Week Three of professional pet photography blog circle Project 52 sees us onto lesson 2 from David Duchemin’s “The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographers.” Our task for this week was to learn to “Ask Better Questions.” In the book, Duchemin says “Beginners are full of questions. If we’re wise, we never lose that sense of always being a beginner with a willingness to ask questions.” We were to take a look at the images we used in last week’s blog on “Consider Your Vision” and look beyond the basics of “what lens?” or “what aperture?” we used to questions such as “what role does color play?” or “what am I trying to express?” It is in looking at these deeper questions that we begin to gain a better understanding of our vision and how and why we are creating it.

So, in looking at the images I used in last week’s blog, I wanted to consider what things I liked about the images and to consider what it was that allowed me to achieve those elements in the images. I’ll use just a couple of the images to review what my considerations were in trying to ask better questions.

For this first image of Mr. Bojangles on the bridge, I like the connection with Mr. Bojangles’ gaze. It is very direct and draws you in. I love the bright color and how the background falls softly away behind my subject. In asking questions about this image, things that affected the way it looked are the bright natural light and my choice of lens and settings, which all allowed me to achieve the bright colors and soft focus of the background. I was able to keep a strong focus on Mr. Bojangles as the subject.

Mr. Bojangles | Project 52 Week 2: Consider Your Vision | Cincinnati & San Francisco Dog Photographer

This next image was shot under different circumstances and I made different choices of settings and included external lighting and modifiers to help achieve the look. This image, as with the one above, was also shot outside, but at different times of the day and year, causing me to have to make different choices. Because the light was fading at the time I took this image, the off-camera flash with an octabox was crucial in helping me achieve this image. In both cases, my choices allowed me to keep my subject in focus and allow the background to softly fall off, keeping the viewer’s eye on the subject. Molly the Basset | Project 52 Week 2: Consider Your Vision | Cincinnati & San Francisco Dog Photographer

For my new images taken this week, I decided to go with a couple I shot for Louie’s Legacy Animal  Rescue in Cincinnati (as was the image of Molly, the basset, above). Unlike the images above, these new images were taken inside, but with all natural light. The questions I asked when taking them (besides how to get the attention of some nervous dogs or puppies) was how I could achieve bright colors and striking images that would attract the eye of potential adopters. I had to make sure I adjusted my settings on my camera to achieve the look I wanted while allowing just enough light into the camera from the sun streaming through the windows of the house I was in. Before even setting up to shoot, though, I started asking questions as to where would I shoot in the house, because I needed to find a location that would provide me with the space I needed, as well as the light (although I did have my lighting equipment with me, I wanted to take advantage of Mr. Sun.)

Socks, an available dog with Louie’s Legacy, was very nervous and quite restless, so getting her to pose was a little bit of a challenge, but one which I was able to achieve with my bag of tricks. I am very happy with the images I got, especially this one, as they have that connection that I like to get. Who wouldn’t want to adopt this beautiful and soulful dog?

Socks, Australian Shepherd | Project 52 Week 3: Ask Better Questions | San Francisco & Cincinnati Dog Photography

Next up is the adorable puppy, Joanna. Puppies pose a particular challenge, because they have limited attention spans and love to play and chew. In order to achieve what I wanted I needed to find a way to contain all that puppy energy. And what better way to contain puppy energy than to literally contain the puppy? A basket, or some other container, is a must for photographing puppies. The why of what I wanted to achieve in both of these images pretty much was to create an adorable image to pull at the heartstrings of someone enough for them to want to adopt these gorgeous dogs. 

Joanna, St. Bernard Puppy | Project 52 Week 3: Ask Better Questions | Bay Area & Cincinnati Pet Photographer

So, questions I asked about these images allowed me to achieve the look I wanted and that connection I like to have, which is especially important when photographing dogs up for adoption. You want to achieve an image that draws in the viewer so much that they want to adopt the dog. Hopefully, these images will succeed in their mission very soon.

Finally, because no Friday blog would be complete without more than one image of Mr. Bojangles, here is another one I took this week to test out a backdrop I got with the idea of using it for Valentine’s Day. Sometimes, we get things or try things and they don’t work the way we hope, but we don’t know if we don’t try them out. I’m still not sure about this backdrop, but am leaning towards it being too busy for my taste. However, before I completely rule it out, I will ask myself some questions as to whether there are things I can change that might get it to work. By asking better questions we continue to learn and grow.

Mr. Bojangles Love | Project 52 Week 3: Ask Better Questions | Cincinnati & San Francisco Dog Photographer

Now to find out what other questions are being asked, head over to Future Framed Photography, South Dakota, and then around the rest of the blog circle until you end up back here.

If you would like to book a custom pet portrait session with us, please use the hot pink “BOOK NOW” button to the right of this post (bottom of page on mobile) or send an email to suzi [at] petlovephotography.com or give us a call at 513-288-1650 for the Cincinnati area of for those in the San Francisco Bay Area at 650-382-3242.

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