today. But this image is one of the ones that I competed with. It's called, "Big Mouth," and it was shot with a very wide-angle lens. You can see that his paws are literally the same size as his mouth. Like his paws in the front are very large and there's a lot of foreshortening, a lot of the rules are broken here. Do you see that? But that's what's fun about pup pets is that they have these big personalities. And using a different perspective or a different lens choice makes it a different art form and changes the feeling, the mood of the image, makes it more fun and upbeat, and jovial, and joking. And pets often do that with us in our lives. So sometimes using a wide-angle lens is just a way to make your image different. So try using wide-angle lenses for storytelling and that dramatic look, and understand how the different lenses that you can use with your DSLR change the feeling and mood of an image. So just by being conscientious of simply lens choice and the perspective will help you create images that are totally unique and different, and bring forth a mood to the image that you can't get without that kind of lens. I also want to talk about composition. This is my current puppy. Porter is our pug. And this is when he was just like nine weeks old. My little peanut. Porter is now nine years old or he will be nine in March, and so I have a big… Judy is stealing my heart quickly because pugs are a little near and dear to my heart. But I want to talk about composition and placing images and placing subjects on a background in what way. When you're purposeful about this, you can really tell amazing stories with your work. This image is taking part or I should say focused on the Rule of Thirds. When you break up your frame of your camera into a tic-tac-toe box, essentially, where those lines cross is what we call a power point. And we're going to talk about those in a minute. But there's lots of different ways to compose images. And if you'll look at any of the great art throughout the centuries, the artists have used composition to lead the eye through the frame, and to focus attention in certain areas of the image, and to give meaning to the image. It's subconscious, subliminal meaning sometimes. And I'll explain what that means in just a few minutes. But composition is extremely powerful. If you'll notice some of the images I've been shooting, I'm putting Evie, my subject in a very specific area of the frame. I put Kira over on the right side of the frame looking back towards the other side. You know what I'm saying? So there's meaning there that you can imply subconsciously to the viewer of the image. So I want to discuss composition a little bit and granted, this is truly a subjective art. This is not a steadfast rule. But if you think about it, when you're shooting, all of a sudden you're giving more purpose to your compositions, to what you're actually shooting and why you're shooting it that way. So the Rule of Thirds, like I said, focuses on those power points. The baby, which is what I want to be the focus of the image and the little girl are both placed on the right third of the image. And then the baby is placed on the lower right power point. Do you see that? So just to reiterate, we have the two lines that break up the image into thirds. This line right here is on the right third of the image. This line right here is on the left third of the image, same thing top and bottom. Got it? So often times in landscapes, photographers will put the horizon on one of these third lines. With a portrait, we also… Sorry, excuse me, with any composition, we also have where these lines intersect. Those are defined or called, in art, power points. Power points, by placing a subject on a power point you are already right there strengthening the composition of your image. You probably notice in a lot of my work I love negative space. I do not fill the frame with the entire subject, very rarely. Now, that's a cool look and a totally different style. For me, I like most of my subjects to be seen and I like a lot of breathing room space around them. And for those of you who are using your DSLR to market your business, negative space is critical because it's where you put your texts and your ads. If there is a negative space on a part of the image, you can wrap text around the subject. It gives you a place to work. If you ever do any magazine editorial or cover shoots for magazines, they expect negative space because they have to put the title of the magazine and all the headlines around it. And if it's covering up the image, then it's distracting to the viewer's eyes and doesn't sell as many magazines. So, take a look at this image of Porter. You saw that he was on the power points. What happens when I flip him? It feels a little different. What happens when I crop in tighter and then lengthen the frame? It changes even more. And then when I flip it back, it changes it even more. What feels the best to you? And there is no wrong answer. There really isn't. Isn't it strange how each one feels like certain? Well, here's what's fascinating, in the Western world, this does not exist in Asian, Chinese, Japanese languages because they read back, they read, not backwards, but they read the opposite way, right to left. We read left to right in the Western world. So, the natural inclination, because we've all been trained to read, is to enter the image and go across to the right. It's a natural thing. Like now this is… I'm really sorry in advance because I'm going to completely screw up how you look at pictures. From here stay forward and things will really bother you. So I apologize in advance. But you know what I mean? When somebody points something out to you and you're like, "Oh, now I see it everywhere and it drives me crazy." This girl about to have that happen to you, so I apologize. Next time you look into any image, ask yourself how you're moving through the image. What do you see first? What's the first thing you see? And where does your eye want to go? Really good artists will focus your eye exactly where they want you to go. And they do that by using the power points. Now, these power points can have a subliminal meaning. Because we read from left to right in the Western world, that lower right power point is the finish of the page. It's the resting point. It's the conclusion. The groundedness. We're done. Get it? The feeling? The upper right power point still has that feeling of being on the end of something like the finish, but it's lifted. It's raised, it's exalted. If you actually look at great art in the past, Jesus is often in this position. Angelic, higher up, the conclusion, the finish, but yet glorified. Now, remember, just take this with a grain of salt because it's not a set rule in stone. And lots of meaning can be interpreted from a power point. I'm just trying to get you to think differently. So like I said, don't take this as the Holy Grail. The left