Beautiful Dog Portraits On Location And In The Studio | Techniques For Capturing Canine Characters! | Paul Wilkinson | Skillshare

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Beautiful Dog Portraits On Location And In The Studio | Techniques For Capturing Canine Characters!

teacher avatar Paul Wilkinson, Portrait Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. What we'll cover and my credentials

    • 2. Photographing a dog in direct sunlight

    • 3. Shooting a dog on a lead for an easy edit

    • 4. Finding a tunnel of light for a theatrical dog portrait

    • 5. Shooting a running dog portrait

    • 6. High key studio portrait: black dog, white background

    • 7. Low key studio portrait: black dog, black background

    • 8. Natural light portrait: black dog, black background

    • 9. Now it's your turn! | Outtakes

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About This Class

Do you want to capture better images of your pet? Create stunning works of art for your dog-loving clients? Or simply profit from the lucrative market of dog portrait photography? You're in the right place!

Paul Wilkinson has spent the last ten years as lead photographer for the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. In this role, Paul has taken hundreds of thousands of images of puppies and older dogs, as each of the charity’s hearing animals passes through the charity’s training process.

To add to this, in 2018 Paul was awarded the title of Dog Portrait Photographer of the Year by the Master Photographers Association. So he knows a thing or two about how the topic, and he’s sharing all that knowledge and experience in this video, which is jam-packed with tips and techniques.

We’ll start off photographing a dog, Hebe, in direct sunlight. Paul explains why a low angle is so effective when working with four-legged subjects and shares a great, quick tip for getting a dog to snap his or her mouth shut for a couple of seconds. He also shares (and demonstrates) a few techniques for getting a dog to look straight down your camera.

Not every dog (or every location) is safe and suitable for off-lead photography, so next Paul demonstrates how to position the dog’s lead so that it’s super-easy to edit out in post-production. He’ll also talk about why expression is so important, even when photographing animals.

After that, Paul shows you how to find a patch of sunlight that will create a spotlight effect on your subject, placing them centre-stage between a darker foreground and background.

Then things get active, with a running dog portrait to show a pet at play. Paul talks through the camera’s limitations when shooting a moving subject and what exposure and camera settings he’s found works best for this type of image. You’ll also find out how to emphasise the dog’s motion through the air simply through your choice of camera angle.

Then we head into a studio with a black dog, Dudley, for some portraits lit with flash. We’ll start off with high key images on a white background, and talk through what to consider for if you’re thinking of buying a vinyl sweep for your studio. Paul shares what he’s looking for when setting the power on his studio lights, and what to focus on during the editing process – check out this post-production walk-through when you’re ready to retouch your white background in Photoshop on your own dog portraits.

We’re leaving the best until last, finishing with a tutorial on capturing stunning images of a black dog on a black background. We’ll cover the studio set-up first, then show a DIY solution for a similar effect if you haven’t got a studio.

For each portrait you’ll see Paul’s images straight-out-of-the-camera, with exposure settings and the final edit, too.

Afterwards, we look forward to seeing your dog portraits, which you can upload to the 'Your Projects' tab :-)


The team

Meet Your Teacher

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Paul Wilkinson

Portrait Photographer


Paul is one of the UK's most sought-after portrait and wedding photographers - not just for his eye for an image but for the manner in which they are created (mostly laughing, always relaxed!)

His images have adorned numerous publications from the BBC to the Times and have won countless awards as well as giving him the accolade of Fellowship of the Master Photographers Association.

He and his team are based near Oxford in the UK though often you'll find him clutching his passport and his cameras as he creates images for people across the globe!

This class is brought to you by the Mastering Portrait Photography team!

