Pet Photography Tips

S.O.F.A. member France Bauduin shares her tips on photographing pets.

In my previous article, I explained how you could create original compositions from your own photos. Here, I would like to give you a few tips to help you take great action shots of your pet.

1) Choose the right camera

Mine is small and light, making it possible to take pictures with a single hand. When shooting pets, it is always useful to have a free hand so you can capture their attention by snapping your fingers or shake a noisy toy to make them look at you.

I also have a Live View Finder I can pivot upward, so I can take pictures of my subject at eye level (between 15 and 30cm for a cat) without having to lie flat on my belly.   It allows me to move and follow my subject (up to a point) and gives me more opportunities to take good pictures.

My camera also has a Sport option that allows me to take many pictures per second in good light conditions (without flash) and generates more possibilities to capture a good action shot.

 

Sequence of 3 photos taken inside one  second with Sport option on a bright hazy day (best conditions for black and white cats)

 

2) Choose the right light

Natural daylight is usually best when photographing pets.

Avoid harsh sunlight around midday, especially with white pets. You will achieve better results taking your photos around mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Bright hazy/cloudy days work well when you plan to replace the background with other photos, as you do not need to match shadows. They are the best conditions for black and white animals.

In some occasions, flash photography may give good results with black subjects but natural sunlight is usually better to show their coat’s highlights.

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Portrait of Milo (a commission) from a photograph taken in the sun

 

3) Choose the right spot

Instead of chasing your animal, sometimes it is better to position yourself in a good spot (with the sun at your back) and wait for them to come play in front of you, shaking a twig or throwing a ball to entice them in your direction. (Ask help from the owner if it is for a commission)

Having a solid object (bush, fence, wall) behind your subject increases your chances that the automatic focus will be on the animal and not something far behind them.

 

 4) Choose the right time

Know your subject and anticipate the most likely periods for good action shots. With kittens, it is usually after they wake up from a long nap, a period that can last a good half an hour before they run out of steam again.

My best advice is to always have your camera ready and close by.

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“Timmy in trouble” The lucky shot that inspired this earlier drawing.

As a rule, I always recharge the battery of my camera after downloading any photo shoot of 100 or more pictures.

 

5) Shoot, shoot, shoot

Practice makes perfect.   Well, perhaps not but the more you take pictures, the more likely you are to get a great shot (even if it is just by luck).

It takes indeed many trials and errors to get the timing right. With my camera, half-pressing the button actions the automatic focus. The trick is to keep it half-pressed until I see a good opportunity and then depress it completely. This shortens the delay and thus heightens my chance to get what I want.

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Gold & Silver playing with a red ribbon in natural daylight. Perfect pose.

More importantly, make sure to download and look at your photos the same day so you can see (and remember) what worked and what didn’t so you can improve your technique.

Next time you’ll be able to:

  • Eliminate those shots when you are too close/too far away or when the light is too poor/too bright.
  • Reduce fish eye effects (distortions) by centring your subject and using the zoom option to the maximum
  • Identify surroundings/circumstances generating more likelihood of good shots
  • Identify the best time/light to take pictures according to the season (and weather)

Conclusion

Again, if you are going to spend dozens of hours on a particular drawing, it is worth spending a few hours getting a good photograph of your subject, remembering that the composition can still be improved afterwards with tools like Photoshop or simply using a different background from another photo.

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Earlier attempt at changing the background from a photograph with another.

 

Like you, I am no expert photographer and for or every hundred of pictures I take:

  • One third go straight to the bin (off focus, too dark, white washed, incomplete etc…)
  • About half are clear enough but too ordinary to draw
  • 10 to 15 may show good action shots but with little flaws
  • Only 1 to 3 of them may be what I consider very good photos worth drawing (with or without improvements)

 

But with digital, who cares? I only print the photograph I will draw and keep the rest classified for future references.  And once in a while, oh perhaps one photo out of a thousand or so, I get lucky and take that “great” shot where everything works.

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A great shot of Gold and Silver playing together with a pheasant feather.

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Best of luck to all and remember: Keep clicking!

By France Bauduin S.O.F.A.
France Bauduin’s web site.

Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Ella Goodwin exhibiting in Wymondham

Ella Goodwin S.O.F.A. associate member is taking part in a local exhibition in Wymondham, just outside Norwich. It’s presented by printmaker Amelia Bowman and Ella will be exhibiting a large showcase of her illustration in what is a lovely setting at Wymondham Arts Centre.

Print

The Private View is on the 15th April – 6-8.30.
All S.O.F.A. members and friends are hugely welcome and we have wine and cake sponsorship so good to get there early!

 

bowman-show

Getting to Grips with Gouache

S.O.F.A. member Tamsin Lord shares her love of gouache.

The medium of choice for my feline art is Designers’ Gouache, which is a range of opaque water colours.  They are so called because they were developed for use by designers, illustrators and commercial artists to create crisp, vibrant visuals and illustrations in solid colour.  I was first introduced to gouache during my art Foundation studies years ago, and instantly loved the striking colour palette, tight control and fast drying qualities they offer.

Gouache is adaptable and various mediums can be added to create effects, it can also be fully intermixed with Artist’s water colours.  I use both types of paint in my feline pictures; I find by combining them I can produce controlled, colourful paintings which also have elements of fluidity and soft texture.

I particularly enjoy combining gouache and water colour when working on eyes.

I particularly enjoy combining gouache and water colour when working on eyes.

Curlicue Cat by Tamsin Lord

Curlicue Cat by Tamsin Lord

Gouache is a forgiving medium, although you do need to take into account the opacity ratings when using light colours over dark.  It’s also important to be aware of colours which are rated as ‘bleeding’ on the colour chart.  I learnt this lesson several years ago when I applied white over magenta and ended up with a pink rinse kitty!  Saying that, I rather liked it and went through a very colourful ‘Curlicue Cat period’ (this little chap on the right being one of them!)  There are ways round bleeding though, as you can use a Bleedproof White as an in between layer.

I apply the gouache in layers and it is intended to be applied fairly thickly.  If diluted with too much water it may ‘powder off’, on the other hand, apply too many thick layers and it can crack (gum Arabic can be added to reduce this problem).  This link is to a short video which shows one of my paintings progressing.

Tamsin LordA variety of brushes are suitable for use with gouache depending on the technique used and finish required.  When I paint cat fur (which you’ll notice can be quite prolific and chaotic) initially I used a fine sable rigger which is a brush widely used for painting rigging on ships and is great for holding colour to flow through the stroke.  However, whilst trawling through Rosemary & Co’s brush catalogue (which I can highly recommend) I thought I’d give their Golden Synthetic Pointed Riggers a try and was very pleasantly surprised, they hold the paint excellently and I find offer a little more spring than sable, which actually suits me better.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it and here are a couple of online retailers I can recommend:
Cowling & Wilcox ~ for Designers’ Gouache, Artist’s Water Colours and Other Art Materials
Rosemary & Co ~ for Handmade Artists’ Brushes.

 by Tamsin Lord S.O.F.A.
www.tamsinlordart.co.uk
The Fiendish Felines on Facebook


Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Creating Original Compositions From Your Photos

S.O.F.A. member France Bauduin shares her tips on compositions from your photos.

I have been drawing cats using colour pencils for more than 12 years but I only joined the UKCPS recently and have yet to participate in one of their annual exhibitions.  One of the rules of the UKCPS is that we need to create our drawings from our own photographs for our work to be eligible.  Many think it is a harsh rule but in truth, I think it is for the best as it gives us the opportunity to become more creative, by combining many pictures into a great composition.

As a cat artist and behaviourist, one of my goals is to show my kittens playfulness as well as their connection between each other and their mother.  For this, I take hundreds of pictures every day, hoping to capture a very special moment I can immortalise in a drawing.   Sometimes I am lucky enough to succeed but more often than not, the picture is far from perfect and I need to look back at other photographs to complete what is missing: an ear, a paw, part of a tail…  Background often needs to be dropped, modified or completely replaced.  Sometimes I will try to recreate a scene that I saw but could never capture on film.

All you need is in the same photograph

Somehow, I managed to capture a very rare and funny expression in Silver (left kitten) but in this particular photograph, there was no connection with his brother Gold.  The stick was also in the way and I didn’t see the need to keep Gold’s whole body.

