Go Dog Photo

Everyone wants to be a photographer today! People go out, but a digital camera and call themselves professionals and show up at events to take pictures and sell them to you. How do you know if you are really getting a good photo? Do they understand photography? Do you understand what makes a good image? Below are some links that will do some very specific explaining of what you, as a consumer, should be looking for and what to avoid. Help keep professional photographers at your events by avoiding purchasing bad images. This is not to bash other photographers or their work, but to help you to realize what a good image is vs a bad image and explain some terms you should be looking for. You can also download a PDF with most of this information.
Photography 101

How professional photograhers approach a job
Digital or film, the approach to shooting is still the same. Buying a camera and calling yourself a professional has become all too easy today. With digital cameras being so affordable, many people go buy one, start shooting and call themselves professionals. But are they? It takes more than owning a big fancy camera to taking a good photo.

Digital photography should have the same basic approach as film photography. You want to capture the best possible image, right out of the camera! Too many "new" digital photographers just think they can fix everything in photoshop or some other program. This is a bad approach. Everything can't be fixed, and your photos will suffer.

There are a lot of young, amazing photographers out there that have never used a film camera. They have taken the time to learn HOW to not only use their cameras, but what it takes to create an amazing photo. From the right equipment for the job, to knowing your lighting, composition and what you expect to get out of the event you are shooting.

Remember, if you ask a photographer a question about the shots they are taking, and they say "I'll fix that later in Photoshop" unless they are talking about a leash removal or other object removal that they don't have the ability to move before they start shooting - take a really good look at their images!! They are likely not the professional they claim to be! Check out image samples here.

Shade, sun, shade, sun - this can be tricky. There are times where the sun is on one side, and you must shoot down the middle or the other side. If the photographer can capture that exact moment when the dog is between shade and sun to look good - that can be great. But, like the top photo right, shade on most of the face and an eyeball - NOT such a good shot! Watch for lighting consistancey!

No one should claim to shoot action photography and think that every shot they get is amazing! When scrolling through you event images, be choosy. If the photographer has some good images mixed in with garbage, they are likely putting everything up to get you to buy. A professional will only put up what they believe is their best work and want you to see! Think about the photo - is it something the photographer should be proud of? If not, there is your answer to pro or wannabe. Check out image samples here.

Great lighting is the start to a great photo.
As an animal, action photographer, we are never guaranteed great lighting! Outdoors, set up of equipment, direction of the sun, never using a flash, all these things can make or break an image. We do not always get the ability to set up where the lighting is best - but WATCH your photographer! Are they shooting with the sun behind them as much as possible? Or are they shooting into the sun?

Backlighting photos (shooting into the sun) can give you a beautiful, silhoutte image - if you are shooting for art and beauty. If you are an event photographer shooting for the entire event, this doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's for a specific purpose, not for an entire event.

  • Make sure your event photographer's images from other events look good.
  • If your photographer lightens up their dark pictures too much, you will get noise.
  • Make sure your photographer actually knows how to shoot black dogs!

Unbalanced? Ok, not you or the photographer, but the image. The images to the right are the same. One is cropped closer to the right, the other the left. The top image makes the dog look like he's running into a wall, the bottom is following where he is going. Although still not my ideal crop, this shows that the second image would be the better shot to puchase - the dog should be leading you where he is going - not just ending.

Composition can be a long and boring explanation. So rather than bore you to death, I will say, think balance! There are photography "rules" but they can be broken and still get a good photo. NOT all rules should be broken though.

Watch for negative space. If it is working the the photo and taking you someplace, it can work. But think of a headshot - when the top 1/2 is nothing but sky or space, it looks unbalanced and bad. Watch for your photographer to balance your images to look great. If it looks off to you - then it likely is! Check out image samples here.

Is it sharp or is it soft?

This is my BIG pet peeve! Focus, focus, focus. Let's start by saying, I can not stand people who put up photos for sale that are out of focus! It is unprofessional and wrong. If you are a professional, then do a professional job. I like to say that every photo that comes out of my camera is not a nugget of gold - I am not perfect - but, you will not see blurry photos for sale on my site!

