Posts Tagged ‘digital SLR’

How to Take Better Pet Pictures

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

How to Take Better Pet Pictures by Michael Hadfield
Our pets are part of the family and it’s so important to include them in the family album and have a record of them growing up and enjoying themselves. But pets, especially dogs, are lively and sometimes difficult to capture well. So here are a few tips and tricks that we use in CritterStudio that will help you to take pictures you’ll be proud to hang on your wall.

1 The Eyes Have It

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The eyes are the single most important features in a pet photograph. They must be in focus and you must be able to see them, unless you are shooting a profile, in which case you can get away with seeing just one eye looking straight ahead. Watch for the direction of the gaze, too much eye white looks very unattractive, so catch your pet looking at you when you click the shutter. Eye contact in an image creates an intimacy that is otherwise lacking. This intimacy is what creates the emotional response that you seek to capture when you view the picture – the ‘ahhh’ factor, if you like. Have a look here for some examples.

2 Had Enough
If you are having a photography session with your pet, then be mindful of their level of fascination with what’s going on. Different animals will have a different tolerance to being posed so you need to watch out for the warning signs indicating a loss of interest. When they start to get fed-up stop and give them a rest or continue on another occasion. I find that dogs, in the studio, will generally take about 30 – 40 minutes of me sticking a lens in their face and firing bright lights at them. That’s plenty of time to get some excellent shots, but it’s pointless to continue after that because their lack of alertness will show in the photograph.

3 Ready… Camera… Action…

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Movement takes practice, and a little knowledge of how your camera works, to capture well, so don’t be put off if your first attempts don’t come out the way you want them to. So even though your action shots are more difficult to pull off, with a digital camera, you can shoot away as much as you like. I am not, however, suggesting the ‘machine gun’ approach that many people use with digital SLRs. Just click the shutter, critically inspect your image on the camera’s view screen and use that to learn how to improve your timing – and your photographs. Be aware that on many cameras, especially low-end compacts, there is quite a delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter actually firing, so you will have to learn to adapt to this, pressing the shutter a few moments before the point at which you want to capture your pet. If this is preventing you from getting the images you want then consider investing in an entry level Digital SLR like the Canon EOS 1000D or Nikon D3000 Aim to catch the peak of the action, switch your camera to shutter priority (Tv), and set the value to either 1/500, or faster, in order to freeze the action, or around 1/30 (you may also need to switch on Image Stabilisation with this speed) to create a very attractive blur that will show the movement off nicely. You may have to burrow into the camera’s menu system to change these settings on a compact digital camera. They are usually easier to find on a dSLR

4 Be Relaxed
Pets have minds of their own. Some are more sedentary than others, but they are unpredictable and taking pictures of them requires a very different approach to, say, producing a portrait of a person who will respond to direction. Because of this, patience is your biggest ally. You need a willingness to wait and watch and be ready to click the shutter when everything is just so. If you are impatient, or in a hurry to get your pictures then you will probably be disappointed with the results. Animals do not have our concept of time and you will produce much better results if you can slip into their timeless state while you seek to capture images of them.

5 See What You Don’t See

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The background can make or break a photograph. Backgrounds that are sympathetic to the subject will almost be unnoticed, but how often have you looked at an otherwise good image and found that something in the background was pulling your eye away from the subject? The reason we so often get unsightly backgrounds is that the eye tends to focus on the centre of interest and ignore everything else. So you need to make a conscious effort to sweep your eye around the frame (whether you are using a traditional viewfinder or a viewscreen) to see what else you are photographing along with your pet. Things to watch out for are bits of other people, strong lines (pavement, posts) that cut through the subject, bright colours (red/yellow/orange especially), anything in fact that catches the eye and draws attention away from the subject. Natural backgrounds – rocks, foliage, sea/sand, sky – tend to work very well. Watch out also for clutter and litter.

6 How Close
Robert Capa once said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” And he wasn’t suggesting that you use your zoom control to zoom in or Photoshop to crop out the excess and create the illusion of closeness. When you are physically close to your subject there is an interaction between you and your subject that shows in the photograph. It makes the subject of the photograph more real, more alive. This is so crucial with pet photographs as often the photographs are all we have left to keep that memory alive. So make sure they are good ones.