side of the image is the start. The, "Oh, what's going to happen in the future?" When you have like a subject over here and lots of negative space over here, as we do with Porter here, and granted, this image isn't elongated as much so it doesn't emphasize it but you go, "Oh, where's the finish?" It's a little unsettled. You're like, "Oh, wait a minute, we're not done yet." This one emphasizes that even more because I've elongated the crop, he's still on that third point, but because there is so much negative space over here you're starting to go, "Whoa, wait a minute, we're not done yet." But if I flip it, you go, "Oh, okay, we're done." Do you feel that feeling of like, "Oh," and like that happy, little puppy and all is good in the world? Now if you remember the image I took of Kira today, she was on the right side of the frame, that place, the finish but she was looking back. Is she looking at her past? Is she looking at the story of where she came from to move forward? The same could be said from the opposite. If she's over here, it's like she's not done yet. That girl's got a future. Do you know what I mean? So you can imply meaning from an image just by where you place them in the frame. Which makes photography really fun. And nobody's really going to know it except you, unless…but there's something subconscious that they don't quite know what it is that's affecting them. So not only do you have this composition within a two-dimensional plane, left versus right, top bottom, but you also have the depth, the background, the middle ground, the foreground. Things that are in the distant beyond have different meaning than things that are in the foreground. This is where you can have a lot of fun. Just imagine, you're never going to look at your images the same. You're going to be like, "Oh, yeah, that power point." Yeah, that's often why I shoot my images with my babies on the lower right power point. It's why when I shoot babies my light is on the right side and the heads are right down here and all this negative space over here. Because if I flipped the baby post, people's faces are not symmetrical and their parents would know it and it wouldn't be the actual… Yeah, exactly. I've tried it. It doesn't work. Yeah, it was a bad idea. So that's why I just decided to flip and shoot that way. And it drives some people crazy because they're like, "You have to have a light on that side?" "Well, yes, I do. I have to have the light on that side." Because it's all very purposeful in the art that I'm creating. Now, other types of composition include things like the Golden Mean. This is mother nature's perfect composition. It's called the Divine Ratio. You'll see it a ton in great Renaissance art. It's actually a very religious composition as well. They'll use it a lot in faith-based art, Christian art, things like that. You don't need to know the math, basically, the equation is there on the right. Who wants to study math? All you need to understand is that it's a spiral composition. So like a snail's shell is perfect golden mean ratio composition. And if you look at mother nature and do a little Google search on the Golden Mean, you will see this left and right hand over fist in the way mother nature does her own compositions. Even in like the structure of the veins of a leaf, you'll see it. It's very fascinating, actually that science and art come together in mother nature. So you can use this type of composition in your work as well just it's how the eye flows to the center point of the focus, the focal point of interest. So here is a very loose rendition of Bakker's Saddle…excuse me, of the Golden Mean where everything wraps around into the mom, and her face, and her baby. Then there is something called Bakker's Saddle, which is based on a mathematical formula. It's very close to the Rule of Thirds but it depends on the cropping ratio of the image. The Rule of Thirds is dissect into thirds. Bakker's Saddle is draw a diagonal line across your image, and then from each corner, draw a line to hit this line at a right angle. Make sense? Did I explain that right? You need me to repeat it? Line through the diagonal, then each diagonal corner goes to the main diagonal line at a right angle. Now, clearly, if you have a wider image that power point is going to be in a little slightly different spot. So this is classic Bakker's Saddle. And you can see the lines in the floor actually echo that as well, and that was done on purpose. So I shot it with the lines going diagonal to emphasize that Bakker's Saddle composition. So Rule of Thirds, of course, is the most common compositional method I guess you could say. I just want you to be aware of it and understand that those power points can have meaning if you choose to give it to them. And it's all based on your subject matter. If I had a bride on a cliff who was about to commit suicide, where would I put her? I know it's a little morbid, but I'd probably put her in the upper left power point. Upper left power point, she's hanging in the balance, the cliff, her future is unknown. Drama. The sweet baby asleep in a basket I'd put on the lower right. The lower left, I had a lone image once where it was a little child sitting on a bench in black-and-white holding her little lovey. And she was all alone on the bench in a white dress, very dramatic black-and-white. I named it, "Foster Child." So here she is on this big, empty bench waiting for parents. We have no idea what her future holds for her. The rest of the book is yet to be written. So that's why there's so much negative space on the right. Make sense? So just use these things to your advantage to create images that have story. Because that's the whole point, we're storytellers. - [Woman 2] How would you choose… So like the Golden Spiral, for example, that was like a very natural, organic… When would you choose Bakker's Saddle, for example, by contrast? - When I have a lot of diagonal lines in a composition, I'll go for Bakker's Saddle, and it's funny because sometimes this is just not conscious. And you'll know it needs to be on a third but it's not quite on the third and it doesn't look right. You want to shift it. You'll realize you're on Bakker's Saddle, like it's a strange feeling. But like when I have floors like this and I'm shooting from above, I'll shift and tilt to get the lines to go diagonal to feel that. So that situation I'll use Bakker's Saddle. Or a situation where I have a really long, skinny composition, and the third just doesn't feel right, and I'll want it to be further over. Because it's a long, skinny, that diagonal line… And then these lines, the power points are going to be much farther to the left than if I did thirds. If I really want to emphasize the negative space because I just feel like that needs to happen, I'll use Bakker's Saddle for that and vice versa on the other side.

Class Description

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.