I thought I’d share some of my pet photography image editing videos to show you what actually goes into editing images and that none of our dogs are perfect!
There will always be a lot of work ‘behind the scenes’ that goes into processing a photo for it to be of a high print quality and I would never provide an image straight out of the camera to a client.
Every image has to go through at least the basic standard edits to correct colour, temperature, exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, highlights and shadow adjustments. Then there’s the additional work which can include removing distracting elements, cleaning up of backgrounds, fur, faces, marks and scars, lead removal etc.
Because people often don’t see the before images, they think “oh my dog can’t do that” when they see the final image of a beautifully posed dog, but you’d be surprised to find that often these dog’s aren’t as well behaved as you’d think and often the dogs are actually kept on lead or with the owners close by.
With the digital editing capabilities we have access to now, it means that the final image is often not what it seems.
Dealing with Harsh Sunlight
This video shows the before image straight out of camera (SOOC) and after image once processed.
Often beach shoots can be difficult if it is a bright sunny day as there is no shade to help diffuse the light. This is why I always try to shoot later in the day when the sunlight is softer. But this day the sun was still too high and fiercely bright, causing very strong highlights.
I always shoot with my subject backlit by the sun, but to get a soft light on the dog instead of harsh highlights for this shot we needed a little extra help, where I asked the owner to step in and hold a diffuser to soften the light, because the dog was posing so politely it allowed us to do so.
This before and after image video illustrates how dogs can still remain on the lead during their session and it’s actually more common, than you would think!
Let’s address the most common misconceptions as to why people think they can’t have a pet photography session…
“my dog isn’t well behaved enough”, “they’re too naughty”, “they’re untrained or unresponsive”, “they just won’t behave”, “they don’t have good recall”.
These are not actually reasons not to have a session. These can all be resolved simply by keeping your dog on lead during the session and then in your final edited images you’d never even know they were on lead.
This is another before (SOOC) and after image video where if you have any concerns about your dog’s behaviour, then sometimes it’s just safer to keep the dogs on lead. Because at the end of the day your dog’s safety is always the most important thing during a session!⠀
This image took quite a bit of work to get right, and you can see from the before and after that the images don’t quite line up as I had to make some further alterations to the background to get this one right.⠀
It’s very common due to the Breed Specific Legislation laws in Australia to have to keep your rescue Greyhound either muzzled or on lead (although the muzzled law in Victoria has just changed yay). And it’s not often I come across Greyhounds who are well behaved enough that they are allowed to be off lead. Let’s just say they don’t always have the street smarts lol.⠀
Greyhounds, I find, are often one of the hardest dog breeds to photograph! They can be difficult to get them to perk their ears up, and they are often very stubborn and just like to do their own thing. Gazza and Milly here however, are not like your typical Greyhounds! These two are the exception to the rule and sure know how to model.
This is another great example where we needed to keep Manfred, the Beagle, here on lead. Being a rescue dog and having come out of a testing lab, he is still learning the ways of the world. Although now being out and about, now free, there are still some limitations to ensure his safety and comfort so he can gain his confidence.⠀
It’s so great being able to capture an image like this where he is now running free, putting his best paw forward, happy and being able to enjoy life and the outdoors.⠀
Another year of AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards done and dusted. It all started with the Victorian State Awards in February, where 3 out of 4 of my images were awarded and I was a finalist for the Victorian Pet/Animal Photographer of the year (again) but sadly didn’t take out the title.
So in August, I went into the Australian Professional Photography Awards (the Nationals) with the hope to better last years result and my result at State, hopeful to get all 4 out of 4 entries awarded. Well guess what???… I DID IT! I got all 4 awarded Silvers and I’m stoked! For once my results were on par with my expectations and I didn’t come away disappointed. I entered the same 4 images only 2 images I re-worked according to judges feedback at the State awards for re-entry into the Nationals and luckily this got them over the line. Below are the images I entered along with before and after edits and a video of one of my images being talked up during judging.
