Saturday, August 31, 2013

Journey of Blogging Photography, Part Two: Your First DSLR

So, in Part One, I shared some pictures from before I purchased my first DSLR camera. It certainly is not required to own a DSLR to take photos, or to share those photos on your blog. However, I do believe that if your goal is to improve your photography, a DSLR is necessary equipment.

Choosing your camera

Decide first whether you want to start small or go big. You might decide to go small because you aren't sure you are going to like a DSLR and don't want to make a huge investment in something you never use. Your budget might push you there. You might want to go big because you have the money for a big purchase and believe you will use it a lot. There is nothing at all wrong with either of these choices.

I went small. I found a small, local used and new camera store in my area (Focal Point Photography in Dallas, OR for those in my area who may be interested). I went into the store knowing my budget. I talked to the owner of the store for a while, letting him know what I planned to use the camera for (indoor high speed sports like flyball being my main interest), what my experience was (nill, in regards to DSLRs), and what my budget was. He hooked me up with a Canon EOS Rebel XT and a 50mm 1.8 prime lens. He also spent some time going over the basics with me and showing me how to use my new camera. That part of the interaction was invaluable, and made it well worth going to a camera shop rather than purchasing a camera off Craigslist or similar. 

First and most important (and stated everywhere in basic photography guides) is to take you camera off the Automatic settings. I won't go so far as to tell you to put it on Manual all the time, though. I didn't. When I tried, my pictures were horrible and I got discouraged. Instead, try starting out with Program. It is like the automatic settings, in that it will choose aperture and shutter speed for you, but has more flexibility. Mostly, you can choose your own ISO and your own focus point, which you can not do in the automatic settings. Program mode will help you get some good photos while also helping you learn what you are doing.

As you start off taking your first pictures, pay attention to the settings that the camera chooses. If you really love how a photo turns out, make sure to note the aperture and the shutter speed. Paying attention now, when you shoot in Program, will help you out later, when you are trying to figure out what settings to use in a certain situation. Faster shutter speeds are not always better. Large apertures (small numbers) are not always better. 

At some point, you will likely notice something you don't like in Program. Maybe the camera is choosing too slow of a shutter speed and making your fun action shots all blurry. Maybe the aperture is not giving you the nice blurred background you were picturing when you set up a shot. This is the point where you will want to start experimenting with your manual modes. There are three of them: Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual. Shutter priority has you setting the shutter speed, but the camera choosing aperture. Aperture priority is the opposite, with you choosing aperture and the camera automatically deciding the shutter speed. Manual is where you are choosing everything, including aperture, shutter, and ISO. 

If you enjoy a structured learning situation and are looking to move out of Program, this 31 Day to a Better Photo course is awesome. It is free, a fun challenge, and a good way to learn a ton about your camera. I wouldn't personally do it until you get more of a feel for your camera and are comfortable at least messing around with the different settings, but just want to improve your overall knowledge and quality of photos. You could jump right in the day you pick up your camera, though, if you are willing to spend time reading your manual and really work on it. If you are a blogger, you can even post the different challenges and see if your readers want to follow along with your, or start a blog hop with other bloggers.

You don't have to do a specific learning course, though. You can teach yourself through trial and error. Just make sure that you don't miss a once-in-lifetime event (like a wedding) by sitting there messing with your camera buttons!

Say you are taking pictures of your dog playing fetch or running/playing. Your camera is choosing a shutter speed that is leaving the dogs blurry. So, you take the big plunge and switch over to Shutter Priority mode for the first time. Before you switch over, make sure to look at what shutter speed the camera was using in Program mode. Now, flip your dial over to shutter priority and make the shutter faster than it was in Program. You don't have to go overboard. If the camera was using 300 and the pictures were just a bit blurry, step it up to 450. There is no need to go straight to 2000! Of course, you can also just start up at a high shutter speed and then adjust it back down until the lighting is bright enough and the motion is stopped. 

You can do the same thing, of course, with aperture. Use the camera's choices in Program mode as a starting off point, and then adjust from there.

At some point, you will probably be in Aperture Priority and realize that the camera is making the shutter speed way too slow, or the other way around. And that, my friends, is when you will switch into Manual.

