Tag Archives: Project

Are you getting enough? Personal Projects

This year candles are the theme of my personal project

This year candles are the theme of my personal project

No one seems to have enough time to do all they want these days. Life is certainly busy! Often this means the things we are passionate about get left out of our lives. As photographers we forget to take photos until the ‘right time’ – which never seems to come. I find it helps to have a personal project to keep my mind focused on the year ahead and to ensure I put time into my own personal photography.

Here are a few reasons to start a personal project…

  • It gives you a reason to take photographs
  • Your project acts to help you focus on a subject
  • When you are not inspired you can just play with project ideas
  • It helps keep you motivated
  • You build up a library of images on one subject
  • You get to know the techniques of that subject really well
  • Your creativity is given the chance to explore something in depth
  • When the project is done you could run an exhibition for family or friends
  • You can be inspired by trying out the project theme in new places
  • It gives you a reason to look at other peoples work on the subject
  • Find out how great photographers have photographed your subject

There are many more reasons to do a project, these are just some of the ones that have motivated me in the past. If you take a few minutes and write out a few ideas why you want to do a project it will help you commit to the subject.

Your project is your own, and only you can determine what direction it takes you. So it helps to plan it out a bit. Maybe set yourself some goals. Here are a few examples…

  • I will finish my project when I have 100 quality images of my subject
  • A quality image is one that I am proud to show family and friends
  • I aim to improve my use of Depth of Field and bokeh on this project
  • I will aim to take at least 50 photographs of my subject per week

Of course you don’t need to follow my examples. You might think 100 exhibition quality images is too much for the time you have. Great, set the project up to suit you. You may not want to improve your use of bokeh (that lovely blur of bright objects in an out-of-focus background). Why not concentrate on another technique, say, greater use of deep shadows as a compositional feature. Anything, especially things you want to improve.

A personal project is a great way to help integrate your photography into your life. If you choose a subject that can be found in everyday life then you can do some shots in your lunch break or whilst commuting. In short it gives you a reason to keep taking photographs. That’s a good thing right? More of what you like and enjoy will help reduce stress and increase the fun in your life.

Having an exhibition or promising a presentation for someone is a good way to tie up the end of your project. It gives you something to aim for. However, it can be fun to just produce a web gallery, or publish a sequence of the shots on YouTube. You never know it might go viral!

In the first part of this year I am going to make ‘Candles’ a personal project. You can start a personal project any time and for any duration. So get going on it as soon as you can!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Photographing Dogs – Part 2 – What to focus on

Loyalty - Waiting For Master - It is best to see the dogs eyes Side shots tend to look more like a record than an engaging picture.

• Loyalty - Waiting For Master •

Capturing attention with the dogs eyes

When we see a human our immediate focus is the face. Especially the eyes. It is just the same with a dog. Focus on the eyes and you invite the viewer into the shot. A catchlight in the eyes help too. They emphasises the dog’s expression and helps define its line of sight. Catchlights are the pin-points of bright light that reflect the eye. They bring the eye alive and help to animate the picture.

Pin-sharp focus on the dogs eyes and catchlight is a great way to draw in the viewer to your picture. If the catchlight is pointing at you the shot is even more engaging. Try to find ways to position yourself to capture these reflections.

Dogs eyes are appealing, along with other things

Your favourite pooch is more appealing if you are looking into its eyes. Eye contact with you while photographing will establish a rapport with your viewer in the picture. I think dogs have expressive faces. If you recognise a dogs mood in the face the dogs eyes will help you capture it.

A waggy tail is appealing too. Some of the best dog pictures are taken with an obvious waggy tail. You can often get a dog to show waggy tail enthusiasm by rewarding its participation. A little petting that the dog likes will get the response you want. It will also put some life into the dogs eyes.

The appeal of ‘doggyness’ often comes from the unbound joy-in-life shown by dogs. They love sharing fun with you. Try to capture them enjoying themselves. A favourite toy will help give a focus their behaviour for the shot. Try to make sure the toy is presentable. A photo can be ruined by a horribly chewed toy. It is distracting. Again, with toys get the dogs eyes in the shot.

The best moments to capture a dog are when it is showing affection. Dogs and children make especially cute compositions. Dogs who love kids really put over the feeling of a loving and loyal dog. If you can get the child’s and dogs eyes to meet that is especially appealing. The eye connection is emotive in a photo.

