PET PROJECT

Give an animal the studio treatment AS A PRO photographer, Darrell A. Harris wears many caps. And faces different challenges in each. A full-time coroner investigator for the Marin County Sheriffs office, this resident of San Anselmo, CA, has no trouble getting his typical workaday photo subjects to hold a pose. But on weekends, he takes on more lively subjects, often making strobe-lit people and pet portraits in their homes —or in this case, his own dining room. Surprisingly, his two careers are somewhat symbiotic. training in investigating deaths included courses in forensic photography,”explains the 41-year-old photographer." And over the years, Itaken the principles of lighting crime and death scenes and learned to apply them to portrait and pet photography.” Harold, Harrisminiature wirehaired dachshund, is one of many beneficiaries (see more of his photographs at www.dalanharris.com). Harris offers tips for canine portraiture, from lighting to working with subjects who donalways take direction. Donstress the pet. The smaller and less intrusive your studio setup, the better. have both standard studio gear and a portable, run-and-gun kit made up of the compact Elinchrom Quadra strobe, Canon Speed-lites, small booms, and wireless triggers," says Harris. found that, when shooting dogs, compact works best both indoors and out. Itless intimidating for the dog, and iteasier for me to work a smaller light around the pet than the pet around the light.” PET PROJECTUse the right gear. Quick-recycling studio lights mean more shots per minute. This is important because have other things theyrather be doing,”he laughs. Also, when the pet strikes a classic pose, you want to get off as many shots as possible. Lens selection also counts. a dog that Ifamiliar with, I will sometimes use a wider lens, like a 50mm, so that I can get closer and nudge the little guy back into the frame. But for dogs that I donknow, I move back and give them space by switching to my 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto.” He avoids maximum aperture, though. I got my first f/2.8, I turned into Bokeh Joe,”says Harris. do it! My rule of thumb for sharp eyes is: the longer the snout, the smaller the aperture.” When indoors, crank up your modeling lights. This will constrict your subjectpupils, subsequently adding more of the beautifully colored iris to your shot. Get low. Just as with children, shoot from a low camera angle. Not only does this let you shoot straight into Fidoeyes, where you will most likely find a bit of the dogpersonality, but viewers a ground-level view of something they normally look down on automatically adds interest,”says Harris. Wait for the right age. Puppies are too active; wait a bit. Harold hit a year, he began to calm down. I took advantage of it, and finally got a solid portrait of him,”says Harris. Step 1 Figure out the look you want. youinspired before you start,”says Harris, will find the energy and focus to work until yougot it right.”He finds inspiration in book covers, movie posters —any great portrait. Step 2 Set up with a stand-in. Harris doesnbring the pet into the studio until hegot his lighting, focus, and exposure perfect. He practices on a stack of books thatabout the same height and depth as the dog. He often puts the camera on a tripod, adjusting its height so the lens will be at the subjecteye level. Step 3 Calm the pet. begin the session by petting, and talking to the dog, while feeding it treats,”say Harris. Often, if the dog knows that you have treats, it wonoverreact when the flash starts firing. Step 4 Keep the pet engaged. When the shooting starts, you can hold a dogattention by talking to it and making noises with squeaky toys, a clicker, or even crumpling paper. Alternate sounds, but donoverdo it. you put the little guy in sensory overload, heshut down,”warns Harris. Final Step Clean up in software. , expect to have to adjust color temperture, even out contrast, and pop colors in the coat,”says Harris. print, frame, and hang it!”

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