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1. What we'll cover and my credentials: of all the portrays I create from tiny newborns, footer, loved up couples, families, teenagers, adults and even the occasional celebrity. It's my dog portrait that are most likely to generate the strongest of reactions. There's something simply so lovable about our four legged best friends. That means they are often the most adored members of the household. In spite of having kids, the parents still love their dog. Who knew? So If you're looking to create beautiful, poor traits of dogs for yourself or for paying clients and keep watching, I'm gonna show you how a work both in the studio, on out in the garden environment I'll show you my camera settings. The lighting set up on the editing work that I'm gonna share the tips and tricks you can use to get dogs to go where you want them, and to do more or less what you'd like them to do. What do I know? Well, I'm the lead photographer for the hearing dogs. Here in the UK, I photographed over 100,000 images of their beautiful, amazing dogs before they head off to bring truly life changing support and companionship to a person with hearing loss I also create images of pets for private clients as gifts. Keepsakes on beautiful pieces of art, including this image off are frankly naughty. Studio dog Rufus, who we caught the other day stealing the biscuits. How do we catch him? We have CCTV in here, which he doesn't understand. Hey looked around. He still took them and we had to come running down the stairs to stop him. But nonetheless, we love him. And this particular portrait has just want me the title of Dog Portrait Photographer of the Year with the Master Photographers Association, which is one hell of an accolade when I'm very, very proud off on in this video, I'm gonna show you how it create images just like this, including a simple lighting trick that enables you to make a black dog stand out against a black background. I'm Paul Wilkinson on this. Well, this is mastering dog port. A photography 2. Photographing a dog in direct sunlight: So when we're photographing dogs, you have to sort of think of it from the dog's point of view. So everything we're doing in this segment is all about rewarding the dog Fritz, normal behavior and for its trained behavior. So what I've tried to do here is I've tried to find a location where I've got a nice construction of the image I'm using the scoop of the tree trunk that's creating a frame on the right hand side of my image. I've placed the dog in bright sunshine. Now with dogs. They don't squint like humans do, and they don't have that shadow cast because they don't have an eyebrow ridge in the same way. So you can like dogs in quite hard sunlight. And in fact, you get very effective images in the brightest of bright days in almost any angle, which is really useful as long as the dogs happy to get the dogs angle, you can see if your own at the moment the dogs really close. That dog will always track her owner. Always. It doesn't matter what I do. The dog's gonna track the owner now if I want to attract the dog's attention. Maybe I make a noise or get someone to click their fingers behind me on the dog might momentarily look at the camera and then back again for this particular show. What we were doing is we're using Fiona to move around the circle so that the dog's face will track where funerals. In fact, it's even though fairness holding a treat the reward. The dog is tracking Fiona's face, and that's what dogs do. They will actually look at the owners face far more than a treat, unless I mean some pet dogs. My pep talk. If I move my hand around with a treat in it, it will follow the treat. But on the whole, dogs will track the owners face. So put the onus face where you want the dog to be looking, and that's where the shot is. I'm using a fantastically low camera angle. I've put the camera literally into the grass and the leaves. Why? Because I just like that sense that the dog is at the right scale. It's bigger than I am. It's the dog's viewpoint of the world. You get an interesting background because everything you see up in the background rises up as you dropped the camera down. And you also get this lovely foreground. Where that the cameras sitting in the grass in amongst the leaves and has that really beautiful, soft, gentle ah sort of underpinning of the image. We then what's viewing around the dogs heads anglers changed, taken different pictures. If the dog starts to pant. If I'm working with the hearing dogs that we're hearing dogs all the time and one of their guidelines is we never photographed a dog panting if we can avoid it. Up until this summer, we've never photographed a dog panting Well said he never used an image of a dog panting because it can be an indicator that the dog is stressed. Now, obviously this year, the hottest year on record, we have had dogs panting. There's nothing we can do about it. But we try really hard to avoid the tongue hanging out the side open