With the awards I’ve won having entered for the past 3 years, I’m very proud that this year I also achieved my Associate status within the AIPP. The next level is to become a Master Photographer (wow how awesome does that sound!) which I’m on my way to achieving with 7 more points needed to obtain over the next 5 years. This is done through winning more awards. Easy right….haha
The variation in the scoring is very interesting and I find often hard to accept especially seeing as photography is so subjective. While the judging criteria is the same for both the State and National awards, because you actually have to qualify to enter the Nationals the standard of photography overall is so much higher and hence the judging seems much harder.
This girl was once a puppy farm dog, but now she is lucky to be treated like royalty.
In this before and after video of my “Bulldog Queen” image creation you can see she was photographed in this setting with this beautiful side light. However the original background was too distracting, so I re-created it from numerous other shots, taking pieces from each shot to build this little scene. I also added the crown (which I had photographed on her head in other shots) to further add to the story of making her a Queen standing majestically in front of her castle.
This is the original image out of the camera with basic colour and exposure adjustments.
This was my final edited image as entered into the Victorian State Awards. I’ve cropped it closer, softened the colour palette, and brightened it up. Unfortunately it scored 78 just missing out on an award. One of the judges comments was that they wanted to see more expression from the dog. I took this feedback and edited the image for re-entry into the National Awards.
This is the final version having changed the dog’s face to something more suitable showing more expression and happiness. This change meant the image scored higher being awarded a Silver award with a final score of 82 at the National Awards.
This image “Royal Chihuahuas” was a composite, created from a number of different shots. I was actually surprised that it scored an 82 – Silver at the State awards and I knew it wasn’t going to cut it going into the Nationals. Feedback from the judges at a print critique was that the dogs didn’t stand out enough and the archway was actually the main focus in this image. In the after version, I’ve stripped back all of the strong colouring inside the archway and some colour being cast onto the dogs. I’ve also re-created the top of the archway to complete the framing and darkened the image overall. I added a necklace for some more bling for Peanut, adding to her royal status. The re-edited version just scraped through at the Nationals scoring an 80 – Silver award. The changes paid off…Phew!
This image was actually my highest scoring print at the State awards and was talked up during the judging to score 85 – Silver Distinction. I re-entered this image without any changes into the Nationals and it only scored a 79! As you can imagine, I was gutted. But luckily it also got challenged and further discussed being talked up again.
Once re-scored it received an 81 – Silver.
3 out of my 4 images this year were created from client shoots and not just client shoots, but rescue dog shoots shot specifically for my rescue dog book project. I also entered my rescue dog photobook into the awards, in the photobook category, but sadly it just missed out on an award by one point, scoring 79. However it did receive some really positive comments from the judges and it was stated that the photography was of a very high professional standard. I was amazed that one judge scored it a 92!!! which is one of my highest scores ever and in the Gold range, however another scored it a 72, which ultimately and sadly brought the overall score down.
Some of the judges comments mentioned were:…
“I enjoyed the journey”
“Each animal is treated with the same respect”
“The photographs are great and the stories are well illustrated”
“A commercially viable book. A great piece of commercial advertising for the photographer”
My book ‘From Lost to Loved’ is available for purchase here: with 10% of sales donated to the selected pet rescue groups.
You can also view all the other awarded images in the winners gallery on the APPA website here: APPA Winners Gallery
To continue on from my first post, which talks in more detail about the APPA’s, (read it here) this is my second image which was awarded a Silver with Distinction at the 2016 Professional Photography Awards. This was my second time entering this image, as I also first entered it into the Victorian State awards where it was awarded a Silver and scored 81. We often hear that the National judging is much harder than the State (although they are trying to make them more in line together) so the fact that this was awarded much higher and pushed me through to the next level, makes me very happy.
As you can see this dog was not originally photographed on the brick background in the final image.
I really liked the dog in this image, but the background is too busy and distracting attention away from him.