Patience is a virtue. No one gets amazing pictures right off the bat. Expect to get some totally blown out, over exposed pictures when you forget to put your ISO back down when shooting in full sun at the park after taking a cute picture the night before of your dog settling down for bed. You will miss some shots. It happens. But as you learn and get better, you won't only get a so-so shot of an amazing moment, you will learn how to get amazing shots of amazing moments, and even how to make so-so moments look amazing in pictures. 

I wouldn't have believed it when I first got my Canon XT, but I now shoot almost exclusively in Manual. But it has taken me almost a full year and a half to get there. Many pro photographers still use the Priority modes as preference in their shooting. And I still use Program sometimes, if I just need to get the once-in-a-lifetime shot.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cape Meares

On Monday, my family took a short trek from where we were staying in Happy Camp, Netarts, OR, up to Cape Meares. It is a short ten minute drive up the cape to go see the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the famous Octopus Tree.

Of course, Monday happened to be the day that the clouds blew in. But, with the exception of my Grandma visiting from Minnesota, we are all Oregonians, so clouds, rain, and fog are what we expect when we visit the beach. Both dogs were wearing the coats for the trip, since I knew it would be windy and cold up on the cape.

Beach Trip-8480
Pallo in his jacket, ears blowing in the wind.

We parked the car and headed over to take a look at the lighthouse. The Cape Meares lighthouse is famous for being the shortest lighthouse in Oregon, since its height on the cape made a tall lighthouse unnecessary. As a result, it looks very short and stubby compared to your mental picture of a lighthouse.

Beach Trip-8478
Dogs at the foot of the lighthouse
Dogs aren't allowed into the small gift shop or up into the lighthouse, but the tour is free for humans. My sister was generous enough to offer to hold the dogs while I took the tour.

The below photos are a few I took while touring the lighthouse, which, even though it is short, still has two flights of stairs. When editing the photos last night, I apparently was on a kick with the black and white matte look. I guess it just makes it seem so much more dramatic, gets rid of the strange coloration from the different lights, colored lenses, and natural light spilling in, and gives it a bit of an antique feel. At least to me, anyway.

Beach Trip-8505

Beach Trip-8502

These are the gears that were used to turn the lens of the lighthouse, which was turned in a complete circle every four minutes.

Beach Trip-8490

And a glass window that was above me as I stood to take the picture of the gears, above.

Beach Trip-8488

After the tour of the lighthouse, the entire family trekked back up the trail. We headed over to the Octopus Tree for a quick look.

Beach Trip-8518
Pallo posing on the fence around the Octopus Tree

We got back to the cars just as the rain started for real, and spent the rest of the day laying around taking naps, eating, and playing card games. It was still warm enough to go out for a walk on the beach at sunset (though no sunset was visible through the clouds), though with the rain, mist, and fog you were pretty much soaked immediately.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beach Trip

The dogs and I spent Saturday through Tuesday at the beach. My grandma was in Oregon visiting, so my family rented a condo in Happy Camp in Netarts for four days. Of course I brought the dogs along.

Beach Trip-8507
Typical rainy day on the Oregon Coast- Though strangely with no fog. This was from Monday, the only day of our trip that it rained.

Normally, the weather on the Oregon coast is cold and windy, and often wet. Heavy fog can be almost as bad as rain for getting you totally soaked, especially when combined with wind blowing spray from the ocean onto the beach as well. This weekend was not like that. Of the four days we were on the coast, three of them were gorgeous, and even the day that it rained was still plenty warm.

Beach Trip-8456
Koira laying in her bed on the deck

We went on multiple walks down on the beach every day. I went on a run on the beach every day but Saturday, taking the dogs along, of course. Running on sand is hard, but the scenery of being on the beach totally makes up for it. Plus, Happy Camp does not require dogs to be leash (in fact the manager even told me to take my dogs off leash and let them play!) as long as they are under control. So the dogs got to enjoy a ton of off leash time. I did keep them on leash if there were a lot of people in the area, though, just to keep them from bugging everyone.

Of course, even though we spent hours every day down on the beach, I didn't get any pictures of the dogs while we were at Happy Camp, except for in the condo, where I got a couple pictures of the dogs hanging out in the sun on the deck.

Beach Trip-8458
Pallo sunning himself on the deck

To be honest, I didn't get a ton of pictures of anything, except the sunset, once. I kept meaning to get out the camera, but each time, I got distracted by something important, like taking a nap, eating M&Ms, or running off to the beach again.