To create that connection, I flipped Silver horizontally, got him closer to Gold and added that feather at an angle where they both seem to look at it.  Using other photograph references I completed the paws, brought the door frame forward and here is the result.

Sometimes I will even replace an entire kitten by another that is more in focus or has a more appealing pose.

Combining two good photos to create a better one

At some point both my kittens jumped into the pot plant to play and I immediately saw the possibilities for a great drawing.  Despite taking numerous pictures, I never managed to take one where both of them looked great. But by combining these two…

france-ex2-2

france-ex2-1
Here is the drawing:

france-ex2-3

And sometimes I try to imagine a scene that could happen if these kittens were in the wild, replacing toys by insects & small animals.

Change the story

As I was taking some pictures of my kittens playing in the bath with a ball, I was lucky enough to get one of these rare action shots where both kittens looked great.

france-ex3-1

It would have made a very good drawing without background but instead, I went out on a limb and tried to imagine them outdoors, choosing a neutral background that would not take our attention away from the kittens. I went even one step further and changed the ball into a mouse using a field guide for reference pictures of mice.

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Here is the result:

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Let’s face it, whenever you do so, you take a risk.  So you must choose with care.  For outdoors pictures, it can be tricky, especially if this is a sunny day as you need to make sure that light & shadows match.  You also need to ascertain that the picture is taken at the same angle and distance so proportions are respected.  Photoshop can be a great tool to help you create these scenes but in the end, you are the one who will decide if it works or not and for this you need a good eye and a good knowledge of your subject.

If you are going to spend dozens of hours on a particular drawing, it is worth spending a few hours on its composition before you get started.  Not all decisions need to be taken in advance.  I often make further adjustments for the background as the subject emerges.  All I can say is that the end result is generally well worth the effort.  So start using your photographs creatively and surprise yourself with the result!

By France Bauduin S.O.F.A.
France Bauduin’s web site.

Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Give Water Soluble Oils A Try

S.O.F.A. member Denise Laurent wants to encourage artists to give water mixable oils a try. Here are her recommendations for a starter kit.

Miss Honey  oil on board

Miss Honey by Denise Laurent

Over the years I’ve met many artists who’ve wanted to try painting in oils but they’ve been put off by the down side of oil painting, the need for solvents like turps and white spirit. For many people using hazardous materials in the home or studio is not an option. There’s the smell, problems with allergies and concerns about safety around kids and pets. But there’s a very easy way to get started with oil painting without any of these worries, water soluble oils.

Working with water soluble oils is a joy. I’ve been painting with them for years now, they’re very easy and simple to use. Good quality water mixable oils are just like other oil paints except for the additive that makes them water soluble. They look, feel and handle the same way. The difference is you can thin the paint with water instead of solvent, and wash your brushes  with water  too, so no nasty or dangerous fumes. It makes it easy to clean up after a painting session so it’s something you can do on the kitchen table without a lot of complicated equipment.

Holbein Aqua Duo SetI use Holbein Aqua Duo from Jackson’s here in the UK, but available in other countries too. A superb range of high quality water soluble oils. Jackson’s has a starter set of 4 20ml tubes that would be perfect for anyone wanting to give oils a try.
Jackson’s also have  their own range of Jackson’s Aqua oils. Lovely soft paints to use, they flow off the brush and blend beautifully. They’re a very good price too!

Jacksons aqua oils

You’ll need a couple of brushes and they need to be suitable for  acrylic painting because they’re going to see a fair bit of water. If you don’t have any already try one of each of these;  Jackson’s Akoya brushes, stiff white synthetic bristle brushes that are great for working with thicker paint, and Jackson’s Procryl brushes,  a little softer than the Akoya and great for thinner layers of paint and blending colours together. These or something similar will get you started.

procryl and akoya brushes

You can buy some pretty cheap canvases these days but personally I think a great surface to work on is oil paper. It comes as a pads or blocks and I think it’s much less intimidating than a blank stretched canvas, staring at you as if daring you to spoil its lovely white surface!  A paper block is easy to use and easy to store. Daler Rowney, Arches,  Clairefontaine and Hahnemühle all make good ones.

