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Pet Photographers Secret

All photographers have a routine when they plan for photo sessions.

I have a charging station in my office. It charges batteries for 3 cameras, 4 strobes, 2 flashes and 3 controllers. This is one of the first things I do when preparing for a session.

Next are my memory cards. My camera's use 2 different type memory cards. I usually have multiple sessions on my memory cards. So I have to be careful with them. (Don't want to erase a session that hasn't been edited)

When I get in studio and start to set up. I have to prepare everything, because I work in my GARAGE that I park my Jeep in. I have to sweep and blow out junk that my car has brought in.

I told you it is not pretty in studio. Studio just sounds better than garage. We have 1970s paneling in the garage, nothing has been updated and as with all garages - yes, you may see bugs from time to time. I work at that, its a never ending battle out there.

My backdrops hang on my wall (usually 5 or 6 of them) and I have backdrops hanging on shelves. (I try to keep them hanging to keep the wrinkles out!) In the photo above I have some rolled and bunched up at the top. I pull out whatever flooring I am using. I use everything from vinyl floors, wall planks, floordrops, rugs and even backdrops. If I have multiple sessions, everything is layered for those sessions.

Then I decide on furniture or no furniture. I am minimizing my props. I have been leaning toward simple and classic photos for the past year. (Which helps my dang back)

My light stands are on dollies. So they move easy. I set up my lighting and it is different every time. I almost always use 2 strobes. Depending on my backdrop, I could use 4.

After I set everything up, I take test shots! Some photographers use light meters and some use grey cards. I have those too. Never use them!

If you are a pet photographer, you know the struggles of white and black dogs. For me, white dogs are a challenge. I love photographing black dogs!

White dogs fur will easily "blow out". Look at some of your photos of white dogs. The whites are so white, there is no detail in the fur. Its a white glob. It takes correct exposure and lighting to get white fur correct in camera and show details. AND dogs move!!

A lot of people say black dogs are hard. You can't see eyes. With the correct lighting, black dogs photograph beautifully. (& easy)

The secret!! My solution for test shots is this sweet pup. I never named him or her. (LOL) Its just the dog. So I guess the name is DEEEE-OOOHHH-GEEEE

Testing on this faux model helps because of the black and white fur! I throw on hats and bandanas and even glasses.... so I can check shadows and glare. But this dog never moves!

Balancing the black and white is a challenge. You can easily underexpose the blacks and get noise & grain when you lift shadows/exposure/blacks in photoshop. If you overexpose on the whites and its a white glob, it is usually not fixable. Unless you paint dog fur and that is extremely time consuming. (I don't like editing)

The photo above is Buzz. You can see on the left side of his face - it is a white glob. No details. It is blown out. That is where my strobe light hit.

The doodle is my Lexi. You can see her curls with the lights and darks of the whites. This one is not blown out. I like this one.

This is Stormi. The left side of her face is blown out. I do not paint on the detail or copy fur from another photo. It is extremely time consuming. Its still a cute photo. But the blown highlights drive me nuts!

** I always say, I am my own worst critic! I know every single thing that is wrong in an image before anyone else does. **

Black dogs! You do have to watch for black dogs looking blue. I have had to reduce blues in photoshop. But generally, I can get the exposure correct in camera. My usual aperture for black dogs is F11-F12. (White dogs F16 or F18)

That's it, with correct exposure, correct lighting and placement of lights you can photograph black dogs, white dogs and black/white dogs.

The faux dog model works in studio every session. Before every client session, I have taken photos of this dog to get lighting close to being right! Yes, I could use a light meter, but I like the challenge of figuring it out myself.

📸©Sandra Ferguson Photography


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