I will say that I regret not getting some better pictures of Happy Camp, where we were staying, because, like I said, it was an amazingly dog friendly place. Everyone was really good about keeping their dogs under control, the beach was big enough for dogs to run and explore off leash without bugging anyone, there were poop bag dispensers at the beach access. It was basically great, and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to take a dog friendly vacation on the Oregon coast. And, while Netarts is rather in the middle of nowhere, it isn't that far from Tillamook (which boasts the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Air Museum, among other things), has a nearby lighthouse to go visit, and has beautiful beach and coastal forest areas to walk and hike.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Well, me and the dogs are headed off for a vacation at the Oregon coast. We'll be back home and posting on Tuesday. Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Self Portraits

I decided I want to do a project of pictures of me with my dogs. I have a ton of pictures of them, but very few of us together.

My setup for these photos was to put Koira up on a dresser, my camera on a tripod, and hope it worked out. The camera was doing a self timer with multiple exposures. I set Koira in position in a sit stay, hit the shutter, then dashed myself over too.


I think Koira had a bit different of an idea of what we were doing than I did. My first thought was something along the lines of the photo above, only minus the goofy tongue. Koira, on the other hand, thought we were taking kissing pictures.


Now, for those who haven't met Koira in person, there is something you may not know about her. She is an extremely aggressive kisser. She goes for it, full tongue, in the eye, in the mouth, up the nose, whatever. Apparently, after living with her for over five years, I have developed a self defence mechanism similar to how Pallo squeezes his eyes shut while walking past Koira in order to not get a tail in the eye (btw, that is totally adorable when he does that). But I pretty much scrunch up my whole face when Koira starts kissing me.


The reason is that simply closing your eyes or mouth is not sufficient for keeping her tongue out of them. Her tongue will pry itself between your lips, suction up your eyelids, and spread slobber over your entire person. She just loves so hard.


Does anyone else suffer from an overly aggressive kisser?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Journey of Blogging Photography: Part One

First, I want to thank everyone who has been giving me their input about what they love and want to see more of here on the blog. And if you missed that post and want your voice to be heard, here is the link.

*Note. All photos in this post were taken before I purchased a DSLR camera. 

My first decent picture of Pallo

One of the most common things you guys said is that you love the pictures of the dogs, and want to see more of them. Thank you! I love taking photos of my dogs, and I love sharing them with people who don't think I'm crazy for a good 9 out of every 10 photos on my computer being of my dogs, or someone's dogs.

Koira as a puppy. Is she not the most adorable thing ever?
I started out taking photos with the camera on my phone. I enjoyed taking pictures and I thought (modestly, to myself) that they really were pretty good. When I did get a camera, it was a point and shoot. Very basic. But so much more versatile than my phone camera. I didn't want a camera where I had to adjust all the settings all the time. I wanted something I could just take with me and use. Quick. Easy.

Koira laying on the beach. I believe this photo was taken with my phone.

Eventually, I wanted more. I still wanted something that was quick and easy, but my focus became more on getting good quality photos. After going through a number of cameras, I decided to finally make the plunge and purchase a DSLR.

Here we are, over three years after I started blogging. I can now honestly say that photography is one of my passions now. I sincerely believe blogging is what led me to it.

I totally loved this photo when I took it. 

So, what would I recommend for the blogger interested in improving their photos?

If you can afford it, get a DSLR. I used to be totally convinced that the camera didn't matter, just the person behind it. To some extent, that is true. You can have a really expensive camera but get nothing but bad or so-so photos if the person running the camera doesn't know what they are doing. But, the camera really does have a big impact on what the best photo you can possibly take will look like. Yes, you can get an awesome photo with an iPhone, or a point and shoot. But that same photo could be just that much better if taken with a DSLR.

Pallo used to always look shocked and horrified if I made him wear things

If you aren't sure about a DSLR, about how often you will use it, whether you will like it, or if you simply don't have the money to afford a brand new one, by all means, go for used. I picked up my first DSLR (a Canon Eos Rebel XT) used at a great local camera store. The store had a great reputation, the people working there were super helpful, and they offered a guarantee even on a used camera. The big benefit is that you can try out a DSLR before making a huge investment in equipment.

Get just the essentials. Don't blow a huge amount of money on equipment right out the gate. As you learn and grow as a photographer, you will learn what style suits you. Until then, don't make any big purchases. Instead, save up so that when you DO know what your style is, you will have the money to afford the equipment that will work the best for you.