like that, because it could be an indication that the dog is stressed and by stressed, really, what I mean, is the dog slightly confused? It doesn't know what you're asking of it because, of course, being photographed is not something any dog is trained for. Well, perhaps there are docks train for it. I don't know them. Process a modeling agency for dogs. I've never met that agency, but in this instance, that's not the dogs normal behavior. So it's starting to get confused. It's not quite sure what we're doing and why and what I'm using. Fiona Force to reassure the dog. She's given the dog treats where required with the dog stocks to pant. One quick tip is if you get the owner of the trainer to pretend to throw a tip bits the dog , you see the dog's jaws snap shut. Then I'll have to do get the angles to line up, decide which angle I like best and take the photograph. So if you want to get a dog to look at you to look at the camera, that has to be a reason for the dog to look your way. And sound is by far the best indicator for that. In fact, dogs are pretty immune toe seeing light flashes and things. They do look that way, but they won't hold the attention. Sound, on the other hand, is really powerful. And so, for instance, one particular sound I use at the hearing dogs. This is going to sound terrible. Sorry, Sarah on the headphones is I make a Donald Duck noise because dogs typically don't hear that. So it's an unusual sound. If you, on the other hand, do things like whistle, the dog will come to you. If you go eating the dog's name, the dog will come to you, so you have to kind of inventive and find ways of attracting the attention. I have a dog whistle and actually quite a lot of dogs. They're not trained on a dog whistle, so if I have a dog, whistle my mouth and blow it, the dog will look at me. It won't know what to do with that sound, but it will look at me and your job is just to capture that moment and then create a picture with it. 3. Shooting a dog on a lead for an easy edit: So when I'm approaching photographing a dog, it's no different, really, to photographing humans, particularly as the shots that have the most impact. A real visceral reaction from the owner of the shots where the dog looks human. It's called anthropomorphism. It's the idea that you taken something that is not human and give it human characteristics . So at sea. The whole approach to photographing dogs for me is exactly the same as if I was photographing Children. Makes a difference. I'm looking for great light. I'm looking for great locations. And then, most of all, I'm looking for a great expression on the dog. I want the dog's ears forwards like a teddy bear. The perfect shot is a head tilt up the camera. You get the doctor, look away exactly the same way I would do it with a model or with case, you know. And so when I saw this location, this is a location I know works with Children that works without looks as well on. I've cited the dog into a patch where the sun lights washing off his back. We've moved the dog back a little bit away from the edge of the border so that there are some of the stones in front of the dog. I've got sunlight on them that's casting a little bit of light back. That just helps the balance in the shot. In this instance, I'm gonna show you How are you to work with the dog that isn't well trained. Now this dog is really well trained and this sitting perfect. We could release the dog from the leash on. It would be fine. But if you have a dog where that's not possible and this is really quite normal, you kind of a dog outside. Let it off releasing and it's gone. I mean, it's a health and safety risk Apart from nothing else, you do not want a dog getting itself hurt or hurting somebody else. So if you have this situation, all you do is you asked the owner to keep the leash in the collar on. We're gonna keep a slack lead. You better see that there's a nice loop on the lead and the Leeds pulled out to the side, so it's not overlapping the dog too much, and then it's actually a pretty simple bit of Photoshopped to remove it later in postproduction. Not difficult. It's safe. I'm gonna get direction I need from the dog. And that way you get a really beautiful picture on. It's something anyone could do. You don't need the don't be quite so well trained. 