However the lighting on him is really lovely and he has a very cute expression so I thought the dog had a lot of potential if in the right setting.
After shooting a lot of different backgrounds all around the city, I knew I wanted something a bit urban.
This brick wall was the one I ended up selecting to use with the dog.
While I loved this background, it needed some work.
I worked on removing the piece of wood across the wall, by taking various different parts of the brick and merging it in.
I thought it might be fun to add a little humour into it and so came the graffiti writing over the no parking sign (this dawg is bad ass).
Here I’ve incorporated the dog in the foreground.
I’ve also brought across the ledge he was sitting on, but straightened this out to match the scene.
Played around with some lighting effects on the background.
With the final image I’ve cropped out the other distracting elements on both the left and right sides of the image again to bring more focus to the dog.
Now I just need to find a way to improve yet again on Silver Distinction next year #chasinggold
Since becoming a professional photographer it’s been important to me to be a part of the photographic community and continue my professional and creative development. I became an accredited member of the NZIPP when working in NZ and as soon as I moved to Australia I also joined and became accredited with the AIPP (Australian Institute for Professional Photographers).
Every year the AIPP run the Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA’s) and for the last 2 years, since the addition of the Pet/Animal category, I’ve entered my work into both the Victorian State level awards and National level awards. The awards have been a great way for me to keep pushing myself creatively and also to receive acknowledgment and recognition for the professional level of photographic work I am producing.
So far over the last 2 years I’ve been awarded 4 Silvers in the Victorian awards resulting in being a finalist for Victorian Pet/Animal Photographer of the year and also 3 Silvers and 1 Silver with Distinction in the National awards.
While it’s an amazing high to win awards, it also takes it’s toll emotionally and mentally. It’s not easy putting your work on display to be judged and critiqued in front of so many other professionals in the industry, in fact it’s bloody nerve racking! So much work, literally blood, sweat, tears, sleep deprivation, time and money, has been put into each image. It often takes hours and hours working on it to get it just right to the point that you do become very attached and invested in each image. It’s lucky there is a deadline for submissions as you could literally just keep coming back and continually tweaking until it drives you mad! And although this process is really hard, it’s also somewhat addictive. Having such high expectations of myself and my images, means I can’t help feeling a little disappointment that my images didn’t do better, but this just means I have to keep entering and striving to hopefully one day achieve a Gold. This year I was happy to break past a Silver but now I want Gold all the more!
It’s a very personal thing to be given a score which essentially tells you whether your image is good enough or not. I already have very high expectations of myself and my imagery so it’s hard not to feel disappointment if this isn’t reflected in the judging. The judging panel is made up of 5 judges who each score the image and then the final score is the average of these 5 scores. If there is a large variation between these scores, there can be a challenge where the judges will discuss the image and why they feel it’s worth that score. After discussion they will re-score.
Judges are always going to be looking for originality and uniqueness within the concept, the level of emotion and whether the image conveys a strong story. And just as important is the overall photographic quality, technical skill and the printing and presentation of the image. Australia only awards Silver and Gold, compared to NZ who also awards a Bronze. Silver is 80-84, Silver with Distinction 85-89, Gold 90-94 Gold Distinction 95-100. 75-79 is considered to be of a good Professional Standard.
Most of my entries have been derived from photos taken during my client sessions. However the images have also been re-worked in Photoshop to try and take them beyond just being a good image. I do have some conceptual ideas bouncing around in my head, which I would like to explore to try and create imagery specifically for the purpose of the awards. This would be a big project in itself and one I’m a little scared to embark on, to be honest, but I hope I can put some time aside to try this.
So I thought I’d share with you what it has taken to achieve the results of each photo that I have had awarded. I’ll share each photo in a separate post, as otherwise you’ll be reading this all day! I’ll start with my image of Bear, the Staffy. This was a new image being entered for the first time.
Straight out of camera. A little under exposed.
Colour corrected and further warmed up.