My recommendations for starting equipment include just your camera body (a good condition used one is fine!), a 50mm lens, a battery, and a memory card.

Koira with her magic ring

If possible, don't get the kit lens that comes with the camera body. Most kit lenses are really poor quality, and you would be better served with a cheap but better quality lens like the 50mm. You can get a 50mm 1.8 lens for under a hundred dollars used. Another good starting lens would be either the 40mm pancake lens or, at a slightly higher price tag, the 35mm 2.8. All of these are fixed focal length lenses, meaning they have no zoom. I honestly believe that not having a zoom makes you learn faster. You will learn to move yourself into the best position to take a photo and in the process will learn to take a better photo. It may take a little getting used to if you have a point and shoot and zoom all the time, but I promise, it is not that painful!

Bounding like a bunny

My only other recommended purchase at this point would be Lightroom. If you already own Photoshop, that would work as well, of course! Lightroom, though, is a relatively cheap program that can give you simply amazing results in editing. It does not come with all the bells and whistles that Photoshop has, but frankly, most people don't need or use all those bells and whistles. And you can always spend more money later for Photoshop if you decide to down the road! Lightroom will really get you through the beginning, so you know if it is worth the investment.

I put off purchasing Lightroom for a full year after I bought my first DSLR. And to be honest, my photography suffered because of it. I believe I have come a long, long way since purchasing Lightroom. That is why I highly recommend that it is your next purchase after your camera and first lens.

And then, start shooting! You only learn by practicing. Remember, even great photographers shoot a lot of bad photos.

Pallo's badonkadonk 

That is about all I have to say about starting out at the very beginning. Make the plunge.

I would like to ask- what do you want to see in part two? Would you rather read about the basics of using your new-to-you DSLR, or about the basics of starting out with Lightroom?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Over the past couple of weeks I have taken up running. I signed up for a 5k in October called Run or Dye. I really don't have any goals for the race except that I would like to be able to run the entire thing without stopping or walking. Unfortunately, due to the color dyes, dogs are not allowed to run the 5k. But my dogs are generous and have been helping me train anyway.

I didn't really start out with any specific goals in mind. I knew I needed to start running in August to get in shape for a race in October without injuring myself. I knew I should start slow and build up distance and speed over time. I seriously thought about doing the Couch to 5k program, or something similar, but I ultimately decided against it. I tend to rebel against schedules. Instead, I just made a promise to myself that I would go for a run at least three days per week.

My first few runs were just around my tiny neighborhood, basically circling the same few blocks for a total of about 20 minutes. I even stopped on the beach on the way home from a friend's wedding and went for a 20 minute jog on the sand. Then, last week, I got a smartphone for the first time. The first app I downloaded, even before I got Facebook, was MapMyRun. I thought it would be really fun to be able to map where, how far, and how fast I was running. Its helped motivate me to run in my much broader neighborhood area, covering new paths and different streets.

Unfortunately, the weather has also gotten hot and humid the past week or so. I tried venturing out for a run in the late afternoon once last week, since it was overcast. I ended up having to head home less than 10 minutes into it, because the dogs were having a really hard time and I was barely able to breathe and totally dripping with sweat. So I've been running at dusk or after dark.

Night Run-8020
Starting out

I finally took my camera along last night to get some pictures. I headed out a bit before dark. Whether I run in the daylight or at night, Koira always wears her safety vest. She is a black dog, so can be hard to see, and she also likes to be out in front of me, though she is pretty good about not pulling most of the time.

Night Run-8027
Smartphone setup
I just got this little arm case for my smartphone. I like that it has a small built in pocket (meant for a house key) that I can shove poop bags into. You can also see that I had a full poop bag in this photo as well. Technically the case is meant to be worn higher up, on your upper arm, but I liked being able to see it when I was running.

Night Run-8039
Double swivel leash set up
Last week I decided to make the dogs a double leash with a double swivel set up so they stopped tangling up their leashes when we went running. I hated having to stop and untangle them. A few bucks at the local hardware store, some webbing I had laying around my sewing bins, and a few minutes of sewing later, I have a tangle free leash. The dogs can weave in and out with each other and the leash just swivels and keeps them untangled, which is awesome. I highly recommend one of these if you walk two dogs together often. It has full length leashes, as you can see in the top photo, but they each clip onto the swivel which is then attached to a small handle loop.

