I've recently read some articles about writing blogs and find that I’ve got it all wrong. According the experts, I’m not supposed to be waffling on about my life like some self-absorbed eccentric (but lovable) Auntie, I’m supposed to be imparting something of value to you all. So, for the last week I’ve been frantically trying to think what I know and you don’t that is useful to you. Unsurprisingly, I’ve come up with very, very little, which is a bit of a bombshell because I thought I had a fair catalogue of knowledge under my belt. I can hear you say. “So mad Auntie Sammy what have you come up with?” If you are saying THAT!... I will really have to tell you to bugger off and stop calling me Sammy to start with!
Here it is… People have sent me a number of photographs they would like me to work my magic on and make into a painting. Unfortunately, a lot of the photographs I’ve been sent I just can’t use. This has given me the idea to perhaps go over a few things that would not only make photographs more pleasing to the eye, but make them better for me to paint so as to achieve more of an impact. So here goes…
(Please Note the following models I've used to illustrate various points are obviously NOT pets but wildlife in rehabilitative care, however the principles of photography are the same)
I acknowledge that your regular dog, horse, cat is not going to pose perfectly for you and that as soon as you get the camera out they will do an assortment of things including stopping what cutesy adorable thing they were doing, will walk off in the opposite direct or come over and stick their wet nose inquisitively on your camera lens.
First rule…BE PATIENT and I mean EXTREMELY patient, don’t put the camera away when they are not doing what you want, just take a few shots anyway this gets them used to what you are doing. Then put the camera down, but not pack it away so that it is always hand and ready to be picked up without running around looking for it. This not only makes the exercise difficult in the first place but also excites the animal wondering what you are doing so that it isn't amenable to posing like the pet model of the year.
Second rule…Those few shots...GET DOWN AND CLOSE, don’t stand up and look down on them. When you look at your much loved pet what appeals to you are usually their eyes. The human in you, needs to see and connect to those eyes and to do that you need to be close to the same level for impact. If you ever ask me to do a painting for you I need lots of close up support shots of eyes, eyelashes, eyebrow expressions (these are just record shots) it gives me a feeling of the heart of the animal and an indication of what you see in your beloved pet.
Many images I get in are out of focus (I can't use these) and I usually put this down to the way people hold their camera, or poor light. Holding the camera at arm’s length is a definite NO NO, please don’t do that. (Auntie says NO!) Not only does this make it difficult for you to frame the shot nicely, but your arm extended wobbles no matter how light your camera is.
The best head shots of animals have the head at an angle, with some or a good part of the second eye showing, you need both eyes in the shot, BUT not full straight on.
You need good lighting, don’t take photographs inside the house if you can help it. Natural light brings out the highlights and undertones of the coat and eyes.
For me the background doesn’t matter because it is one thing that is relatively easy to change, but for you and your photographs make sure there aren’t embarrassing things in the background like crates of beer, underwear hanging out to dry or a child picking its nose.
OK folks I can hear you snoring from here so I’ll wind this up.
Finally I’ll include something a little personal to show how little a background matters for my paintings and also how you can go wrong by changing too much of what is real.
It was Albert’s and my 13th wedding anniversary on December 18th and one of my regrets has always been that I didn’t have a wonderful (put on the wall worthy) photograph of the occasion. We were married in Scotland at the same 13th century palace Mary Queen of Scots was born and Bonnie Prince Charles stayed… it was so romantic, but the temperature was a long way below freezing. I wanted a painting to show ALL of that.
I was well into the painting, had put in the background that showed where we were married, but with much nicer surrounds and had pretty much finished when Albert started interfering. “My hair looks bouffant, can you give it a trim and make it look modern. Oh and I really HATE my glasses can you take them off”
Always happy to oblige a ‘client’ I did as was asked.
I sat back at the end of working on this one and seriously wondered who the bloke was, standing next to me, because he certainly wasn’t the person I married.
Needless to say I am now in the middle of re-working this piece and making sure
I put the right person in the painting (she sighs…...)
Wishing you all a safe and happy snapping New Year!
Samantha "I'm a person who feels I live in paradise and truly love Australia after immigrating here in 2003. I work as a foreign exchange trader, live with my true soul mate, husband Albert. I have a passion for Aussie wildlife and became a registered wildlife carer in 2005 and can say I feel truly privileged to be able to raise and rehabilitate orphan wallaby/kangaroo joeys. I love these creatures with my heart and soul. My dream is to be able to help struggling volunteer wildlife carers, financially, so that they can do what they do best without worrying how to pay the next vet bill"