Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Meet my brother's pug, Sophie. Or as David Letterman refers to the breed, Chinese Foo Dog. I had been wanting to try my hand at pet portraiture, but the offerings are limited at my house. Our cat passed away last August and our tropical fish don't come off as warm and cuddly. Go figure.
My wife and I spent a couple of days in Lansing, Mich. over the holidays visiting family. I brought my portable lighting kit along with me hoping to score a sitting with the Divine Miss S at my brother's house. Keep in mind that my portable lighting kit comes in several large bags and opens up to fill a 12x15 room. Everything's portable if you have vehicle big enough to move it, I guess. I brought it along just in case, but wasn't going to bring it out if I didn't have to.
Day 1, I took some available light snapshots of Sophie as she wandered about the house, just to get a feel for how she would come off on camera. The first thing I noted was that her little wrinkly black face really sucked up the light. I'd have to get the light kit out of the back of the car to do her justice.
Day 2 was portrait day. Set up a chair in the entryway to use as Sophie's throne. I decided on using two lights. One with an umbrella choked up about halfway up the handle. I wanted soft light but wanted it concentrated on her face from the left. I aimed the light at the front of the chair to further achieve the goal. A second light with a grid to provide harder directional light was placed opposite the first flash to cross light Sophie and bring out the wrinkles in her face. I also set up a large white reflector just out of the frame to the right to throw any more light I could at her.
Once the lights were set (my brother has a life-size ceramic pug that served as a stand-in while I adjusted the levels of the flashes), the star was brought in. I shot far and close, and from different angles. She worked the camera like a pro. She went from aloof to pensive to disinterested with ease. Sometimes all in the same shot.
Even with the barrage of light, I had to make some adjustments to Sophie's muzzle in post to bring out the details and make sure her eyes didn't get lost in the surroundings. Lots of work at both ends of the process, but it worked out pretty well.
My mother says that the markings on a pug's forehead resemble Chinese numerals. A seven on a pug is said to bring good luck. Sophie has a six. Close enough.
I know there's at least one fan of pugs who visits here. Enjoy.
Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.