Photo Envy

Sometimes, I see a blog that has the most gorgeous photos, and I wonder how they do it. Do they have that innate "eye" for getting great shots, amazing and expensive equipment, or stellar Photoshop skills? Probably, the answer is a combination of those things. My photos are nice in a generic sort of way, but they don't seem to pop the way some people's do--how do I get that pop?

I think I pass as an okay photographer, and I have a pretty good camera (Canon Digital Rebel XT). My Photoshop skills are self-taught and rudimentary, but the more I monkey with a photo, the less I can tell if I'm actually improving it or making it worse. Sigh.

cover of book which features a close up of a reddish colored dog, by Kim LevinRecently, at a Borders Books going-out-of-business sale, I bought a book called PhoDOGraphy for $5. It had a lot of talk about ISO, shutter speeds, grain, wide angle lens...and I realized I don't really even know how to use my camera. I have never changed any of the settings beyond the pre-programmed ones for night, action, close ups and such.

I've still got a lot to learn, but here are some of my recent attempts at being a better photographer. If I Photoshopped the image, I have placed the original photo underneath the doctored one.

cabana and our grey tabby cat laying on our bed on a golden colored blanket

same as above, really not much difference at allThis morning, both Cabana and Angie, our 16-year old cat, were on the foot of our bed, where we permanently keep a Cabana-colored blanket for this purpose. I like how both Cabana and Angie are laying in the same way, with a paw dangling off the edge. I took advantage of a fun photo opportunity, and I also doctored the photo a bit, increasing the contrast, playing around with color balance, darkening the edges, and adding a bit of texture. But the changes are almost imperceptible!

extreme close up of our cat, you can see each individual whisker

I love this close-up of Angie's little face. It was a good shot to begin with, but again, I increased contrast, darkened the edges of the photo. The changes are still subtle, but this time, I think it did improve the photo.

close up of cabana's face, with a green tug toy between her teeth, the toy is making her lips and jowls pull away and show her teeth, and her nose is all wrinkly

When I was playing tug with Cabana the other day, she looked so silly, I had to grab my camera with my free hand and take this photo. I used Photoshop to create a bit of a halo effect around Cabana.

cabana and an australian shepherd playing on the grass, their bodies are facing forward but their heads are both turned to the back, I have no idea what they were doing, but they are in the middle of whatever action it was
Here's Cabana with her new friend, Whisper, a female Aussie. Cabana has had her same favorite friends for some time now, and she rarely shows much interest in playing with new dogs. But for some reason, she immediately took to Whisper. Even though you can barely see their faces, I think this photo catches their exuberance with each other. I increased the contrast on this photo, and that's about it.

cabana's head in profile, her head is illuminated but the background is all blackIn our living room, we have a window that is way high up by the ceiling. The light coming through that window sometimes creates a dramatic effect on the floor below and is a sunny spot that Cabana often likes to sit in. Cabana was standing in that sunny spot while the rest of the room was in shadow. No Photoshop was required for this one.

More attempts at better photography to come!

Dog Blogging With Luna  – (September 8, 2011 at 9:30 PM)  

We must had great minds because we are thinking alike right now! I just did a similar post about my own photo quality. Yours are great, and I find that lots of practice with the camera and photo editing tools will make for better photos! :)

Anonymous –   – (September 8, 2011 at 9:40 PM)  

I looove the tug o' war picture! And the way the grass pops out on the picture with Whisper. Fantastic!

I'm totally with you on the photoshop skills. I spent four hours playing with a picture of my cat and when it was all over, my husband said to me "which one is the original again?" Thanks.

Can't wait to see more!

Tessa99999  – (September 8, 2011 at 11:03 PM)  

I also suffer from photo envy. My dinky little digital camera just doesn't cut it when doggies move around so quickly! I think your photoshop skills did make the photos look nicer. They were simple photos, but the improvements are apparent when you can see the original. When you compare the two, the originals make Cabana's coat look dull and monotone, where as the photoshopped ones added contrast and visual interest in my opinion.

P.S. I LOVED the close up of Angie's face. Such a pretty kitty face!

Min  – (September 9, 2011 at 3:58 PM)  

I definitely have photo envy as well! I think a definite investment before we have kids is a really great camera. Your pictures are definitely better than the normal blogger, and Cabana is certainly a great model!

I don't know how to use Photoshop, but I hear that Pioneer Woman has some great Photoshop downloads and advice:

Beth and Alfie  – (September 10, 2011 at 12:52 PM)  

Well, you've certainly got a good eye -- that last photo is stunning! I think I feel a little photo envy of my own coming on!! My little camera certainly doesn't have much in the way of versatility -- but, it's easy to carry around, ensuring that I actually take a picture now and then. :-D

Anonymous –   – (September 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM)  

I think it's so good to try different things and see what works for you. You will definitely come up with a personal "style" over time. I think your camera is plenty good enough to take awesome photos, the rest is just about practicing-- and maybe one decent lens. I always recommend the 50mm/f1.8 to people who are trying to get better photos. It costs about $110 and is still my favorite lens I own, even though I own about 7 different lenses. Just a thought :)

Wendy  – (September 12, 2011 at 8:42 PM)  

I can't WAIT to try to find this book!!! Thanks so much! I, too, have a digital Rebel XT and, like you, have not learned how to really use it well. Canon does have some great tutorials on their website, though. I LOVE your "portrait" close-ups of Angel & Cabana. They are awesome shots. :D

ingrid  – (September 18, 2011 at 5:36 PM)  

Lovely! I don't have time to fix any of my point/shoot photos, but I've always wanted to.
Hope you learn some good tricks!
I love them all, but that last one is just perfect. The look on Cabana's face - so perfect.
Have fun!!

Susan Campisi  – (September 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM)  

I've also been thinking I need to work on my photos, especially now that I'm trying to get Louise adopted. But your photos are beautiful! I especially like the one of your cat (yes I have pit bulls but I'm secretly a cat person). I don't see any difference between the photos but maybe it's because I'm on a smartphone.

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