Skip to main content

Shoot: Pet Portraits

Lesson 9 from: How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Julia Kelleher

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

9. Shoot: Pet Portraits

Lesson Info

Shoot: Pet Portraits

- [Julia] So I'm going to first work with Judy on this cute little chair. It should be super simple, okay? Now I'm starting to introduce color. We did the balloons but now I'm really starting to introduce color into what we're doing. For now, I want you to kind of look at the colors I'm picking and why I'm picking them. And I asked to use Judy's little toy here. Will she get mad if I take her toy? - [Sarah] No. - You're a good girl. I saw her playing with this and I'm like, "Oh Sarah, I need to have that." Why do I want that? The green is even better there. Why do you think I saw that purple and went, "Ooh, I got to have that in my image?" Speak up. - [Female] Because they're opposites. - They're opposites on the color wheel. They vibrate against each other. This is the triadic color scheme with the green, the purple, and the orange. So it's very vibrant, energetic, fun, happy, and Judy's totally fun and happy. She's a pug. They got those big, beady eyes and she's just going to be so c...

ute with all this color. The color is going to set the mood of the image, okay? So be thinking about that and how color plays off. So, okay. Let me see. The other thing that I'm going to be doing is I'm going to first use my 85-millimeter lens but then I'm just going to switch to a wide angle, okay? And kind of show you how that changes the storytelling of the image, okay? So, Judy, what are you doing? Come here. She's like, "You're not my mom. Leave me alone." Judy, you want a treat? Judy, oh Judy. Look. Oh, yum, yum, yum, yummy. Oh, you're so good. She's doesn't care if she gets picked up, does she? Some dogs, you have to be really careful with dogs because I've been bit a lot. Oh, yes, you smell good. She smells good, huh? I'll give you a treat when we get over here. And here's your toy. We've got all the comforts of home, don't we? Oh I know, it's so good. I've been bit quite a bit. Stay. Stay. Good girl. I know, right? I know. It's just a rough life being a dog, huh? Is that hard work? Okay, you're going to stay. I know. Shh, stay. I know. Stay. Dogs can just talk to their owners heavily before you... let's go ahead and just take this out for a second. Stay. Stay. Good girl. You stay there. Good girl. You stay. Good girl. Okay, we were on massive ISO so I'm going to drop down. Stay. What a good dog you are. I know, right? I know. Now, I'm metering. She's pretty close to skin tone, so I'm metering off of her because I think that will work. Yeah, that looks pretty good. I'm also shooting very wide open because I want her to be the focus. Good girl. Good girl. You stay. You stay. Stay. I know, right? It's hard work, huh? I know, right? Stay. Good girl. Oh, I know. It's so hard, isn't it? Good girl. Oh, good job. Do you want a cookie? I know, huh. It's just hard work being a girl. Yeah, and it's hard when Ms. Julia doesn't know your language, huh? You're like, "I'm trying to do what you ask. I'm trying." Treats are the best. She's so chatty. You have an opinion about this, don't you? That's right. Come on. Good girl. You stay. Sit. Sit. Lie down. Lie down. "Oh, I just can't do it." Sit. I'm getting a little tough love back here, huh? Good girl. Right? Lie down. Good girl. Stay. Good girl. You stay. Stay. Stay. Good girl. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay. Look, she's smiling. Where's her toy? Can I have her toy? Stay. Is Momma going to come bring you your toy? Stay. Who's that? Who's that? Stay. Stay. Good girl. As you can see, "Sit, stay" helps a lot. So do cookies. I know, huh? You've just got so much to say. Stay. Good girl. Stay. Stay. Thank you. Stay. Come here. Come here. Did I get it? That's the question, "Did I get it?" Almost. Yeah, there we go. Okay, so isn't she funny? Evie's laughing over there. Good girl. Yeah, you did such a good job. She's so vocal, it cracks me up. So dogs that are sit-stay trained clearly are much easier. Lighting, simple. Same as a window, right? Now, she cracks me up. It's like so hard to focus because she's just talking and it makes you laugh. I know, I know. You want to say something, right? I know. So it's a simple one-light setup. I don't even have a reflector going on here. It's really hard to focus. But also notice that the purple in the images kind of adds an extra vibrance, okay? Now you have to be careful because it can also detract from her. So I used it very sparingly. I was like, "I don't know if I want this here," but it made that color triad that was really cool that I liked with the green. You can't see the green in that image necessarily, but... I know, you're such a good girl. But keep in mind making little noises, using treats, using toys a sit-stay trained dog is going to be a lot easier