7 If You Haven’t Got It, You Can’t Use It
Your camera needs to be with you when you are out with your pet (and I don’t mean the camera in your phone). If you haven’t got it, then you cannot capture your pet in that cute, once in a blue moon action; that spectacular pattern of mud or mess; or that loving way your pet looks into your eyes asking for forgiveness because they just know they’ve done something wrong. So make it a point to carry your camera and if your camera is a heavy DSLR then buy a high quality compact like the Canon PowerShot G12 to keep in your pocket. That way you will never miss that special moment and create a collection of photographs of your pet that you can be proud of.

Have fun.

Michael Hadfield is one of the photographers running CritterStudio. CritterStudio is a successful Pet Photography business, creating beautiful images of your pet to hang on your wall.


Popularity: 75% [?]

Event Photography – Big Family Book Day

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Had a pleasant day out at Tatton Park yesterday photographing an event run by the local libraries. Big Family Book Day was aimed at promoting reading activities within families, and visitors were able to make badges, draw, colour, lie on the floor, sneak behind the curtains to look at the all the stuffed animal heads mounted on the walls, or even explore the history of paper-making and writing.

The History of Writing - well a little bit of it at least.

The History of Writing - well a little bit of it at least.

Not only that but there were three excellent speakers to entertain visitors.

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First there was That Poetry Bloke (Craig Bradley), a wonderful entertainer with an interesting take on language and words geared towards a younger audience but certainly of interest to me.

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Then came the turn of Matt Buckingham, illustrator of the Gruesome Truths series of childrens historical books. He entertained us by sharing the process of being a given a book to illustrate and showing the page layouts and instructions he receives on what kind of an illustration is required to fit the space.

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He even did a few drawings for us.

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Finally came Jim Eldridge writer of over 250 TV and radio scripts and with over 1 million book sales to his credit. Jim encouraged the audience to participate in a team story development process to show how scripts are written. And he also mentioned how he was thrown off the writing team at East Enders for suggesting that the story lines were a little dark and could perhaps do with a little humour injected into them.

Still I wasn’t there to listen, I was there to take pictures and that wasn’t as easy as I anticipated, huge spaces, low light levels, and not very many people at any one time. Photography made a little more difficult by having to obtain signatures from parents who sometimes objected to having (very good) photographs of their children used to promote the free event they were attending and consequently help to attract further funding for events like it in the future. I then had to remember all of their children and ensure I didn’t accidentally include them in any shots after that – and they were all over the place.

Still I’d got all I needed by around 2:30 and went off for a wander round the park and see if I could catch any rutting deer…

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…or autumn colours…

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Equipment used: Canon 40D, 17-85mm IS EF-S, 70-200 EF L, Metz AF58.

Michael Hadfield

Popularity: 58% [?]

Conservation Work

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Had a great day out in the middle of nowhere yesterday doing some work for The Churches Conservation Trust. My task was to record the enthusiastic work of a group of volunteers who were tidying up a very overgrown cemetery. The Church itself is a fantastic building with an interior design I have never encountered before. There is a gallery running round the inside of the building added so that more people could be accommodated for services.

The Church itself is rarely used nowadays, though a wedding will be taking place there later on in the year, consequently it is down to a small group of dedicated local people who do their best to look after the building and grounds. There is no regular congregation able to fund maintenance of the building and so that responsibility has fallen into the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust.

The weather was unfavourable, not only for outside work, but also for photography, with frequent heavy showers. The grey skies creating overexposed featureless highlights and a frequent gloom making ISO 400 the minimum usable rating. I used my Canon 40D with the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens lens for all of the shots. ISO shifted up to 800 only when I would otherwise have been using maximum aperture. Exposure metered on Tv with a little exposure compensation dialled in from time to time. Metz 58 AF-1 Canon Digital Flashgun was used for the lime-washing images – the nice white room meant a reasonable amount of light bouncing around even though the ceiling was dark and high. It was also used to illuminate the walls around the large stained glass window behind the altar. Exposure balanced so the stained glass still retained the wonderful glow of transmitted light.

The volunteers had a great time, and the organiser Rohit Jiwa, provided lunch for everyone, and I even had a call from the editor of the Saddleworth Independent wanting some photos.