Night Run-8043
LED and reflective vest

Since we are running at night time, I also have a whole safety set up for the dogs. It looks much darker in this photo than it actually was yet, but it lets you see what all we have going on. Both dogs are wearing LED collars (Koira has red, Pallo has pink). Koira has her safety vest on, though I need to remember to put some new reflective strips on it. Pallo has not only a standard leash on, but also an LED leash. We end up being pretty bright when running after dark. I would like a second LED leash so both dogs could have one, but for now, this method works.

Unfortunately my motivation was just not there last night. I've been doing so great with the runs since the beginning of the month. Once I get out and get going, I actually am enjoying myself a lot. I haven't really sped up much, but I feel like I am able to run longer without stopping to walk, and that I can maintain a faster pace more consistently than I first could. But that might just be in my mind, because I haven't seen much to support that in MapMyRun- though admittedly I am jogging just barely faster than a quick walking pace, which makes it hard to tell a difference. 

But last night, man, it was just not happening. I did jog for a while, but couldn't even make it to the end of the first street without slowing down. It was still really hot and really muggy, which I think had something to do with it. I kept trying for a while, but running, no matter how slowly, felt like torture. I finally gave in to my body and just walked. We did cover over three miles with our walk, so it wasn't a total waste. But I'm hoping I'm feeling better tomorrow.

And just for fun, LED leash after full dark.
Night Run-8054
Koira doing some light painting 

PS: I am totally loving all of the reader input on yesterday's post! If you missed it or have any questions, post/subject requests, etc, please check out yesterday's post and leave me a comment. Or feel free to comment here too!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reader Input

I try to come up with original content. I write up posts, and people read them, and I am pretty sure you like them, or else you wouldn't keep coming back.

But, is there anything you want to read more about? Do you (awesome!) readers have any questions you want answered? Any more in depth blog posts about anything? What do you want to read more about?

Around Oregon-1273
Questions? We want to hear them!

Do you want more how-to posts? More posts about the adventures or daily life of my dogs? Want the cats to make more appearances in the blog world? Are you dying to learn more about flyball training (or totally sick of reading about the details of box turn training)? Interested in more photography tips and tricks? Anything else I have no clue you want more of, that you are just dying to see?

Whatever you want to see more of, let me know!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Black and White Sunday: Looking Up

At My Feet-7409

A quick edit for Black and White Sunday. I created and used a new B/W Matte preset to get this look. (Check out my post on Friday for more tips on editing in Lightroom and access to some more of my favorite presets.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Koira's Spring Pole

I have done a couple of pretty lengthy posts the last couple of days, so I thought I would do a simple short one for today. If you haven't yet, go check out my last two posts, about setting up a photo with you and your dog, and about editing photos in Lightroom.

Koira absolutely loves her spring pole. Whenever she is a little too excited about things (think a bad case of the zoomies!), I can set up her spring pole and she just goes crazy over it, and it takes off the edge of the crazy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

How To: Photo Editing With Lightroom

Yesterday, I shared a few photos from the park with Koira, and how I went about shooting them. I also asked if anyone would be interested in seeing my process for editing photos- and you said yes. So here it is. Also, at the bottom of the post, I included links to download my favorite Lightroom presets, so enjoy!

I currently use Lightroom 4 for photo editing. It is my favorite editing program that I have ever used. I feel like it is easy, fast, and gives great results. That said, I have previously used other editing software. You don't have to go out and buy Lightroom to make your photos good.

The first, and most important, photo editing tip that anyone can ever give you is to take good photos to start with. No editing software in the world is able to fix a photo that is out of focus or taken from the wrong angle. In my opinion, at least, post processing should simply be used to enhance an already good photograph into a great one. Keep in mind, though, that everyone has their own style- what I like may not be what you like, and vice versa. And that is okay!

Here is a really simple example.
Before After Razz at Mt Hood

The Before photo was a good photo. It is exposed properly, has decent framing, correct focus, and the dog is looking adorable. The After photo is very similar but, in my opinion at least, it is also much better. The colors are more vibrant and the dog's eyes are sharper and more expressive. But none of that would matter if the dog was out of focus!

Here is a bit more obvious of an example.


The Before photo is good. The dog is in focus, there is a definite feeling of motion. But, the After photo is more vibrant, sharper, the dog pops and is more obvious. The dust cloud behind the dog looks more like a dust cloud from motion and less like an out of focus haze. I know I strongly prefer the After photo.

