I AM SAVING UP TO BUY MY FIRST DIGITAL SLR CAMERA. WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
If you are just getting started, you’ll want to do some initial research on what brand is best for you because once you start investing in lenses, you’ll be somewhat committed to that brand. But really, you can’t go wrong with buying either a beginning Nikon or Canon kit at Costco. These kits will have a camera body and an all purpose lens. Costco is great because they have a generous return policy (if you find that it is too much camera for you!). In addition, get yourself at least a 1 Gig Memory Card and while you’re at it, an extra battery.
WHAT VERSION OF PHOTOSHOP DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Did you think I would say save money and buy an older version? Nope! You simply can not have a Digital SLR without Photoshop (or some type of photo editing program). Buy the most current version, which is CS4 (as of right now). You can then upgrade your licensed version for less money when new releases come out. Fair warning, Photoshop is not an easy to learn program and will take you hundreds of hours to become completely proficient.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LENS?
It depends on the look I am going for. The one piece of advice I always give is that it is definitely not about the gear. I have gotten some really incredible shots out of the Canon 50 1.8 which is a $75 lens. It is the voice behind the gear that really matters. That being said, the 2 lenses I use the most for dogs are the 24-70 and the 70-200 IS L.
I always recommend renting lenses first before buying. You can rent online at www.rentglass.com or at your local camera store.
WHAT IS YOUR POST PROCESSING TECHNIQUE?
Again, not an easy answer. I took a comprehensive online class in Photoshop 5 years ago and it was a great time investment. I shoot RAW and adjust everything in ACR Bridge. I barely use actions and know color management and final print production inside and out.
Books are a great way to learn. I recommend Real Camera Raw by Bruce Fraser and any of the Photoshop Books by Scott Kelby. Not terribly exciting reading but if you shoot digital, you need to know the ins and outs of Photoshop.
YOU MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY!
You are only seeing the finished product. Easy is definitely not a word I would use to describe the process of shooting dogs. Yes, it is fun, but definitely a lot of hard work. Assuming your know your camera gear inside and out (which you should), you are then walking into a situation where you have to quickly evaluate the owner(s), the home and quality of light, the behavior and temperament of the dog, the weather, and how you are going to shoot effectively and artistically with all those factors.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET?
I wish I had a special formula or an easy answer, but my journey has been a long one. Especially tough at times with much self doubt, discovery, and determination. I have invested an incredible amount of time and hard work refining my techniques, developing my own style, and gaining the confidence to do things the way I want and not what everyone else was doing. All of that takes time shooting, reading, time on the computer, and plenty of research. Plain and simple, if you aren’t willing to invest the time into it, you aren’t going to get much out of it.
WILL YOU MENTOR ME?
As much as I would love to, unfortunately I just do not have the time to accept anyone as a mentor right now. But I do hope to help aspiring photographers in the future. If you are interested in dog photography, you don’t necessarily need a dog photographer as a mentor. There are many aspects of the business that translate well into other specialties. If you can find a photographer in your area that is willing to spend time with you, that is ideal.
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If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask and I will add them to the list!