Weekly Pet Photography Image Critique: Anna Soens Photography

This is very exciting to us admins! It’s our first weekly pet photography image critique of one of our Beautiful Beasties Facebook fans. There were so many incredible, wonderful, amazing shots posted it was very hard for us to pick, but in the end we selected the image of the little white terrier puppy, created by photographer Anna Soens of Anna Soens Photography.

Before we get into our actual critique, I’d like to address a question that may come up among some of our followers. The question is: “what gives you the authority to critique another photographer’s work?”. Well, I have an answer for you!

We, the Beautiful Beasties admins, are comprised of four passionate full time professional photographers, who all run thriving, successful pet photography businesses and have a combined total of over 20 years of pet photography business experience.

First- we have myself- Jamie Pflughoeft. I am the owner of Seattle-based Cowbelly Pet Photography. I’ve been photographing pets for 13+ years, have been in business for over ten years and have been working as a full time dedicated pet photographer for almost nine of those years. I have been teaching workshops, mentoring, consulting and producing paid and free information for photographers since 2008. I also wrote a book on pet photography called Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide to Modern Pet Photography, which was published by Wiley Publishing in the fall of 2012. Then we have Charlotte Reeves, a wonderfully talented Australian photographer, owner of Charlotte Reeves Photography. Charlotte started studying photography back in 1999, and has been in business as a full time professional pet photographer since 2007. She also wrote a wonderful e-book on pet photography called Fetching Photos: The Ultimate Guide to Creative, On-Location Natural Light Dog Photography. Next we have Kira DeDecker, owner of Kira DeDecker Photography, based in Glendale Arizona. Kira has been photographing pets professionally for the past three years, and most of us know her as the ‘Photoshop Wizard’. Kira is an incredibly talented photographer and creates detailed, helpful blog posts for pet photographers here on the Beautiful Beasties blog, as well as on her own blog.  Last but not least, we have Dana Cubbbage, who has also been photographing pets professionally for the past three years through her business Dana Cubbage Photography. Not only is Dana a talented and creative pet photographer who has written many helpful blog posts for other pet photographers, but she also brings to our admin group a unique eye because along with photographing pets, Dana also photographs weddings. So she knows how both pets and people should look in photos.

Our combined talents, experience and skill enables us to view our followers’ images and determine what their strengths and weaknesses are.

That said, we’d also like to acknowledge that visual art such as photography is subjective. No two viewers will have exactly the same emotional response to an image, and that’s the beauty of it. We all experience art in different ways. In these critiques us admins will even disagree with each other, and that’s ok! The more feedback we as photographers have from different sources, the more capable we become of critiquing our own visual art.

Speaking of visual art, let’s get right down into it, shall we?!

This week we are critiquing Anna Soens’ uh-dorable terrier puppy photo below. We chose the photo because we loved the emotional impact, but also felt like it could use a few tweaks. First, the photo, then the comments by each of us admins.

anna soens photography

JAMIE PFLUGHOEFT

Composition

I like the shapes the negative space makes around the puppy. I also like that he/she is a bit off-center.

Exposure

There are some issues with highlight clipping in this image, which is totally normal given the angle of the shot, and the fact that it’s a white dog with a white sky behind him/her. To circumvent this problem if the shot was re-framed at a slightly higher angle there would be more mid-tones behind the dog, so easier to expose the highlights properly.

Expression

The expression is adorable! The puppy’s tongue and sweet look in his/her eyes are very engaging. Good focus on the camera, which isn’t always easy to get from a distractable terrier.

Strong points

The colors and white balance are beautiful. The dog’s expression is engaging, and the composition is interesting and creative.

Needs work

The highlight clipping could be fixed in Lightroom by using an adjustment brush and dragging the highlight slider all the way down, and just painting on the fur on the dog’s forehead. (I’d leave the sky the very pale blue color that it is). 

I would also remove the leash, as it’s not doing anything for the shot. In general, unless a detail/element is enhancing an image, it should either be removed in person or in post-processing, as in this case. I’d also run noise removal software on the eyes, because they look a little grainy from being lightened. I’d also recommend sharpening just the eyes and nose using these smart sharpening techniques on the high-res file: amount: 18-22; radius: 29.

Style leanings/strengths

This shot is an interesting mix between documentary style and photojournalistic due to the lens that was used, which I am guessing was a long lens. I’d like to note that I’m guessing that this was *not* an easy shot to get. Kudos to Anna Soens for a great image!

KIRA DEDECKER

Composition

I like the horizontal framing. However, I wish there was less concrete and more skyline in this shot but that is nitpicking. The center framing works, especially with such an adorable subject.

Exposure

I have a personal leaning towards bright imagery so the overall exposure is good to my eyes. My only caveat is that the top of the dog’s head is blown-out and is now blending with the skyline. You could do two things to remedy that:



1.) Add some Highlight Recovery with an adjustment brush in ACR or Lightroom to bring back detail.