Now let's talk about "soft". WAY too many people also put these up for sale. There are varying degrees of soft photos, but too many people put up images that are way too close to that border of soft and/or blurry. A soft photo simply means you have missed the focus by just a bit. Maybe the foot is in focus, or the collar, or the toy - but shooting for the eyes is the best possible image.

Be picky!! It's your money!! Don't just buy a "cute" image from someone - make it be a good image too! Check out image samples here.

Buying Digital Images

It's all about the pixels!
**IMPORTANT** Take a minute to read about pixels! They are at the core of your digital image.

How many pixels an image has will determine it's size and how it looks. Industry printing standard for an 8x10 image is 3000x2400 pixels at 300dpi (dots per inch, or ppi - pixels per inch).

Now let's say that a photo came out of the camera at 3500pixels (a little larger than 10") and I cropped it to the face - it now might have a print quality of about 1"-2" (800 pixels) - so, if you purchase it, but want an 8x10 of that face, what a computer does is tries to read the color of the pixels closest, then fill those in to get back to that 3000 mark - now it is blurry and what is known as "pixelated" edgy or jagged.

Now you have compression! Everytime a .jpg image is opened, edited and resaved, it compresses a little more, degrading the quality. The internet will also automatically compress an image for faster loading. So, if an image doesn't look good on the internet, I guarantee it will be bad when you get it! That is also because of sizing, when made smaller on the internet, pictures pixels will compress and it might look better - but at full size, garbage!

If your show photographer sells through SmugMug - Look for a few things!! When you are viewing an individual photo, in the bottom right corner you an "i" icon inside of a circle. Click on that and info about the image will appear telling you all about that photo! Where it says "size" 702x914, you can now know that picture is barely 3"! So this photographer is selling this image as an original download for $26 and prints up to 5x7 - yet this image is barely 3"! This is why knowing about pixels is so important!! Check out image samples here.

Another SmugMug warning - that site allows photographers to sell by MP (megapixel). That is simply the bulk size, not the actual size! Meaning if I take a dog on white at 5x7, it maybe only be 1.0MP in size, so SmugMug would sell it for say $10 - but the same dog, the same size of 5x7, now shot out in the woods with color and trees and grass and sun, means for info embedded in the picture, so now the MP size would jump to 2.5MP and they would sell you the same image for $25!!! Always ask the pixel size and dpi before ordering!!!

Fake HDR can be really, really bad

**IMPORTANT** Take a minute to read about HDR! Understanding High Dynamic Range will help.

When you hear about someone talking about an HDR image, do you wonder, what are they talking about? High Dynamic Range refers to pulling out the light, color, and details at all ranges of an image.

Normally, HDR is NOT used in action photography. There are a lot of nice plugins that can use one image to pull out details and give a single image an HDR look. I find these programs also create noise and grainy areas where it used to be dark and now it's trying to lighten it. HDR from a single image, especially if done poorly, will have a sort of "gray" appearance to it.

HDR is best used with a tripod and multiple STILL images shot at different shutter speeds. When combined, you can use the lighter image areas masked over the darker. Best to go to the sample page to view good and bad samples of HDR images.

Beware of the poacher! Uninvited photographers hurt everyone!

Many events have "Sponsor" or Invited Event Photographrs - and many have photographers just show up and think they are entitled to shoot and sell photos without checking with organizers.

Not all events will have sponsor photographers, so how will you know? Simple, if you are at a dog event, there will be a check in area, or a secretary or chairperson - just ask them. They will let you know if there is a sponsor photographer for that event and who they are.

Most events are simply not large enough to support multiple companies, this is just one reason for having event photographers. It is to everyone's benefit to have established, professional photographer have the exclusive to shoot your event.

Not having a sponsor photographer does not mean the photographers there won't capture good images, but there is less control over quality when anyone can show up and shoot. This does not mean that a poacher doesn't take good photos, but by purchasing from poachers, photographers who have not asked for permission to sell at an event, or have a license or vendor permit, they will run off professionals by selling a sub-quality product at a lower price to get you to buy their photo. This will hurt everyone in the end.