to work with. Oh my gosh, she is entertainment. You are pure entertainment. Yes, you are. Okay, let's get the stool and see if... B, I might need your help on this one and we're going to do a wide-angle approach, okay? The short stool, yeah. Definitely the short stool. I got to put these in my... I know, you just... see, now she's like all over me. She's like, "You've got the goods, girl. You've got the goods." - [Belinda] Do you want this... - Yeah, hang on one second. Let me change lenses and then I'll... She's such a sweet dog. Pugs really are, like, the best dog ever. Labradoodles are pretty cool, too. But we have a pug, Porter, and he loves children and so does Judy. She's just all about kids. Okay, this lens is a kit lens. It came with my camera, okay? So I want to show you what you can do with a kit lens, okay? You know what I mean when I say, "kit lens?" Okay. This time I'm going to pull her off the wall and move the light down just a touch. They all tell me they're like, "Let us help you." There. That'll work. Perfect. So, we tested this before and she was willing. But I have no idea if she'll be willing now. So we'll see. Yeah, I think so if she'll let you. Judy. Come here, peanut. Good girl. I know. Okay, sit. Sit. Good girl. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You're okay. Oh, you're so sweet. She's like, "I want those treats, dangit." Stay. - You're all right. You're all right. Shh, okay. Shh. - She's, like, so into the treats that she's having a hard time focusing on anything else. Okay. Here, you take those. I know. Stay. Oh, I don't want her to feel uncomfortable. She did really good before. Maybe Sarah. Sarah, I don't want to make her feel uncomfortable, so if she can't do it again then...but you're Mommy and you're... I know she's getting warm, too. So I don't want to... - Sit. - Sit. Yeah, I'm just worried she's going to get... - Sit. - There we go. Good girl. - Stay. Stay. Hey, stay. - And sometimes having the owner here is, like, that. Gold. Because they know the animal. Yeah, I'm just going to have you stay there in case the stool moves. - Hold it still if she jumps off. - And then I'll count and you can... because I don't want her... that stool falling out from under her. Okay? Stay. Good girl. Now, this lens only goes down to 3.5, so I'm going to have to raise my ISO and then... Make sure I'm... Oh, yeah. It's going to be interesting. Okay. I know, huh? Test shot. Make sure I like... Stay. Good girl. Good girl. Okay, one, two, three. Good girl. Stay. Good girl. You see, I'm using a really wide-angle lens. Stay. And now I'm going to get in really close. And I don't take...It did not fire. So, I'm really close to her with a wide-angle lens to get that distortion and personality, okay? I mean, how funny is that? You are such a sweet girl. Yes, you are. You're so good. I think Evie likes this, too. What are you doing? You're such a good girl. Yes, you are. She's, like, getting tired. Stay. She's like, "I'll listen to that." Now you also have to keep in mind that your camera with a wide-angle lens sometimes it won't... If you're too close, like, it won't actually take the shot. So just be forewarned of that. But as you can see, using a wide-angle lens all of a sudden adds a bunch of personality and a camera angle will do the same thing. But also you got to keep in mind that it's going to distort stuff a lot. I know, huh? Cute. Okay, good girl. Oh, I know. She's like, "I'm done. Okay, I'm done." Evie's over there just cracking up. Awesome. You're such a good girl, yes you are. So use a wide-angle lens to add some fun and flavor to your images. Now clearly I've got the wall in a way that's distorting the background. Like, those brick lines are now completely whacked because I'm using a wide-angle lens and I'm definitely going to have to crop off some of that stuff there. So, questions? Comments while we set up here? I'm going to probably pull that off the wall a little bit. Yeah. - [Kenna] I have a question from online which is all about focusing on dogs and specifically if you have a dog with a longer muzzle and you're trying to get both that nose and the eyes in focus. Do you have any advice for that scenario? - Yeah, you're definitely going to have to open up or stop down. So you're going to need to close that aperture to open up your focal plane. So you're going to have to shoot at, like, F8 in order to give yourself enough of a focal plane so that both the nose and the eyes will be in focus. Now, remember that one or the other will never be unless you're using strobe in a studio and shooting at F22, you're never going to have both fully, fully sharp and in focus, unless you're shooting at a really, really stop down aperture. And studio strobes, because they're so powerful, are going to be one of the few ways that you can do that unless you're outside, of course. So we're working with lights that are actually not very high-powered, okay? So that's why for