Fooled ya!: Composites in dog photography

maremma sheepdog with butterfly

I don’t set out to deceive with composites in dog photography.

In fact, I go into a mild state of cognitive dissonance sometimes when I’m editing a photo.

I started to learn Photoshop as a young journalist. Stationed in Kamloops, B.C., at a small triweekly newspaper, we were presented with our first negative scanner and Photoshop 2.0.

We were warned upon threat of joblessness to maintain the integrity of the moment, to do nothing more to an image than adjust for exposure and maybe a little bit of sharpness.

Since jumping into the world of pet photography in Spokane, WA, I’ve had to broaden my skillset and learn things like head swaps, background blurs and color toning.

Because creating art isn’t always about clicking the shutter release button.

Bella and the butterfly

I’ve broken a few hearts with the above image.

The butterfly is an overlay. I’m sorry.

I caught Bella in a perfectly pensive mood but the more I looked at the image, the more I thought she needs to be looking at something.

Several friends have commented on it and I always feel the need to tell them the truth.

It isn’t real. I’m sorry.

My husband carps on this all the time, especially when I add a sun flare to create some interesting light.

That’s what created the backlight on this one of Maverick.

fake backlight for composites in dog photography


Before and after

It goes back to the blog circle assignment from a few weeks ago, Before and After.

We do what we can to create the difference between “oh, that’s a nice picture” and “holy damn, I need that on my wall.”

Many of us can do that often with a minimal amount of editing but, every once in a while, we end up with an image that can really sing with a touch of this or that.

And every once in a while, we end with an image that needs the extra work.

Because dog photography is not easy. I’m not going to lie. It can be as frustrating as all get out, trying to get a dog’s attention when you’ve tried whistles, squeaks, meows and even hotdogs or peanut butter.

They’re paying attention to omgitsarabbit or heylookanotherdogoverthere.

(It’s one thing to get an owner to hold onto the dog and force her to look my way but it’s another to make it not look like the dog is getting choked!)

That’s when a composite head swap comes in handy.

Check this out.

mom with dog and toddler
mom, toddler and border collie puppy

In the top image, Dixie the border collie is looking right at the camera, but Aurora and Daun aren’t.

In the bottom image, Dixie’s in omgitsarabbit mode but Aurora and her mom are giving me gorgeous smiles.

That’s when it’s time to take peanut butter in one hand, jelly in the other and put your hands together. (Thank you, Joey Tribbiani, for that turn of phrase.)

Et voila.

composites in dog photography

All around the circle

Editing images isn’t anything new.

Ansel Adams, who said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” spent hours in the darkroom editing his images.

(Anyone remember what fixer smells like? Raise your hand!)

Pet photographers around the world are blogging about using composites in dog photography. Let’s see what Lynda Mowat  from Heartstrings Photography wrote about while she captures memories that last longer than a lifetime in and around Hamilton New Zealand.

Keep clicking through the blog links at the bottom of each post to tour the Project 52 circle until you end up here.

Home. Right where you belong.

And if you’re ready to book a session with me, click the button and get taken straight to the Contact page.

Remember: I will do my damnedest to fit you into my schedule if you’re in need of an emergency session, a cherished moment to say goodbye to your furry best friend.

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