Analog Thoughts on Studio Lighting
The typical expectation of a 'pet photographer' these days is that all your work is done in the studio, on a bright paper seamless background, with a digital camera on auto-expose/multi-shot, and a lot of squeaky toys. Clearly, this method works for a lot of people. But I don't call myself a 'pet photographer,' so I get to do things differently. Part of being an artist for me is truly using my tools, truly taking full advantage of the magic of my medium, and building each image, each frame, from the ground up. Which is why I prefer working with natural light at all times, and working in my client's homes. Because there is endless possibility for error, there are things out of place, there is realness and texture and cushions askew and that is where creation really happens- when you can turn that mess into something beautiful, you have truly embraced the role of photographer. That being said, one time I photographed a very famous dog in the studio for a very special friend.
This dog, named Balthazar, has starred in movies, in Ralph Lauren print ads around the world, been featured in photoshoots since he was a baby, and worked the ring at Westminster under one of the world's most respected Fox Terrier handlers, Bill McFadden. In order to make this studio shoot meet my client's needs (he requested the studio set up) yet also have my signature style, I placed Balthazar on a perfectly clean bright white background and had his dad wipe his paws before he stepped onto the paper. I wanted to exaggerate the sterile feeling of a perfect studio, exaggerate the lack of context that comes with studio work, and purposely push these portraits into a hi-key setting. Hi-key lighting is a technique where you over-use your hi-end tones, and create almost a white-on-white image. When done correctly, it has a post-modern feel to me. And when done correctly, you can create a balance of blown-out highlights on your background while retainging full tonal range and detail in your subject. Here are a few favorite images from this session: