So, what’s a pet photographer doing at Gallery C in Dover Ohio with this crazy guy and Master Photographer Christine Walsh-Newton? I’m doing what professional photographers love to do — building my skills and knowledge so that I can create even better portraits for my wonderful clients!
As a member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA), I have opportunities throughout the year to learn from photographers who have acclaim in areas of photography I’d like to learn more about. Christine Walsh-Newton is known for her gritty black and white portraits full of personality, having achieved PPA’s highest level of recognition when they have been selected for the prestigious loan collection. You can see some of these portraits in this gallery on Christine’s website. As part of PPA’s annual education event called Super 1-Day Workshops, Christine taught a workshop on this portrait style called “The Male Character Portrait.” I love Christine’s portraits, and decided to take the opportunity to attend her course.
What Christine captures in her camera is never an accident. A big part of the course was learning how to set up multiple lights, reflectors, and gobos (“go betweens” that keep light off certain areas) to mould the light around the subject’s face perfectly. Setting the lights up properly required using a device called a light meter to measure how much light is reaching different parts of the face. Clients at the Dogpatch Pix studio have seen me using a light meter to make sure that your dog or cat’s fur is properly lighted, whether black, white, or something in between.
Another important element of the course was making sure the color in the resulting portrait was accurate. Doing this requires a white balance target, which in our class was a small panel with a black, white, and gray stripe. Taking a photo of this target tells the camera, and later the computer, what a perfect, neutral gray should look like. That way, whites aren’t yellowish, blacks aren’t purpleish, and everyhting in between looks good too. We have the same one in the Dogpatch Pix studio.
The technical details in the class were serious stuff, but our model added all the entertainment we needed! His job was to make lots of funny faces for us to photograph as we studied the effects of different lighting adjustments. One of the class members couldn’t resist joining in on making faces! When the model heard that I was a pet photographer, he decided that a bit of “putting on the dog” was needed for my shot!
The final portion of the course was learning some “magic” editing sauce to transform our color captures into Christine’s much more dramatic black and white character portrait style. My finished portrait is the one at the beginning of this post. Thank you Christine for offering a fun and inspiring day at your cozy studio (at the top of a GIANT hill, so don’t go in the snow unless you are brave!) I can’t wait to try these techniques out in my own studio, and I’ll report on the results, so stay tuned!