4. Finding a tunnel of light for a theatrical dog portrait: So if you're looking for this kind of lighting pattern, the trip is to look at the ground. I know your parents always tell you to look up. Help don't look your feet, but in this instance you're better off looking at the ground. Why? Because you don't see light in the air. You only see light when it strikes things. When it strikes objects where that strikes the ground. The only time you really see light in the air is when you have a foggy or misty day, and that's simply because the sunlight is striking the water particles and it's shining, so you need the light to strike something for you to be able to see it here. I saw this path of light come through the trees. It struck the flagstones. I could see it on. The floor is a little bit like a theater or set design. I've got my background set. It's the dark greens with just dappled light popping through bits of sunlight shining but ob sensibly in the shadows. The foreground. It's like the front. Don't I call those the front flats on the set design where they have shadows, and that's gonna be my frame, and then I've got the spotlight operator. The sun shining is like straight through at the dog's face, so the dog is just sitting there as if he's in his own show. And that's the theater of the image. And I've seen all of that simply because I spotted the sunlight on that little patch of floor there to expose for it. I've driven the exposure to contain the highlights. You always do this when you're working in bright sunshine. Because, of course, if you don't, you're gonna blow those highlights out. And then that's direct image. So a low. Some of these images, when I'm looking at it on the back of the camera, feel a little bit dense, a little bit dark. I can see on the history. Graham. I've got a nice shape to it. The dogs for isn't blown out. The shadows have some detail in them. On in a post production, I can bring the shadows up. I can contain those highlights a little bit of in getting around the edges. I'm sure of it on a bet that that is a beautiful image 5. Shooting a running dog portrait: So we're going to set the camera up to allow us to capture something as fast as a running dog. In spite of how good cameras today are at tracking moving objects, they're still a bit of wiggle room. So Angela, shoot about F 6.7, which just gives me a little bit of extra depth of field for that sharpness. I still want the dog's eyes to be sharp, even though the thing is clattering towards me. To do that, I'm gonna have to put the ice so up. Why? Because I still need a really fast shutter speed. I'm gonna shoot about 1500 of a second because I want that motion to be properly frozen. I don't need to be any blur in there. The dogs moving really quickly if I can shoot it so that you freeze the motion, it's just that little bit more dramatic. If I've got such a fast shutter speed and I've got such a deep depth of field of 6.7, I'm gonna have to put the ice so up in the light we have today. That's so 2200 in terms of focusing, I'm gonna put the camera on Nick on system. It's called Continuous Focus, A F. C. I think on canon cameras is called servo Focus. Same thing All the cameras going to do is try and track it. Now you need to experiment with your camera. This isn't something I can tell you how to do it. We've tried all sorts of settings on the Nickens on On the whole, a little zonal system around the middle works best for me on the D five on the 72 200 that every camera and every lens combination is going to be slightly different to go play and go experiment the shutter repeat rate of set mind to go as fast as it can. In this, de five will run at 12 frames a second. Why am I doing that? Because then all I have to do is concentrate on holding the dog in focus. It doesn't stop me doing on single what you have to do. Then let's be a little bit more methodical. And in my earlier part of my career with the dogs is I used to do this. I didn't use motor wind at all. I didn't use the continuous shooting at all. I just waited until the dog was airborne and I took my picture. And it's a little bit hit and miss and have to concentrate that little bit harder. But with the advent of these really faster to species big buffers, I could take 200 planes here without running out of memory. But don't worry if that's not your camera. Do it like I used to do it. And just time your photography really well on because the dogs playing because the dogs running you could do this over and over and over and over the dogs not going to get bored. You can do it by throwing a ball. The dog will retrieve, and then you can just keep doing it really, really easy. And the dog's having fun. And that's really important. The dogs not stressed. When they're holding a dog in the city, the dog can get stressed. But when we're running the dog, this is the dogs playtime its reward for all of the work that it has done. So I got I So 2200 I've got 1500 per second. I got F 6.7. I've got tracking Focus on on. I have got fast shutter repeats at this case to a friend in this case, 12 frames a second on all of that. All of that is designed to freeze the dog in motion. I've put the camera really, really low in this particular instance. I've done it because if the dog is running towards me, there are great moments when the dog is airborne. Now, if you photograph a dog looking down and it's airborne, you won't see it if I've got a camera on the ground. On the other hand, as the dogs coming towards me as it's airborne, I can see sky or I can see the trees in the background underneath the dogs pores. And that's just that little bit more interesting and entertaining for the viewer on all of that. All of that should come together