I recently had the opportunity to photograph a lovely female doberman, named Roxy. The basic concept of the photo-session was to show Roxy as a Rockstar/Diva in the spotlight.
In order to achieve my vision, I built a three light setup. Including, two small flashes to both rim-light Roxy and create a cool star-burst effect into the camera’s lens . . . as though spotlights or paparazzi flashes were firing in the background. Additionally, because I desired a very dark and moody look and feel to the image, I decided to boom a large softbox over Roxy. Thus, only lighting her from directly above. The beauty of this three light setup was that the flare of the back-lights along with the softbox above created a lovely shape of Roxy’s form, while still keeping the mood of the image very dark . . . like a stage. Below is a diagram of the setup I built on set.
Their are many steps involved in creating a great photograph. Just like any form of art, their is a process to developing and creating said art into a masterpiece. The same is true concerning my artwork as a photographer. And frankly, it’s one of the many components that separates amateurs and professionals in this industry . . . i.e. the passion and dedication one has to develop and create their art. Thus, just like the days of film were we had to go into the darkroom, to develop and print our film, I always use my digital darkroom (via Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop) to develop my raw images to their full artistic potential. Below is a quick screen-shot of Roxy’s original photo opened in Photoshop, with the exception of some minor adjustments and color-corrections made beforehand in Lightroom.
Compared to the final photograph, their was a myriad of changes made before the final piece was complete. For starters, unfortunately in order for Roxy to feel comfortable she had to keep her leash and collar on. As a pet photographer, it’s my job to deal with the many different unique personalities of each of my clients pets. Every dog, cat, rabbit, etc. is unique. And, as much as I want to get everything right in camera, the truth of the matter is when working with animals, one has to respect their wishes. Thus, I “simply” (which isn’t so simple) retouched Roxy’s leash & collar out of the image. Below is a first layer run in post-production, cloning some small distractions & beginning the process of editing the leash out of the photo.
The next two steps in the retouching process included editing out the light stands and cleaning up any stray fur and marks on the floor. As a pet photographer, I always cringe when ever I see other “pet photographers” work in which they don’t spend the time and effort to edit out the dirt, shedded fur, and/or claw marks in their backdrops. We all recognize that dogs shed, and thus, don’t need to document that. Personally, I could never imagine providing my clients a large scale piece of art for their homes (or a commercial client) a product that clearly showed paw prints and shedded fur. To do so otherwise just seems to show a lack of passion for creating art.
In pet photography, and photography in general, the details will make or break the shot. Thus, the next two steps in Roxy’s retouch included manipulating the shape of the flare/star-burts along with dodging & burning the highlights and shadows in order to develop a little more drama to the final print.
Lastly, I wanted to incorporate a more fashion-esque quality to the final print. I did this by using a relatively common technique in the fashion retouching industry by doing some custom color and level adjustments in LAB color mode. This gave the image an overall cooler-temperature tone, and therefore, a more unique look. Below is a quick before and after photo.
And, the final piece:
Photographer @ FauxTaux Grafix