Before and After: Winston in the Snow

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more experimental photography and editing techniques. Yesterday morning, I woke up to softly falling snow and decided to go shoot some photos at a park near our home. When I went to leave the house, Winston was clearly ready to join me on my photoshoot, so I decided to take him along for the adventure. It ended up being a good thing because the best photographs I captured were of him.

I’ve been following the work of several pet photographers for a while, and I really love the artistic outdoor dog portraits some of them have perfected. Usually it is a gorgeous dog, posed beautifully surrounded by a bokeh-licious, creamy, dreamy out-of-focus background with gorgeous flare or selective vignetting accentuating the subject. While I definitely am far, far away from perfecting my own take on the technique, I’m pretty happy with the first edit of this winter portrait of Winston taken during today’s walk.

Here’s the straight out of camera original:

And here’s my edited version:

Here I started with leveling and cropping the image, then doing some exposure and white balance corrections. From there I added a radial filter in Lightroom to mimic some solar flare and did some selective contrast enhancements to the dog, then exported to Photoshop, removed the leash, and added then another radial gradient. I ended up bringing the image back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop a few times to tweak the color and make selective adjustments; there are just certain functions I feel that Lightroom does better than Photoshop and vise versa, and also I feel more comfortable making certain edits in one program vs the other. I have never attempted to add flare (or a highlighted background area) to am image before; I feel like my technique still needs some work, but I also don’t think snow covered trees is the easiest background to add this effect to. While I don’t think this shot is going to win any contests anytime soon (and it’s not even close the the level of work of some of the pet photographers I have been following), I’m pretty happy with the end result!

Before and After: Winston with Stick

My dog is one of my favorite models, but that doesn’t mean photographing him is easy. In general, I probably really like one out of every hundred shots I take of him – not because he’s not cute, but because I usually mess something up. The focus will be off, the image will be blurred, or I’ll crop off a body part unintentionally. Winston doesn’t have the best recall – he’s easily distracted by things more exciting than his mom trying to take pictures – so we are mostly limited to shoots in our small, fenced in backyard which is full of rocks, wood chips, mulch, sticks, and plants, some of which are protected by wire fencing, and usually accented with a grill, garden tools, and the random dog toy. Even when I get everything right, getting a shot with a clean, aesthetic background can be tricky.

This image, taken with a 300mm f/2.8 lens, somehow managed to do my boy justice and avoid all the distracting elements in our backyard, but straight-out-of-camera it needed some work. I warmed up the white balance, brought up the exposure, leveled the horizon, and cloned out all of the pesky mosquitos hovering around Winston’s face (if only you could eliminate mosquitos so easily in real life). I also tweaked the shadow areas slightly to bring out some detail, and I used a neat free action I found on the Hair of the Dog photo blog to brighten up the eyes. As a final step, I completely eliminated Winston’s dog tag using the clone tool (in the “Before” image above I actually quickly cloned out the text before posting online, so it’s not exactly SOOC); I typically always edit or clone dog tags before posting online just because people are creepy and I don’t want my (or any of my friends’ or clients’) information out there. I always do this as a final step so I have that detailed info should I choose to print the image and want to keep it on there for sentimental reasons.