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Mokey and Buddy

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Waiting for Santa!

Waiting for Santa!
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Contest Finalist in Pets and Holidays Photo Contest
Peer Award
Rayman23 nillohitmukherjee Heinrich_Ahrens karinmcfarlane Pblais sallyG11 FeatherstonePhotography +12
Outstanding Creativity
mcampi naturisk oksananachataia
Top Choice
Omegr collincagle
Absolute Masterpiece
LifeForcePhotography trishzimmerman
All Star


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Behind The Lens


For many years, we ran a dog and cat boarding facility near Ottawa, Ont, Canada. We took photos regularly to send out by email to the owners, who were travelling. Usually, we used a small and versatile 'point-and-shoot' camera because the common room and yards, full of dogs playing, was a robust environment! For major holidays, however, I took my more expensive Canon Rebel, and we had most of the dogs and cats dressed for the whatever was the occasion. Some dogs - and most cats - were disinclined to participate, although they would more or less cooperate. Buddy and Mokey, sibling dachshunds, were willing to go along with the proceedings but their true feelings can be seen! Photo was taken on a couch in the playroom of the kennel.


This was taken in the morning, after playtime, about 9:00 AM - by then, the dogs would have been active since around 6:00 AM and more or less ready to settle down - or cooperate with some photo taking.


The couch was placed on an inner wall of the room facing towards a fairly large north picture window. A lot of natural light fell on the couch, but of course, the room was brightly lit with fluorescents. The WB was set for the artificial light, and the north window ambient lighting didn't affect the setting that much.


My experience is that dog and cat shots cannot be done with a tripod! The setting is, we might say, 'fluid'. One person assisting would do the dressing-up, and me, with the camera, would be crouching in front of the dogs, waiting for that instant when the assistant moved out of the shot. The Rebel was fast enough to allow usually five or six quick takes before the subjects had had enough and shook off the costumes. Buddy [on the left] is looking at the assistant, while Mokey [on the right] is looking sadly at the camera, hoping it will soon all be over! And, flash isn't effective or desirable with animal eyes - bright ambient lighting is needed. One can see the slight reflection of the picture window in the eyes, especially Buddy's.


First and foremost, we wanted something to send to the owners, almost all of whom regularly picked up our emails wherever they were on holidays or business. Taking photos and sending them out by email was one of the more important things we did as guardians for our visitors. Over the years we created and sent hundreds of photos, and this became a hallmark [still talked of by many, who are still facebook friends long after we retired from the business].


I do 'tinker' a bit in many cases - I use PS Elements to make adjustments - a very slight crop can improve a photo that was mostly a 'catch-as-catch-can' situation. I occasionally take a lot of effort to remove distracting elements [although, in this case, I did not do anything with the couch 'buttons' behind the dogs]. A bit of colour boost can be helpful, and perhaps a modest adjustment of the lighting curve. I find that the software that processes the Rebel JPEGs onto my MAC is quite reliable, but some modest improvements can be helpful.

In my camera bag

I almost always have an Olympus or Nikon 'point-and-shoot' in my pocket [I don't have an iPhone, although I have seen some nice work done with some of the later models]. My larger kit is composed of a Rebel XTi with a Canon EOS 70-300mm IS lens, and a second XTi body with a Canon EFS 35mm IS [macro]. One is slung and the other on a shorted neck-strap. I also have a Canon 50 mm [Nifty Fifty] lens to switch out with the 35mm. Just recently I was gifted a Canon EOS 60D body and EFS 10-22mm lens, but I have not yet learned how to use them effectively.


Dog and cat photography is a question of adopting to a fast-changing environment. The shot you want is fleeting - a look, an action - and it is best done with equipment that is simple and familiar. Lighting is almost always available light. I normally use an aperture-priority setting to hold the lens at a favourable setting. I think the number one rule for this type of photo is to be down at the level of the dogs or cats - the camera [in my view] should be right at the subject's eye level, and that means the photographer is crouching, sitting, sometimes lying down. Spot focus exactly on the nearest eye - with two or more subjects, as here, a deeper depth-of-field is wanted [and hence a slightly smaller aperture], but the critical focus [I think] is always the nearest eye - the viewer will not usually notice that the further eyes are just slightly out-of-focus, if the nearer is sharp and reflective.

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