Record shot

The more the dog is taken from the side or looking slightly away the more the shot looks like a record shot. Dogs don’t seem to photograph well from the side unless lit to show off the body form. The side view tends to flatten the picture and makes the shot less appealing. Of course if you are taking a shot of a show dog then it is perhaps exactly what you want. If you do want this, you should arrange the lighting to come from the side of the shot – down the length of the body. That will help sculpt the body shape by creating shadows. Do not use on-camera flash. That will tend to flatten the body shape.

What is the point?

It’s worth thinking about what you are trying to achieve. If you want to see more of the body shape it is better to focus your shot from the face down the body. Make sure your camera is set up to have a deep focus (say, f11 to get a deep depth of field). Try to make the background simple, uncluttered. This will help keep the viewers attention on the dog, especially the dogs eyes.


Dogs love to lie at the foot of their most loved. If you can, make a picture of a dog at the foot of a relaxed family member. The dogs eyes are often soulful in this “loyalty” position. You could get a great photo. There is nothing more appealing to us than seeing protective love and affection.

Wild and free

Dogs love the wild and free moments in life. If you want to emphasis the wildness of a dog capture for the depth of blackness in the dogs eyes. Catchlights, when reduced to tiny spots, emphasise wildness. Pick up on other ‘wildness’ actions too. Tail down and low head and shoulders emphasise menace. A crouch in walking emphasises the hunting poise. One paw off the ground, frozen, alert, is another classic hunt/menace pose. Don’t forget the ‘ready-to-spring’ position – it is a great hunting pounce shot. It is often possible to capture that moment just before someone throwing a stick. Try to remember the dogs eyes when you capture that moment. Look for its line of sight to get the shot right.

Always leave room in front of your dog so they look like they have space to run into. If you bunch their head too close to the side of the picture it is not flattering. It also makes the dog look like it is about to crash into the side of the picture. And, this golden rule applies to the dogs eyes too. If they are looking away from you you must allow space in front of the face for them to look into. Otherwise the benefit of the line of sight will be lost.

Sleep and cuteness

Sleeping shots make great portraits. Concentrate on the lines of the dog. Show its relationship to the surroundings. Sleep often shows vulnerability. So try to find a background that brings it out. Dogs are pretty cute when asleep. However, try to take the shot from the same level as them. If you stand up for a sleep shot all the cuteness is lost and the flatness of the floor makes the dog look flat too.

Portrait work

For dog portraits, the way it is standing, sitting or moving is important. The simplest thing is to just stand there and snap away. But it is a bit hit and miss. When doing a portrait of a dog remember that the most effective shots are taken at its level. Get down to it and really get into its world. Try shooting nose to nose, catch it eating – work with it on its favourite toy. Try to find as many things that you can that complement its way of life down at its own level. Down on the floor with a dog you will capture the dogs eyes more intimately. You will also invite its approach to you. Dogs love you to share their world with them.


Use toys, or props, that the dog will enjoy. It’s a good way to get the dog involved. It will also provide a secondary focus to the shot. Remember secondary items can be distracting. So don’t make them too big in the shot. Instead, use props to motivate your dog to play. Minimise the impact of the toy on the photo. Concentrate on the dogs behaviour.

The dog will want to be involved with your shoot. But, there is no use trying to “make” it do things. It must “want” to do them. Try giving treats at appropriate times when photographing them. This will encourage and reward them for the behaviour you want. It will help them be involved in your photography too. You will also get a better line-of-sight for the dogs eyes if you involve them. They will be more likely to look in your direction.

Much of your dog photography will be captures of the dog ‘doing its thing’. Be ready for the behaviour you want. Plan for it. The happy accident is when you have prepared for the shot by watching the dog. Then it does what you hope and you are all ready to click. Working with different dogs will get you different results. So be prepared to change your approach in different situations or with different moods of the animal. The very character of the dog will define the way it is pictured.

Photographing Dogs series links…
Photographing Dogs – Part 1 – Getting Started
Photographing Dogs – Part 2 – What to focus on.
Next article: Photographing Dogs – Part 3 – Getting the shots
Photographing Dogs – Part 4 – Practical Issues


Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.