More photos on my facebook page

Popularity: 56% [?]

Jessops, the Home of Good Photographic Advice – Maybe Not

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I was in Jessop’s yesterday and there was a saleslady in there who was very keen. When I arrived she was talking to a family, the daughter of which appeared to want to buy a dSLR. I only noticed them because they were parked right in front of the Canon display window that I wanted to have a look at. Anyway she said something that caught my attention. An SLR is an SLR and whichever one you buy you’ll get brilliant pictures.

Mmm! I thought is it really as simple as that.

Then before I had a chance to position myself in front of the Canon Gear (of which there was a disappointing quantity I might add) a gentleman started looking at the same stuff and there she was again. The guy said he was looking for a full frame dSLR, she hesitated and I was about to offer my knowledge when she said, the 7D is full frame and the 5D. There was no mention of the two EOS 1d’s – neither of which they had on display, and interestingly no mention of any full-frame Nikons in the very next case.

Canon Digital SLR Camera EOS 5D Mark II + EF24-105 Kitcanon5d

Now here was a guy who was looking for a full-frame dSLR and this young lady was happy to sell him a 7D with an APS-C sensor which is a lot smaller than full-frame. I got the feeling she didn’t know much about photography, though I guess Jessops had trained her well enough to be able to demonstrate how a camera’s controls work.

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Me, if I’d been selling, I’d have asked him what was the reason he wanted a full-frame sensor. My gut told me he was moving from film to digital (his apparent age was one of the factors that suggested this might be the case) and that a full-frame sensor was a belief that they maintained 35mm film quality.

Anyway, having now established that this young lady did not know as much as she was pretending to know, my thoughts returned to her opening comment. An SLR is an SLR.

Now I own two dSLRs a Canon 400D and a Canon 40D, and I’d upgrade to a 5D, 7D, or either of the 1D mkIII’s at the drop of a hat. Do both my cameras produce identical quality images? That is a much harder question to answer, but I’m sure if I rooted out some old photo magazine reviews I’d find that there was an improvement with image quality in the 40D over the 400D, or would I? It would certainly be an interesting comparison to make. I tend to use one or the other body, with the same set of lenses. I take the 400D with me when I want to have a camera, but can’t be bothered with the weight and bag full of lenses that I always take with the 40D. So I have no comparison images. This is something I need to correct.

The 40D is undoubtedly a much nicer camera to use with a better control layout and features that suit my photography. Now, as to whether Canon is better than Nikon or what I believe to be another contender for the crown – Sony. That is an interesting point to consider.

I wasn’t convinced by the young lady’s comment in the slightest. Every review I read finds some good things and some bad things, and picture quality is one of those things that varies from camera to camera. And if you ignore sensor-size/pixel count, which tends to be comparable in similar priced cameras from the big dSLR manufacturers, then the lens makes a big difference. The kit lens that comes with the 400D is pretty much fit for the bin. I only realised this after I bought the 40D and immediately noticed superior image quality from its kit lens. The 400D kit lens, when the camera was available, cost around £60. The 40D kit lens around £300. Then I bought my first L lens, and that shifted everything again.

The lens is the single most important factor for picture quality, yet the advice that was being given was, shortlist 3 cameras and then come and handle them and pick the one that feels best in your hand. Excellent selling technique. Puts responsibility for actual choice in the hands of the customer – no comeback in the form of ‘you advised me to buy this junk’; yet acknowledges that buying is an emotional rather than a logical act. The one that feels right. You’ll know it as soon as you hold it, she said.

I handled neither of my cameras before purchase; I bought them, mail-order, based purely on reviews and my (this is my emotional bit) 30 year experience of Canon SLRs. They both did exactly what I expected them to and I am very impressed with the performance of both.

To me there is only one reason to own an SLR and that’s to make use of the fact that the lenses detach and can be changed to suit the subject matter. Without this it’s just a big clunky camera bought to impress, rather than a tool to actually use. This aspect of SLR ownership was, interestingly, ignored.

So, to get back to the original comment – an SLR is an SLR, clearly suggesting that it makes no difference what you choose as long as you like it. Clearly ignoring lens quality as a factor. Clearly ignoring the size of the manufacturer’s lens range as a factor. I don’t believe the statement to be true.

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Popularity: 65% [?]