Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Tip

One of the most important factors in creating pleasing and accurate photos of your work is good lighting. You don't need fancy (read: expensive) lights or a super-slick collapsible setup (though those things sure are nice if you can afford them) to create well lit photos. My setup, as you can see, is a set of six clamp lights that flank a large photo tent.

The 2x4s for the lights are held up by some heavy duty plumbing pipe - a floor phlange for stability and a straight piece that the wood post is crammed into. It's a very tight fit that involved a lot of whittling, banging, and yes, even a little cursing. But it was cheap and is very sturdy. The lamps are plugged into power strips so that I can leave their switches on and simply turn the whole apparatus on and off with a click on the strip. In the lamps I'm currently using Sylvania 100 watt daylight bulbs. DON'T leave these on for too long - just for the duration of your photo shoot. They will get very hot, and you don't want that around the photo tent fabric.

The tent was made from a PVC pipe frame and a thin white sheet of cotton. My tent is much larger than yours will likely need to be, so adjust the size to suit your needs. The background is something that needs some care in selecting as it will actually be in the photo. A neutral shade of blue or grey works very well though other colors can be used for more dramatic effect. Backdrop paper is available on large rolls at many photography supply shops. In small tents, tagboard can be a good substitute.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Just me and my horse

I'm taking a photoshop class right now and one of our assignments was to go out and take a self portrait. No portrait of me would be complete without the horse I've had for half my life (and nearly half of his coincidentally). So I set up my tripod, put my camera on timer mode and set about wrangling Chinny for the photo-op. We did have one little incident where he made a pretty good attempt to go find better grass, but for the most part he's good about being loose out in the open and even taking direction. I'm so pleased to have a nice new sort of photo with him. He is in front of my lenses a lot, so it's rare to get anything new and interesting anymore. Anyway, enjoy! I am working on the thumbnails for the new gallery right now, so expect to see it back up shortly!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Tip

Just a quickie tip for today since I'm a sickie just like everyone else it seems! If you use spray primer for prepping, invest in a trigger handle. It really is some of the best money you'll ever spend, especially if you do a lot of spraying. The sprayer will always get depressed just right, no more paint on your spray finger, AND you won't have to deal with perma-claw hand and pain on those heavy spray days!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Cropping

There may be times when you will want a little something different from your cropping. Wide crops are useful for making visual statements (especially when the horse is creatively lit), and they can be very good for ad layouts. Good wide crops generally have the horse somewhere between a 3/4, front or rear view, and are most striking with horses that are looking to the side. Crop to leave ample space for the horse to "look into", and then adjust your other sides to create a pleasing balance. The horse should usually be on the bottom left or right side as shown above.

Moving on to heads! In addition to full body shots, head shots are extremely important, and again, there is a trick. In this shot, the horse seems to have stubby, thick neck; it is not as attractive as in the properly cropped photo below. This is a common error, even among live horse photographers.

When working with horses good photographers always include some of the horse's shoulder in the photo. This visually makes sense to our eyes and completes the picture, whereas cutting the horse off somewhere on the neck is usually somewhat distracting, and can drastically alter the shape of the neck.

Once in a while you'll have a good candidate for a slightly more interesting head shot. In this photo, the tail provides an interesting secondary element and helps to tell the story of this horse a bit better than his head alone. Note that plenty of his chest has been kept, adhering to the shoulder rule for headshots. More of the chest was kept in this crop than I might usually use on a head shot because it balanced better with the tail.

And last but certainly not least - cropping for details. There really aren't any hard and fast rules for detail cropping, as the object is usually to simply show off some part of the horse that is too small to see well in full body or head shots. Crops can be made very tight, like the eye above, or loose, like the shot displaying the eye, facial shading, and veining below:

Very tight crops that are well composed can be very striking in ads or displays. Play around with your photos and see what you can come up with!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Cropping - it's one of those things that often gets overlooked, but it is an essential part of properly editing photos. Cropping can have a very strong impact on a photo and its subjects, for better or worse. I developed my cropping technique after lots of trial and error, and by combining some standard cropping practices to best suit model horses. If you're selling or creating a gallery, this tip is for you!

There are a couple of special rules to follow in equine photography that apply well to cropping for models: there should be more room above the ears than below the feet on full body shots, and there should be room for the horse to "move" or "look to" the direction they're going or looking in. The rules can be broken, but they'll hold you in good stead most of the time. Since models are essentially product as well, the cropping needs to be functional rather than artistic most of the time. This means that rather than applying standard rules of composition for beautiful photography, the cropping needs to get in as close as possible to best show off the item without becoming distracting.

This crop leaves far too much room on all sides of the horse. It is actually rather pleasing in some situations and when composed well, but for most photos, the cropping should be closer.

Sometimes people get into the habit of cropping right up the the edge of the horse on all four sides. While a tight crop can work alright, and at least shows the horse better than a very loose crop, this leaves the photo feeling cramped and can have a tendency to squish the model in ways that make it appear unappealing.

This photo is cropped well. There is slightly more room above the ears, and a little extra room in front of his face. The cropping isn't super tight against his tail and hooves, but it is close. Play around with subtle differences here to find the best crop for the particular horse in question. Some horses benefit from more or less room on one or more of the sides.

In some cases, cropping will be affected by things like Valentine's mane here. Cropping back to the tip (but not too close!) of his blowing forelock and mane allows for both reasonable image dimensions and for room in front of his nose.

Bases are frequently integral to a sculpture's design. To cut the base off in cropping creates a feeling of distraction in addition to cramping. Leave bases in, and crop a little wider on top and possibly elsewhere to help balance the photo out. In this instance, it is obvious how much cramping there is compared to the properly cropped photo below:

Here I have given a touch extra room above the ears to account for the fact that the stand has raised the feet from the bottom of the photo. I also left slightly more room in front of the mare because it helped to create the idea of space to move into and to visually balance her front and back ends better. If you're not sure how to crop a photo, make several copies, and test different crops out. You can even do your crops and come back later to reassess with fresh eyes.

One more example with a base - this time a comparatively very large one. This photo would be better cropped like the example below:

Examine the cropping elements for yourself in this one, and try to apply your new knowledge to your next photo editing session.

Tomorrow I'll be covering how to crop headshots, details, and artistic shots!


At long last, the roof extension for Chinook is complete. It's a project my dad and I worked on for about a month, and it's so nice to have it done! As you can see, Chinny is an opportunistic little guy. While we were moving stuff around to prepare for our last big build day, Mr. Sneaky Pants here decided to check out the situation. I'm not sure if his plan was to be helper pony or escape pony, but he went back to his hay after he got caught red-hooved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Whirlwind of Activity

First of all, apologies for the silence here of late and the lack of Friday Tips! I'm leaving shortly to judge a show down in Portland, so the 15th will have to be another tipless Friday. But expect to be treated to a nice long one on how to crop photos effectively shortly after my return. It's something every artist needs to know! Things have been very busy here with putting up a new roof for Chinook, giving him his last clip of the year (I should have taken a picture of the hair - the pile was literally up to my knees), and finally getting the new gallery ready. All that in addition to the usual painting! You can expect to see the hi-res portion of the gallery rolling out next week with the lo-res option opening soon after.

I am also planning a mega house cleaning of bodies as soon as I can get the photos done. I have selected about 1/3 of my resin collection to clear out of here, since I will never realistically get to it all. There's some really great stuff that will be going up for sale, so if you're in the market for unpainted resins (or half finished ones even), stay tuned for that! And now, I simply MUST get to bed, or I will be a zombie judge... 'Till next time!