me to get up to 5.6 I have to crank my ISO. You saw my ISO on this last image even at 3.5 I'm at ISO 800 in order to keep 1/200th of a second shutter speed. I want to keep a fast shutter speed so I capture her movement and her action, okay? If I had gone down to 1/125th and 1/180th of a second her movement would've made her shutter shake. Even if I'm as still as I possibly could be. So and the kit lens will only open up to 3.5. That's as wide as it will go. So for me to get there with these lights I had to make my ISO go up to 800. Do you see why it's so critical now to shoot in manual? And the hard part is you have three components. The three arms of the exposure triangle to mentally get straight in your head which is, I think, what boggles peoples' minds in the beginning. But trust me, as you do it more and it's going to be slow at first, it is. You're going to sit here and think and go, "Okay. I got to shoot at this and that means I got to..." The connection between the three is going to take awhile to become automatic. It will become automatic if you force yourself to do it, okay? Any other questions before moving onto... yes, Amelia? - [Amelia] What's the first thing you're thinking about? Is it the aperture or the shutter speed? - With a moving subject it's shutter speed first. But I set that at the lowest I can possibly go. The slowest I can possibly go and still capture the action, which to me is anywhere from 1/50th to 1/500th of a second, okay? From there I want as wide open of an aperture as possible because I love the out-of-focus backgrounds. It's the way I shoot, okay? If you don't care about that then you can look at F-stops that are stopped down like F6, F5.6, F8, that kind of thing, okay? But what that means is you're letting less light in so if that's the case then you got to make your sensor more sensitive to light, which means increasing your ISO, okay? So I try to keep my ISO low because I don't like a lot of noise. I want big, out-of-focus backgrounds so I have my aperture wide open which is what allows the light to come in, and then I make sure my shutter speed is fast enough to capture action. - So is that true then if you're doing portrait work as opposed to the moving subject? Are you trying to get... - Yes, but not nearly as critical. Like, I will if I'm feeling brave that day go down to 1/160th, 1/180th of a second, but then it's me. And it's a risk. It's a risk of getting shutter shake. If I'm stopped down on a tripod, it's less risk but even so, the subject needs to not move. So it just depends on the situation. It depends on how able the subject is to stay still and how I'm feeling confident that day, but really 1/125th of a second is about as low as I will go comfortably, okay? So that right there is a parameter that's set, if I'm handheld, okay? I should make that caveat. If I'm handheld and shooting a moving subject of any kind. - And that's true for any lens that you use because I was taught you use the one over whatever the focal length of the lens as a general rule. - That's a good rule of thumb, but I still think to be safe even if I'm shooting 24 millimeters, you know this is a pretty heavy lens. Even if I'm at 24 millimeters to shoot at 1/30th or 1/124th for the sake of your discussion, it's too slow for me. It's too risky. I've seen some people do it really well, again this is just me. You're going to have to practice and see what works well for you. I don't take the risk because I do this for a living and those shots need to come out and be nailed every time. So, again I don't want to say it's the wrong thing to do but I also want to give you the greatest chance of having really good shots all the time. Follow? - Yep. - Okay, but it's a good rule because when you have a long lens like a 200-millimeter lens, 1/200th of a second is kind of... because a long lens is so... have you ever tried to zoom in on something and you're like, "Whoa, that's shaky." You've done that on your phone? Your iPhone where you zoom in and you're like, "Whoa, I just moved the thing a tiny bit and it moves like this." Right? Well, that's because you're zooming in on a subject and expecting your hand to stay steady. So that rule of 1/200th of a second for a 200-millimeter lens is kind of like the basis to get people to think about shutter speed. I honestly think I would be way faster than that. I would be 1/500th or higher in that situation with a 200-millimeter lens. When I'm shooting with my 200 F2 out in the field like there is... I will occasionally go to 1/125th or 1/200th, 1/250th of a second, but it's rare because I'm like, "I can't hold this thing steady." It's really hard, but I'm also a type of person who... that's why I have a light camera. Camera shake is my nemesis. Like, it's the thing that I've had to overcome the most and so I'm very wary of it. I'm a little paranoid.

Ratings and Reviews


Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....

Student Work