Okay. So, lets get down to it. How, exactly, do I go from the Before photo to the After one? I am going to assume that you have Lightroom and know how to import photos. My personal preference is to use Presets. Presets are basically a way of saving all of the changes made to a photo so that you can apply them to a different photo all in one click. You can see in the below screenshot that there is a list of Presets on the far left hand side under the preview picture.

Lightroom Edit
A view of my screen in Lightroom
I almost always edit photos in the Develop mode, though I will sometimes apply a preset to an entire collection of photos from the Library dashboard as well. The above screenshot is in the Develop mode. Along the bottom of the screen are the photos you can select to work with. Click on a photo to work with it. If you then hover your mouse over different presets, the preview picture in the top left corner will show you a preview of what that preset will look like once applied to the photo. Click on the preset to apply it to the photo. (Ctrl+z is Undo if you make a mistake and want to go back.) 

Lightroom Edit 2

In the above screenshot, you can see in the preview picture that the preset would seriously over expose and wash out the photo.

Important to note is that most presets can not be layered on top of each other. For the most part, applying a preset will override any previous editing you have done to the photo. Apply your preset first, then go in and tweak the settings if needed. A few presets edit just a single thing in a photo, such as color curves or sharpening, and can be used with other presets.

You can apply a preset to an image and call it done, and it is literally a one-click edit. You can get some pretty decent results from doing this. I think it is a great method for pictures that you plan to share (on your blog, on Facebook, etc), but that don't ultimately mean a whole lot to you. One click makes them good enough to share and saves you a ton of time. I especially use one click edits when I take hundreds of pictures at an event (like a lure coursing weekend), since most of the photos will only be looked at once or twice and then forgotten. I can always go back in and do more edits to a photo later if the need arises.

One-click edit using the preset Faithful
Of course, how the final photo looks after applying the preset depends a lot on what the original photo looks like! So, results may vary depending on the out of camera photos you are working with.

Because I love all of you guys, I decided to put together a small collection of my favorite, most often used presets to share with you. You can access and download them here on Google Docs. I included my six current favorite presets. Feel free to download them, try them out, tweak them your way, resave them as something else, etc. They are yours to use. To install, click on the link. click the preset you want, then click download. Note where the file is being downloaded to. Then open Lightroom, go into Develop, and right click on one of your folders of Presets. Select Import, then select the file you just downloaded. It should be good to go!

A little bit about each of the presets, to help you get started with them. 

Faithful is a very basic preset. I used to use it all the time, and still use it in certain circumstances. I often end up going back in to edit the exposure after applying it, or do other tweaking, but it can do a lot for getting a picture close to where you want it to go.

Eye Pop is probably my most used preset. I find that it works great on a variety of photos to give an extra boost of color, a bit of extra umph, and that it especially does wonders for a dog's eyes. It can do some funky things to human skin sometimes though.

Curves Pop and Curves Pop Matte are two of those rare presets that can be used on top of other presets. They only change the tone curve. Curves Pop makes your colors and blacks more vibrant, while Curves Pop Matte does the same thing, but also applies a mild matte effect as well.

Lightroom Edit 1
Before/After with Eye Pop and Curves Pop Matte
Flyball is the preset I use for editing indoor dog sports such as flyball and agility. Since those situations generally have poor lighting but require fast shutter speeds, I normally have to crank up the ISO. The Flyball preset does some lightening and also smooths out some of the noise.

Smooth As Silk is a very basic smoothing preset. It can be applied on top of other presets. I normally use it to smooth out grain from high ISO, but you can also use it to create a softer look on photos without much grain to start with.

When you are done editing your photos, whether you spent two seconds selecting and applying a preset and left it at that, or spent an hour tweaking all the little things that could possibly be tweaked, head back over to the library. Select the photos you worked on and click export. Fill out the export dialog to name the files, put them in the proper folder, resize them, or apply a watermark. Then export and share!

Before After snip brighten dark photo
Edited with Faithful, then adjusted the exposure and temperature 
I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about how I edit photos. Please let me know if I didn't explain something clearly enough, or if you have any questions, please ask!