2.) Changed your position or the dogs so the dog’s head was in front of the building instead of the blownout sky

Expression

Let’s just say if he was in front of me, I would be convicted of dog-napping because I want to steal this dog and snuggle him because he looks too cute!

Strong points

Post processing is wonderful and on point! The pup’s expression is almost too adorable for words and really takes the photo to the next level. Great use of light and open shade – I see catchlights in the dog’s eyes and just enough shadows to give the image depth.

Needs work. It looks a tad cool (again, nitpicking) so you might consider warming up just a tad. The leash needs to go, it’s distracting. It also looks like the eyes are soft and the focus fell on his muzzle. So I would work on focus and opening up my aperture when needed.

Style leanings/strengths

I’m getting a very strong lifestyle/commercial vibe from this photo. I could picture it for an ad for an upscale modern pet boutique.

DANA CUBBAGE

Composition

Overall I think it’s really good. I might have tilted the lens up a bit more to get more sky and less ground in the image, but that’s just me

Exposure

Blown highlights (in general) don’t bother me, but I do think I would’ve brought down the highlights in Lightroom just to get a tad more detail, especially around the top of the head. I agree with Jamie’s comments on how to fix that in the future.

Expression

Love it! The pup is engaged and oh so cute!!

Strong Points

The white balance + color are FANTASTIC. The dog is engaged and super cute The light is excellent – a great use of open shade!

Needs Work

My only critiques would be the highlights on the top of the dogs head. I’d just like to see a little more detail there. And the leash has to go! I think this was a shot for a rescue, so I totally understand why she didn’t clone it out – but if this were for a client, definitely take it out!!

CHARLOTTE REEVES

Composition

I like the portrait format of this shot, but I feel the dog’s head could have been placed more towards the centre of the frame (this may just be personal preference) – with more space to the right of the dog – even if that means it’s tail is very close to the left hand side. I love the low angle looking up, with the inclusion of the foreground – it leads the viewer into the shot and creates depth.

Exposure

Overall quite good, though the highlights on the top of the dog’s head are blown out making it merge into the brightest area of the background. To obtain separation from the background, I’d try and pull the highlights back into the shot, if the detail is there in the raw file. In the shooting stage, try and place the dog’s head against something darker, just a little to the right or left would have done it.

Expression

Awesome expression! The dog is looking right into the camera with great eye contact and ears up and forward – can’t get much better than that!

Strong Points

Definitely the location chosen, the lovely shallow depth of field, the background, and the angle, along with the expression of the dog. It’s a really nice high key image.

Needs work

The lead definitely needs to go! To make it easier in future, always get the handler to hold the lead up and back, making it much more straightforward to edit out later as it places it against out-of-focus background rather than dog’s body. The white balance looks a tad cold/green to me, so I’d also experiment with adjusting this to get a little more warmth in the shot. I’d also like to see more detail in the highlights, not so much in the background but definitely in the dog’s fur. The point of focus seems to be on the dog’s chest rather than it’s eyes, which I find a little distracting. Always try and nail the focus on the eyeballs!

Style leanings / strengths

Due to the location, I would label this shot documentary, but with a modern twist due to the high key image elements and editing treatment.

Great job Anna!

If you would like to get some feedback on your work, you can post if to our Facebook wall for consideration for next week’s critique. Please watermark your image and size it to 749px wide. Please post from the image on our wall from your business fan page and/or include a link to our website so we know what your business is, and write ‘Image Critique Submission’ so we know you’d like it to be under consideration. Each person may post 1 (one) image to be considered for that week’s critique. We will collectively select one image each week from that week’s submissions and post the critiqued image to the blog the following Friday and link the blog post here. Image critique submissions will open on Mondays and be open until Sunday at midnight of that week.

Alternatively, you can get feedback on the Beautiful Beasties Network forum by posting your image(s) to the Portfolio Review/Critique category to get feedback from your peers.

Hope you enjoyed this image critique and we will see you next week!

Jamie Pflughoeft is a commercial animal photographer and is the owner and operator of BeautifulBeasties.com, and Cowbelly Photography. Jamie’s client list includes PEDIGREE, Purina, Nutro, Sergeants, PetSafe, Wal-Mart, Embrace Pet Insurance, The Bark Magazine, Cesar’s Way Magazine, AAA, ABC Studios and more.

Like the dogs and cat she photographs, Jamie believes life is best lived playing, sleeping, eating, loving, daydreaming, having regular adventures and being sure to feel plenty of joy every single day. Visit her portfolio website, Facebook page or Twitter stream to get to know her personally.

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November 1, 2013 - 9:07 pm

Anna Soens - Thank you again Jamie, Kira, Dana and Charlotte! Your insight is tremendously valuable to me, and I am so beyond thrilled to have received such detailed, thoughtful critiques from some of my favorite photography icons! I am one lucky bird! Cheers! –Anna

November 3, 2013 - 8:13 pm

Charlotte Reeves - No worries Anna!

November 4, 2013 - 5:08 pm

Jamie Pflughoeft - Anna- You are most welcome. Glad you found it helpful!

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