to give you a wonderful shot off a dog. Having a great day 6. High key studio portrait: black dog, white background: Okay, So for this shot, we're going to do Ah, high key image off a black dog. All that means only in a black dog on a white background. In this particular case, completely and utterly white. No tone in the background whatsoever. Simple set up. I have got to strip lights pointing at the white vinyl, and I've got a strict box pointed towards the dog. The reason the strip boxes on a boom. It's simply so I can get it down low enough. This particular tripod with the wheels doesn't drop the height of the soft box particularly low, so I'm using a boom to do that. This also gives me later on the opportunity if I wish to bring the light right over the dog without having the stem of a tripod in the way view choosing white vinyl. Please, please, please try and get a Matt vinyl. This vinyl is a little bit too shiny. One of those things in the studio. You order these things in and arrives on, it's just a little bit too much gloss on it. So in the final images, you can see that there's too much reflection in the floor Where is what you really want is shadow as opposed to reflection. That said, if actual bag and you like that sort of Apple esque reflected thing in the surface, it does look pretty cool. What we're going to do, or what we're doing is we're we set the dog on. We get his attention to the camera to do that. In this particular instance, Dudley is food driven. That's no surprise. He's a Labrador. So Lizzie, the trainer who's amazing, is keeping him in check because, ideally, he'd like to eat my leg. So it's Lizzie is my friend because it's Lizzie that's preventing that from happening. The trick here is to use the trainer or the owner of the dog to control it. You can't control the dog is very difficult to control the dog that doesn't know you doesn't answer to you. So actually, what I'm doing here is I'm using Lizzie, Alaska Lizzie to do things, control the direction that the dog is looking in. And if I want the dog to look directly into the lens as close as I can get it, get listening to put a treat down onto the tip of the lens Because that way the dogs I was straight to the lens on. You'll get your shop in terms of exposure on this is a normal set up. You've seen me do this 1000 times. The two back lights are set at six. This is set at seven. I've got it turned up a little bit higher than normal. Normally all of our three lights to set the same on doing that because I'm trying to get some shine out of black for I want detail in there. I want texture in there. I want the for to shine. I do not want to just to drop into a black blob on So we've turned lighting up just a little bit more again. The hissed a gram is such that I've kept kept plenty detail, the shadows, no pure blacks, Plenty of detail actually, in the whites no pure white. So not too many though in postproduction I'm gonna take those out So it becomes a clean white. Why are clean white? Well, I do this kind of shot for the hearing dogs every week. And for them it's really versatile tohave an image where the whole of the extremity of the image is pure white because then they could drop that into a magazine article. They could drop that onto a Web page that can drop that into a projection, and they can float text all the way around it without getting those funny effects. You get where the tone stops and the text overlaps innings. So these air deliberately cleaned to be pure white, with just the dog reflection in the shadow underneath supporting it. That's really important. So you must have that shadow in there. But it just looks weirdly like the dogs floating in white space, which is, you see that on cheap, cut out photography. You get these agencies that say they'll do contacts for you. They don't leave the shadows or the reflection underneath. And then that just looks really odd. So you need that the whole thing and sits on the page looks utterly beautiful, and we do this with a hearing dogs every week. 7. Low key studio portrait: black dog, black background: So one thing I've always loved to do is to photograph black dogs on a black background. So what, you need to do that and what you need to consider? Well, firstly, the black background is dressmakers. Velvet. It's soft, its sumptuous. It's figure hugging, I guess. But actually, the bit I'm interested in is absorbs light like crazy. It's an incredible substance is expensive, but it's well worth it, and you keep it for life. If you look after it, it'll never wear out. You don't tear strips off. You just have it forever. We've turned our to strip lights this time to be pointing towards the camera. Why? Well, to separate the black for from the black background. I need a Sottile rim of light around the dog on both sides. And to do that all have done. They turn the lights around the still set to seven Justus. They were for the white background, and they're gonna create that beautiful outline around the edges of the dog Now, depending