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Thread: Easiest and Least Expensive?

  1. #1
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Here is my problem...

    Our American Maltese Rescue is growing by leaps and bounds. We now have foster families in many parts of the USA. This is great for our dogs but, I certainly end up with varied quality images to post on www.petfinder.com. It was fairly easy when all our activities were centered around Southern California because I could meet the dogs for a quick photo session.

    However I am now working with images shot by foster family members with various types of equipment; from cell phones to P&S cameras all the way up through DSLR cameras. I am trying to work out a way to generally improve the imagery in the easiest and least expensive way. Decent imagery is very important to get our dogs adopted. Unfortunately, I am working with a group of non-photo oriented people.

    My first task was to help members who have DSLR cameras but who shoot with the onboard flash. I decided to do this because it is probably the easiest to manage. Of course, bounced hotshoe flash with a diffuser/reflector will give the best results but, I cannot expect the foster families to spend the money for a hotshoe flash. I experimented with this four U.S. Dollar eBay diffuser which is easy to use and to store.

    Easiest and Least Expensive?

    This diffuser is readily available on eBay and I suspect that I could even draw up plans to fabricate one from plastic milk carton material. It is also quite easy and quick to put on the camera and can be used with virtually any pop-up flash camera that incorporates a hotshoe.

    I have received emails saying that several of our fosters plan on using this for their rescue dog portraits...

    I shot this image with a 50mm lens because most folks who own a DSLR also own a lens (kit or Nifty Fifty) with a 50mm focal length. I shot is with a Canon 30D which is certainly not considered a top-line camera anymore.

    Actually, the image is not all that bad and would certainly suffice for posting on perfinder. It is a LOT BETTER than many of the images which I receive from the various fosters...

    Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Now my next job is to try to find a way to get decent dog portraits using a P&S camera. The best way, I suspect would be to shoot the picture outdoors, in open shade. However, some fosters live in high rise apartments and cannot or will not bring their dogs outside for a photo shoot.

    I am wondering if anyone could suggest a way to shoot a portrait of a white dog (all of our dogs are usually white) indoors with a P&S camera and get a reasonably good image.

    Placing a solid color throw on a chair is a start. You cannot believe the backgrounds for the pictures that I receive! However, the onboard flash of a P&S traditionally gives terrible results - especially up close. Does anyone have any ideas? Please remember, the solution cannot be complicated or expensive; some of our fosters are quite elderly and cannot manage anything that is not simple to use. On the other hand, the portrait doesn't need to be a work of art.

    I plan to do a tuorial for our foster families to improve the general quality of imagery that I receive from those folks...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 1st February 2013 at 03:09 PM.

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Use a box to lure the dog through with a treat. Ready-made border and will complement the pet's color. You could shoot through the interior of the box before the dog enters.

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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Thin leaf or ricepaper (cigarette paper) in front of the flash might do the trick for p&s cameras

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Richard,

    Are you still looking for suggestions?

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Hi Richard,

    Doesn't your wife have a P&S you could try things out with?
    Your phone probably has a camera too?
    I suspect you'll learn more of the practicalities that way.

    Unguided, I foresee some of their problems as being;
    a) They start too close, by shooting at too wide an angle, giving perspective distortion (bits of dog closest to camera appear too big)
    b) They shoot from standing, at the dog on the floor
    c) They use flash which gives 'pet eye' problems
    d) They shoot with a terrible background
    e) Bad exposure - I would guess that a white dog against a too distant (hence dark) background probably 'blows' the dog's fur
    f) Bad focus

    a) is tricky; with such a broad variety of zoom ranges available on P&S cameras, instructing them on how to get 50mm FFE is going to be difficult
    b) and d) are probably the easiest to guide them on and you already have them both in hand
    c) even more tricky; a diffuser over the flash is liable to get in the way of the lens too and something like a white tissue wrapped tightly around the camera isn't going to make enough difference to the illuminated area
    e) perhaps give them some of the examples to imitate and guidance on using EC for when theirs are too bright/dark?
    f) they may stab the shutter button - not even being aware of 'half press' to allow time for AF to lock on

    This is a very difficult problem to crack.

    Hope that helps,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 3rd February 2013 at 11:32 AM.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Richard - have you considered making a short training video on this subject and posting it on your website? That might be the easiest and best way to demonstrate appropriate tools and techniques.

    Rather than using a purchased diffuser, get them to use things lying around the house; I've used a styrofoam cup or popped a couple of layers of Kleenex that I held in place with a rubber band before.

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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Richard,

    Doesn't your wife have a P&S you could try things out with?
    Your phone probably has a camera too?
    I suspect you'll learn more of the practicalities that way.

    Unguided, I foresee some of their problems as being;
    a) They start too close, by shooting at too wide an angle, giving perspective distortion (bits of dog closest to camera appear too big)
    (...)
    a) is tricky; with such a broad variety of zoom ranges available on P&S cameras, instructing them on how to get 50mm FFE is going to be difficult
    (...)
    Perhaps forget about focal length altogether and just instruct them to stay at 1m to 1.5m (?) and zoom in to fill the image (assuming they know how to zoom...)?
    It also is what you are interested in, which isn't the focal length...

    This won't work for most phones I guess, but then it's in any case a matter of 'do the best you can'.

    For lighting, would a north window, or a window covered with a white sheet, be sufficient? No flash needed, so no eye problems.
    (Or more general: either a window not getting direct sunlight when taking the picture, or cover the window with a sheet.)

  8. #8
    Mito's Avatar
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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    A non technical idea! The fosterer has a blanket or some material that can be draped over a chair. Sit the dog on the chair and encourage it to stay there with a "treat" held by a second person just out of shot or if in shot it could possibly be cropped out later. As to the quality of photos, that I think is out of your hands, just pray that you get good ones.

  9. #9

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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    P&S and indoors, heck even DSLRs indoor, watch the white balance.

  10. #10
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    Dave... Sometimes I feel dense... My wife does have a P&S with which I can play around to get the best results - I really forgot about her camera! In fact, my son-in-law recently purchased a Canon powershot SX50, so I can play around with a bridge camera also.

    BTW: He absolutely loves the SX50 and his images have improved markedly since he started shooting with that camera...

    Manfred, of course! You are right. A training video would be the way to go. I could post it on YouTube and link to there from our website.

    Thanks friends. I appreciate all your help even when I must seem pretty slow!

  11. #11

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    Re: Easiest and Least Expensive?

    One cannot get around the inverse square of light but at least the blown dogs might be fixed by reducing the flash in the camera menu ... my camera is permanently set to minus one stop for its onboard. I have yet to use a flash mounted on the camera in the digital age and when using a flash gun use the camera flash to trigger it ... it is a YN of course.

    But what is wrong with ambient light, provided the camera is adequately supported and the subject reasonably still? But then many don't know how to turn the flash off with their P&S [ I admit I was like that at one stage ] Window light and something white for a reflector ... preferably not sunlight through the window but a 'north light'. But of course I know not to jab the trigger and how to take half trigger I am sure those two rules would save many of your problems. The second helps with the first.

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