Hudson (How I Got The Shot)

I wanted to try something a little different in this blog post. I really love the idea of teaching photography and even though I feel like I still have a TON to learn, I wanted to provide photographers a look into how I got some of my photos. I hope to start doing more of these in the future, so make sure you subscribe to see more!

Here is our final image

This is my adorable puppy Hudson. I don't know how he managed to have so much patience during this shoot, but he did great! he definitely got a lot of treats. This post won't go into the details of processing the image, but will mainly focus on getting the shot. Let me know if you are interested and I may do a video of the processing. Since this is the final image, let's take a look at the photo straight out of camera and we will walkthrough how it was taken. Here is the image straight out of camera.

The Settings

This was shot in RAW and you can definitely tell based on the saturation. I did raise the exposure about 1 stop in Lightroom to make it easier to see on the blog. It was very underexposed!

To the left you will see the settings that I used for this shot. I chose to shoot this on my 85mm lens because it is a very standard portrait lens and avoids distortion that wider angle lenses can cause when shooting closer to a subject. Since Hudson's nose is the closest thing to the camera, a wide angle lens would have made his nose look even larger then it already is. This would have given it a cartoonish effect and wouldn't accurately capture what he really looks like.

I chose to shoot at ISO 100 because I wanted the cleanest (least amount of grain) in my final image and I knew I could compensate for the lack of light with the flashes.

The aperture I chose was based not only on the amount of ambient light that I wanted to let in (more on that later) but also on my desired depth of field.

The above images are good examples of what this same shot would have looked like at different apertures.  Each shot was has the focus placed on the eyes, but as you can tell from Hudson's nose we quickly loose focus at f/2.8 (farthest left). As I increase the f-stop from 2.8 to 5 (middle) and then 8 (far right), we get more of Hudson's entire nose in focus. f/8 probably could have been enough, but I chose f/11 to make sure the final image had his entire face in focus and also to kill a lot of the ambient light.

The Lighting

Moving on to the lights; my setup was fairly simple with 2 off-camera flashes and a silver reflector lighting the scene. I chose to snoot the key light (tube that fits over the flash that directs the light in a small beam) because I wasn't using a backdrop and wanted to avoid spill on the background (which was my living room).

The silver reflector camera left was used to fill in some of the shadows but not provide too much light and flatten out the image.

Lastly the rim light was used just to separate Hudson from the background and provide a little more definition of a dark subject on a dark background. Using the rim light also made it easier to select Hudson in Photoshop and replace the background with a black layer. 

One of the difficulties with shooting this in my living room was that we had to make sure that all the other lights in the house were turned off so we didn't introduce any additional color temperatures into the image. Although we could have gelled our flashes to match the color temperature of the interior lighting, we also wanted to make sure that there was no light spill from our living room lights onto the background. 

Besides having treats at the ready and using a flashlight to focus in such a dark room, thats basically how I got this shot! I couldn't believe how patient Hudson was with the entire process.  As a side note, for those who are wondering why I didn't use high-speed sync on my flashes to completely black out the background; its because I only have manual flashes that don't support high-speed sync. I hope you were able to learn something from this blog post and I hope to do another one soon. Stay tuned!