You can also find additional Lightroom Presets in many places on the internet. This website has a good collection of presets. I tend to lean toward clean edits that just enhance the photo to look more like what you see in real life, but many people make presets to create many different looks. It all depends on what you like in your own photos.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Self Portrait... Kind of (and a how-to)

I find that I have a ton of pictures of my dogs, and very few pictures of me with my dogs. This comes a lot, I think, from the fact that I live alone and so am always the one with the camera.

The other day, I decided to try out using the self timer feature on my camera. I've pretty much never messed with it before. Of course, I forgot my tripod, which made for a very limited use of the timer.

This picture was snapped while I was setting up and focusing the camera, and figuring out how to put it into self timer mode.

Avery Park-7471
A little nervous laying down on brick with me so far away

I was working on putting Koira in a down stay while I set up the camera. This gave me something to focus the camera on as well as eliminating my need to get both myself and my dog into position quickly. Luckily, practicing Rally-O moves such as down and walk around really helped Koira understand that she was supposed to stay in position even as I was moving around.

Here was our first try with me in the picture.

Always At My Feet
"Hi, Mom!"

At the time, I didn't like that she was looking up at me. Looking at the picture now, though, I adore it. In any case, I decided the next time to try tossing a treat towards the camera to see if I could get Koira to look in that direction.

Avery Park-7494
Down stay? What down stay?

And apparently we need to proof our down stays a little more around food... Regardless, while she did stand up, she stayed with me rather than running off after the treat. I even ended up liking the final picture well enough, even if it wasn't my goal.

One last time, I put Koira in a down stay. (I released her from her stay between every one of these shots, by the way, and showered her with cookies for being awesome.) I set up the camera, dashed towards Koira and stepped into position over her. Then I reminded her to stay, tossed a few cookies toward the camera, got them a bit off center because I can't throw, and just let the camera snap the picture.

Avery Park-7497
There is a cookie over there, and I would like to go grab it

The sun even peaked out for this last picture, after it had been hazy and overcast all day. I'm not actually sure if it was high up cloud cover, or if it was smoke drifting up from the fires to the south. Either way, the haze actually made for awesome lighting for photos, which I was loving.

Want to try this yourself? Some how-to instructions and tips are below!

I think it is a great pose for someone who doesn't really want to be in the picture, but wants a photo of themselves with their dog. Or even just a different kind of photo with your dog, even if you aren't camera shy. If you are doing it alone, like I was, make sure your camera has a self timer setting. Mine gives me the option of a multiple exposure self timer where it snaps 6 consecutive pictures rather than a single photo, which I chose to give me a better chance of capturing the right facial expressions. 

If your dog has a solid down-stay, it will be much easier to do this. Put your dog in a down stay where you want the final photo to be taken. I went to a small rose garden in a local park (the same one with the train engine) and chose a place where we would have rose bushes to the sides and behind us, without any distracting people or cars in the background. Ideally, it will be a place your dog is comfortable laying down in- not on gravel, hot pavement, or cold rocks. Koira is used to laying down on brick or cement, but you might chose a grassy place if your dog is reluctant to lay down or stay.

With the dog in a down-stay, set up the camera and focus. I ended up using a small piece of bark to prop the front of the camera up a little bit to get a better framing. A small tripod like a GorillaPod would work well too, probably. Once the camera is in self timer mode, and focused, hit the shutter button, get up, dash over to your dog, and take your position either standing over your dog (like I am in the above photos) or to the side of your dog. Either way would look nice, I think, and it can take a good amount of training for most dogs to be okay with being stood over like this if you haven't previously worked that skill.

I recommend trying this a few times, releasing and rewarding the dog in between each session. You will get various positions and expressions, or even get something like the sun finally peaking out like I did in my last set. 

*Dog posing tip- if possible, get a photo of your dog looking up at you as well as one with your dog looking toward the camera. I ended up loving both of those photos, and they give it a very different feel.

*Human posing tip- don't lock your knees backward! Stand with your knees slightly bent to prevent your legs from looking strange or your pants from bunching weirdly. Stand solidly on both feet so you look balanced.

After taking these photos, I did edit them using Lightroom. Various edits can do a lot to change the quality and feel of a final photo, so make sure you spend time editing as well as photographing if you are wanting the best possible end result. 

Good luck! If you try this, I would LOVE to see your results!

*Would anyone be interested in a technical post about editing photos? I could do one with some of my favorite before and afters, as well as share some of my favorite Lightroom presets to use for dog photos.