After attending a print critique (which the AIPP run prior to the submission deadlines) the feedback I received was to remove the tree directly behind the dog’s back end and also to add another light source onto the dog to really bring the dog out of the image.
Removed the tree directly behind dogs back end.
Worked on minimising distracting highlights in background.
Worked further on evening up and dulling down harsh highlights throughout background. Replaced trees where highlight was too distracting.
Brightened up the dog as well as branch he’s standing on.
With the final image I decided on a closer crop to bring more focus to the dog.
If you want to create something unique and original and possibly have a creative concept you would like to explore, please let me know and we can work together to create it!
Another year over already, I just can’t believe how fast the time goes!
So before I get stuck into another year, I wanted to post a wrap up of the year that was 2015 and share my personal favourite pet photography images shot throughout the year (although this is a hard task as there are SO many) along with some of the years highlights for me.
- Being filmed and making my promotional video (which you can view HERE)
- My first year being able to enter in the newly introduced Pet/Animal category in AIPP/APPA awards and winning a Silver award in both the State and National awards.
- Quitting my part-time job to concentrate solely on my photography business.
- I started running my pop-up pet portraits at various events, which have proven popular.
- Getting a presence on Instagram (my favourite of the social media platforms) and taking heaps more photos of my girl, Peanut, to share with my audience.
- Making friends with so many of my great clients and getting to meet their beautiful dogs – and as a result many more playmates and playdates for Peanut.
- Getting to photograph some native Australian wildlife.
- Meeting and making new friends with other amazingly talented photographers who I have the utmost respect for.
- Developing some important relationships with other business people and pet businesses, which I really value, in the pet industry.
The only major thing missing from this year for me was travel, well there was a short trip home to NZ, but I don’t really count that, so I must plan another overseas trip in 2016. It gets harder each year now though as I absolutely hate leaving our girl, Peanut behind.
2016 brings many more pet photography client sessions, a few weddings, more award entries, hopefully a personal project and much much more. It’s going to be a very busy start to the year, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Olivia and Taco were the lucky winners of my Styled Shoot Pet Photography competition run in conjunction with TouchdogAU.
I think Taco looks very dapper modelling this Touchdog checkered shirt, make sure to check them out as they make an awesome dog clothing range and also have some great pet bed options too.
After we took off his shirt, Taco spent the whole time running circles (literally) around the park. Toward the end of the shoot, to my relief, he had finally tuckered himself out enough to just have some loving cuddle time with mum and at this point he almost fell asleep.\
Taco is a serious cutie and I just love this cheeky little Foxy Chihuahua Cross.
This is Taco’s Canvas Panel which was the product Olivia had won. I think she picked such a great image to display for this!
I first met Amanda and Ollie when I selected Ollie to be a part of the Friendly Dog Collars photo shoot. Being a puppy I was super impressed with how well he behaved for us in modelling the FDC clothing range and I was very happy when Amanda decided to book another session with me so we could capture more photos of Ollie while is is still young.
Amanda describes Ollie as active, affectionate, friendly, playful and cheeky – so you could say your typical Golden Retriever. It’s taken 8 years since the passing of their German Spitz, Fluffy, to get another dog and Ollie has already won over not only Amanda’s heart but all of the family with his overly affectionate and loving personality.
Amanda Says: “Ollie is growing extremely fast and in order to cherish his puppy period, I just had to get some photos with Erin after seeing how amazing she worked at capturing him! We had such great fun with the Friendly Dog Collars Shoot and wanted to see more of her great work! Ollie truly reminds us how important loving each other is and he is just is a joy to be with!”
When we met for our shoot at the Carlton Gardens, I was amazed to see already after such a short time, how much Ollie had grown! It just shows the importance of getting your puppy photos done quickly as these bigger dog breeds aren’t small for long!
It’s such a huge honour being asked by another photographer to photograph them, so when I was approached my Mel to photograph her wedding with their dogs included I could hardly say no. Mel actually found me initially by seeing my pet photography work and I was lucky that this was a big draw card for her being interested in having me photograph her wedding. I think her friends and family found it funny when she told them she had hired a pet photographer to photograph her wedding.
Being a portrait photographer herself she has plenty of shots of her dogs, but not so many of her and her fiancee together with their dogs, so we decided to focus on this for their engagement session. This also meant we could spend a bit more time focusing on getting some great images of all of them together away from the throngs of their wedding day and without being constrained within the wedding day schedule.
Because Mel is a photographer too, her dogs feature quite a lot throughout her work and they are obviously very used to being photographed. However it become quite a common theme that the focus was often on Bindi the Pug who is always stealing the limelight where everyone would say “but what about Charlie?…” so Mel named her business What About Charlie Photography – how cute is that.
I loved working with these two, they are such a beautiful couple and their wedding was just so full of love, they will make a beautiful family as well.
When Michelle booked her session, I was surprised to find out that her dog, Gemma, an adorable ten year old Spoodle, wasn’t actually her dog, but she may as well be for the amount that Michelle loves her.
Michelle is actually a house/pet sitter, so Gemma belongs to their close family friends, and for the last 5 years, Michelle has been been looking after her a couple of times a year. Recently Michelle’s family lost their own dog, so for Michelle, Gemma is the next best thing.
Gemma’s owners were unaware that Michelle had organised a photo shoot with her so not only could she get some lovely images for herself but also to give the owners as a surprise gift. I think they are very lucky to have Michelle looking after Gemma when they are away as she couldn’t be with anyone who loves her more.
Elmo is a very lucky boy. He was adopted from the RSPCA by Belinda and now he’s better known as Elmo – The Social Media Hound. It appears that this little guy gets around, Belinda takes him everywhere as these two are inseparable and it’s turned him around from being a shy, scared dog to being confident, happy and loving everyone. I can’t believe it when such beautiful dogs are found as strays as he was, with no collar, no microchip and no history. He had to be re-taught basic commands and house trained, as an adult dog, he had also never been walked on a lead before and 6 months passed before Belinda saw him play with a toy for the first time.
Thanks to Belinda’s love and care he has blossomed into the cutest, friendliest and happiest dog ever. So much so that people will always stop to approach him on the street, wanting to pat and cuddle him. He has such a positive effect on people that they always smile when walking past. Elmo is also very clever as Belinda has taught him to roll over, tilt his head and shake hands.
It was a pleasure to photograph these two and they were actually selected from a large group of people to take part in my promo video which you can watch on my home page here.
Mocha may be a miniature chocolate Labradoodle but he definitely has a huge personality. He is your typical boy dog, a boisterous boy who likes to do what he wants to do. He loves to play and loves both people and other dogs so he is always providing a lot of entertainment for his two lovely mum’s Linda and Heather.
I met these lovely ladies through my own dog walking and Peanut happened to really take a liking to Mocha and they would play together in the park.
Linda says: “Mocha is our whole world. He has brought so much love and joy to my whole family. He is much loved and adored and is a complete part of our lives.”
I think it’s obvious from these photos that he is very loved and this is a very happy family unit, that revolves around this special boy.
I photographed Jess the Poodle and Lola the Kelpie Cross at the Brighton Beach Boxes. It was a super windy afternoon, where we were dodging the rain, but this meant we could have fun with Jess’ ears blowing in the wind and gave us some nice moody skies.
Emma thought it was time to have her two babies photographed, especially seeing as Jess is getting older now. While Jess was untrained to sit and stay, we still managed to get some great shots of her while roaming around the rocks and running and playing in the sand. Lola on the other hand was much easier to command, however was very excitable at being at the beach and would like to just let loose every now and then.
This is what I really enjoy about these sessions, letting your dogs be able to just let loose and have some time to play and investigate in between the shooting. Often this can also lead to getting those great natural shots of them just being themselves.
Emma got her two favourite images made into Stone Panels to display in her home. I think these look really great, and this product works especially well with beach scenes with it’s natural rustic finish.