Here’s an oil sketch on Arches oil paper…

Oil sketch on Arches oil paper

Oil sketch on Arches oil paper

And here’s a close up of the paint on the surface of the paper…

A close up detail of the oil sketch on paper

A close up detail of the oil sketch on paper

So why not give water soluble oils a try? They are easy to use, easy to clean up, no nasty smells and you can try them without breaking the bank. And you might just fall in love with oil painting.

By Denise Laurent S.O.F.A.
www.deniselaurent.co.uk
The Painted Cat Art on Facebook


Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Sir David Attenborough Picks a winner for Pollyanna

SirDavid lr_600821The winning ticket in the Pollyanna Pickering Foundation Winter Prize draw has been drawn by natural history broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough. The lucky winner, Mr Grayling of Sheffield has won an original painting.

For most people Sir David Attenborough is both the face and voice of Wildlife. As Britain’s best-known natural history film-maker, he has brought the wonders of the living world into our homes for nearly five decades. There are very few places on the globe that he has not visited during his career as a naturalist and broadcaster.

TWASI patron Pollyanna shares his passion for the environment and is equally committed to using her work to raise awareness of the plight of endangered species worldwide. She was therefore delighted that Sir David was willing to spare time from his very busy schedule to help her select the winners in the prize draw organised by her charitable foundation.

“We were so honoured that Sir David agreed to draw the winning tickets” Pollyanna told us “He is one of the world’s greatest natural historians and is an inspiration to everyone working in conservation. We thank him so much for his support”.

Between the sales of prize draw tickets and donations the Foundation has raised £2,279.00 which will be divided between the ongoing care of ‘Polly’ a moonbear rescued from a bear bile farm in Vietnam, and Cheetah rescue projects.

Sir David is pictured selecting the tickets with Pollyanna (left) and her daughter Anna-Louise (right) who is also a trustee of the Pollyanna Pickering Foundation.  Find out more about the work of the Foundation at www.pollyannapickering.co.uk

Pencil Workshop Review

S.O.F.A. member France Bauduin went on a pencil workshop Passion For Pencils last year and wanted to recommend it to other members. This is what she thought about the day.

Peakaboo by France Bauduin

I had brought all my crayons with me and a day lamp (which proved a good idea as we only had artificial light in the hall).  I had three extra boxes of crayons and little things like erasers, sharpeners, silk paper for my friends.   As it is, there were very few UKCP members.  Most of the attendance were beginners like the friends I had brought with me.  Most people were retired ladies in their 60s.  No men.

The workshop was very well organised and done in a quite informal way.  Tables were put in the hall in a horseshoe fashion and we each add our table with a card in front of our place with our names.  Bev and Pauline were going around the tables, helping here and there those who needed advice and chatting with others like me who knew what they were doing.   At some points, I did the same, first helping my friends and then another one who was trying to draw the eyes of a cat.  I ended up chatting quite a lot so in the end, didn’t get much done but it was fun.

There was a table where we could put the stuff we wanted to sell (I had brought my books but didn’t sell any) and we could put examples of our finished drawings on the stage at the front (I had brought my series of kittens to show which proved a good idea).

We also had 1 hour tutorial done by a representative of Caran d’Ache who demonstrated the versatility of their products, mainly water soluble colour pencils.  He was quite funny and we had a good time watching him.  I didn’t know much about water soluble crayons so I learned a few things there.  But I doubt I will ever take that route.  In the end, it’s more painting than drawing but with less control over the results. It was a fun day.

By France Bauduin S.O.F.A.
France Bauduin’s web site.

Find out about the next UKCP workshop here.

Passion For Pencils

The UK Coloured Pencil Society.

Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.



Exhibition Photos

Slide Shows
See the photos of each exhibition as a flash slide show. Click the links below and sit back and watch the show. These will be quite large photos and may take a while to load.

SOFA London 2013
SOFA London 2012
SOFA London 2011
SOFA London 2010
SOFA London 2009
SOFA London 2008
Or if you don't have flash see them as a photo album.

Photo Albums

SOFA London 2013
SOFA London 2012
SOFA London 2011
SOFA London 2010
SOFA London 2009
SOFA London 2008

Archives


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