A different interpretation of dog photography that departsfrom the usual sharp, literal images can be a fun and exciting project. As with any impressionist photography, our aim is to convey mood, feeling and emotion. Impressionist photography responds to the fleeting moment. It focuses on the interaction between light, colour and form. It leads us on a journey and fills us with emotion and thought.
Photographing dogs can be quite challenging and requires a lot of patience. Start with just watching dogs. Watch how they behave, and how they interact with people and other dogs. Observe and take note of what excites and inspires you.
Then explore the endless possibilities and meanings that you can create. For example, if a dog that you are photographing is running, try to convey a sense of speed by introducing motion blur. If it's playing, aim to capture sense of joy. You can do it by capturing joyful poses or even using some bright colours in your composition. Or perhaps you may choose to focus on making the light and its specific mood as the subject, using the dog as a vehicle to do that.
"For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations. "-- Paul Cezanne
Establishing mood in a photo is not an easy task. One way to set the mood is to shoot your images at a particular time of day. As the day progresses, each change in the colour of the light creates a new image. In the morning, light tends to be pink and yellow, midday light is bluish-white, while in the evening it has a warm yellow and red glow. Warm colours impart coziness, safety, and quietness. Cool colours, on the other hand, evoke calmness or sadness. Bright colours can evoke a sense of joy and playfulness.
The atmosphere evoked by different weather conditions is another important element in evoking mood. It makes a lot of sense to take pictures not only on a beautiful sunny day, but also in other kinds of weather conditions.
Lighting is another very important aspect of impressionist photography. Take your dog for a walk and let him/her model for photo sessions during different light conditions. Try harsh and soft light, diffused and directional. Create a sense of drama and mystery with darkness, or evoke joy and happiness with bright, luminous light.
Light and shadows change constantly. Observe the effect they create in your images. The knowledge you gain by doing these exercises will allow you to play with any light condition instead of just reacting to it.
If you want to emphasise movement and convey time in your photographs, use a motion blur technique. Switch your camera settings to Shutter Priority Mode. Shutter speed is very important when capturing motion. To make the most of the relationship between shutter speed and movement, you will need to establish an understanding of how shutter speed, movement of your subject, and the camera movement affect your image. It will take some experimentation until you find just the right shutter speed to achieve the look that conveys your message.
Take some ND (Neutral Density) filters with you when you are taking photos on bright days. These will allow you to block excessive light so you can use a slow shutter speed even in bright lighting conditions.
You can also zoom your lens during the exposure to create interesting effects. This technique works especially well in head–on shots of a dog moving towards the camera.
With impressionist photography you need to explore both technique and colour and work towards a simpler, more abstract look. So, use photographing your dog as a vehicle for examining light and form. This is a key to bringing a natural feel to your photographs.
Taking a lot of photos and using different techniques, set-ups and lightingis a great way of learning more about impressionist photography. As you explore these techniques, not only your photos will improve, but you will also discover your own ways of doing things. Keep practising and before you know it, you will have an impressive collection of dog images worthy of framing. The possibilities are endless and the only constraint is your imagination.