on the shot I'm taking, the key light is either going to be facing from the front onto the mask of the dog's face or slightly to the side and slightly to the back across the dog's muzzle. Both of these will create really interesting pictures. The first, with the light of the front, requires each other dog more or less facing you or slightly off, that will work fine. And we're gonna lead the direction of the dog snapped by using treats or Lizzy, the train is gonna do. Show him a treat. Walk on the dog will track her. He'll pay no attention to May. Once he knows his owner is going to give him some food for the second shot, we've moved the light around, so the light now is washing across the muzzle of the dog across his nose and across the top of his head. And that creates this wonderful, wonderful lighting. And it creates is brilliant catch sight in the eye where dishes across the I, which is really lovely. The most effective version of this shot, I found, is to have the dog facing away from the light. And then he asked the trainer to walk around, and the dog looks back over his shoulder on that curve in the body axes. It's wonderful line that takes you around the frame and takes you to the dog's face. It's a simple shot to do, but it does require the dog to be being to be pretty good at a weight on for the trainer to be nice and calm. One thing we have had today is that Dudley is panting like crazy, whether it's the heat in the studio or whether he's a little bit confused about what's going on. I couldn't tell you. We've tried different things. One trick is to get the owner of the trainer to pretend to throw a tip it on. The dog was snapped, his jaw closed. Not so Dudley. What happens when we do that with Dudley is Dudley launches himself at to you and the treat , which is not so good for the photography. So we tried a few other bits and pieces, and then what we discovered is we simply give him some treats in the process of chewing. At the end of it, he shuts his mouth to swallow, and that just gives you a chance to get a few frames in, and it's just really, really beautiful 8. Natural light portrait: black dog, black background: So, given my love of photographing black dogs against black backgrounds, what do I do when I find myself out on location on a sunny day? Yeah, I still want to either create that image without studio lights without too much kit. Well, the simplest I've found is to carry with you a piece of the same black dressmakers Velvet. Now I have done this shot in previous family shoots where I've taken the black velvet, pegged it to the back of two deck chairs. Here. I'm actually using a couple of light stands on a crossbar, but you get the point, then all we're doing is we're positioning Dudley and Lizzie so that the light is washing across society. So when he turns his head to the side, his Aysel it is snout is lit. You get a very similar kind of shot to the one we took in the studio. It's not quite a subtle. It's not quite is finessed, but for the cost of a piece of black velvet in two deck chairs. A. That's a very easy way of creating incredibly effective, very striking photograph of a black dog against a black background on a sunny day 9. Now it's your turn! | Outtakes: So now guess what It's your turn. Share what you create by uploading your favorite dog portrait to the your projects. Tab down below. If you'd like an in depth critique, then please consider signing up to mastering portrait photography dot com. As well as getting practical, constructive and supportive and occasionally entertaining feedback on your images, you'll be able to tap into a community of friendly portrait photographers. They really are a friendly bus bunch Trust May. If you bought a comment up there, everyone dives in with really positive and helpful comments. It's also got huge wealth of tutorials and resources that really should fast track to your success. There are lighting diagrams and exactly how images were created, their podcasts videos, and there's so much more so head over to mastering portrait photography to see for yourself . If you have enjoyed this video, please do remember to leave us a review on to tell us what you'd like to learn about next cause at the end of the day, almost everything we've been doing has been driven by questions coming from photographers just like you people who love their portrait photography but have a curiosity or something they'd like to explore. But in the meantime, take care. And thank you for watching because I was going to see here. These dogs run pretty quick, and so we're gonna control the camera we're gonna do. All of the settings were gonna do it. That makes this photo great. That's perfect. I wasn't. So if you have a dog or if you know someone who does, don't just steal a dog. Make sure you know them, then book time in for a show for their 10 minutes a show toe Fruit. Hell is a show. Tofu. A joke that I've got a bag of chocolates. I'm a fellow of the master photographer style and panache balls. Oh, that's dog slobber.