creative pet photography

Finny the Super Hero Revisited by Diana Lundin

I met Finny, a Cocker Spaniel, at one of my mild-mannered pet photography events I did in 2015. What impressed me about Finny was his eyes. Oh my goodness, they were so expressive, they were almost human. Because of those eyes, I asked Finny's owners, Tara and Yvonne, if I could photograph Finny. Also, when I met Finny, he was wearing a shirt and I knew I wanted him to wear a costume so he was a dog already comfortable in clothing.

I had just purchased a generic super hero cape and a cartoon type backdrop that had a nighttime cityscape with a giant moon. You can see that image we created on this site. In fact, I'll post it here.

I loved the idea, but the backdrop let me down and honestly I never wanted to use it again. It was vinyl and had wrinkles that were impossible to get out and it had a lot of shine on it. I had to darken the buildings, create yellow windows, add a new star backdrop. It was really a mess so I never revisited that concept.

Until today.

So since then, I've been creating my signature composites. And while I love the cartoon simplicity of the first Finny shoot, well, what's wrong with a little complexity? And actually, all I did was take the bones of that first image and create a secret world for Finny. I just added a night time image of the Los Angeles skyline and a giant full moon with clouds. Same thing, right?

What do you think? I think he really is a super hero. 





Pet Photo Composite: Getting the Band Back Together by Diana Lundin

I did a photo shoot for my client with her two cats and new puppy not that long ago. It was very nice with one of my hand-painted canvas backdrops. The three of them all looked quite spectacular. 

Just in passing, I showed my client this site, The Secret World of Pets, and she was intrigued about having a creation made for her trio. She was a little on the bubble about it but what sealed the deal was her husband gave her lovely diamond jewelry for their anniversary and she knew she had to do something special for him. 

You see, he's a YUUUUGE concert fan. Goes to them all the time. And his favorite band is Phish. So she wanted something Phish-esque. She gave me a kind of "punch list" of things that would be nice to have in the composite. Now, I didn't know much about Phish but I really got myself an education filling this piece of digital art with as much detail as I could research about the band.

Her husband proposed to her right before a Phish concert and at some point, I will not go into details, a hippo with a party hat was involved. She showed me a hippo balloon kind of like what she was talking about. 

So off I went to create this. We had to do a second shoot for this because the first shoot against the backdrop wasn't exactly what we needed, though we did use some parts from it. I suggested my client take photos of the band on her cellphone and we would put the band in the phone screen. Then I suggested she flip her hair and we got a really fun one of that. 

The lead singer of Phish wears glasses and has facial hair and plays a certain kind of guitar. Check. The drummer wears a dress. My client found a toddler Phish dress on etsy and bought that. Check. The bassist plays a specific bass. Check. We didn't have a fourth band member, a keyboardist, so I found a hippo in kind of a dancing position (don't ask; the hippo is actually walking, I just turned it) and put a party hat on it. 

Concerts, it turns out, are hard because if you show the whole stage, the band members look small. If you show it more closeup, band members go missing. Go ahead and look at concert photography, you'll see. It's kind of tough to compose it. 

In the collaborative process, I began showing my client the scene as I went along. She sent me a video that showed a sort of scene she wanted to match. Balloons were involved. I put them in but my balloons were oblong. They needed to be round. I found one long green balloon; in the Phish video, they were white so I drained them of color and made a lot of them. I found another cute hippo and turned it into a balloon in the upper right corner.

Oh, the mini-trampolines! Hard to find. Got 'em.

Once I laid down the ingredients, so to speak, it looked as realistic as Colorforms. Yes, you all are too young to remember Colorforms, but it was a very 2D look. I needed to add lighting and shading. I added new concert lighting to augment what was already in the background so it would give the band members some red and blue lighting.

A few touches here and there and we got our band. Oh, the name SCAMP, which is sort of in one of the fonts Phish uses? It comes from the initials of my client, her husband, and her dog and cats. She came up with it and it was brilliant.

This is a very personal storytelling image. The elements are from my client's life and favorite things. It was really quite a privilege to work with her to put it together as a surprise to her husband. 

I can do it for your pet, too. Send an email to the Secret World's Secret Headquarters in a nondescript ranch house in suburban Los Angeles and let's create your world.

Photo composite of animals in concert.

Lyle and Fiona at the Music Hall by Diana Lundin

In my secret world as a mild-mannered pet photographer, I photographed this "couple," Lyle and Fiona, as the mild-mannered Lyle and Fiona. Beautiful poodles, well-groomed, living the dream. Ah, but their owner had another dream. Once I began creating composites in my pet photography, she conjured up in her mind Lyle as a piano player, Fiona as a singer. And she asked me if I could do it. 

So in my mind, I envisioned Lyle in a tie and tails in front of a grand piano and Fiona in an evening gown. That's not what my client had in mind. Hers was a more gritty lounge or music hall. More downscale than upscale. And she thought Lyle should have a beret. 

Well, now I was starting to get the picture, different than it was in my head. And actually, the thought of trying to create Lyle in tails, besides his own tail, was pretty daunting for someone who does not draw. I repeat, I do not draw. I create worlds, yes, it's true, but they wouldn't exist if I had to draw them. Not even if I had to storyboard them. Not even with stick figures. 

We photographed the two of them in front of an unlit white background with one Profoto B2 with no modifier as the key light, and a Profoto B2 in an umbrella as the fill. My client envisioned Fiona maybe on the piano, stretched out, but that wasn't happening. We just couldn't make that work. So I had her stand and lay down and her image in this composite is a head from lying down and her body from standing up. 

Lyle -- Lyle, let's say, really wasn't interested. Now, these are big dogs and my client is a little woman and she was trying to prop him on an apple box so we could give the illusion he was tickling the ivories. We got one perfect picture. But guess what? In compositing, that's all you need. 

And so once I saw what I had, I began putting the composite together. There are 11 elements; a background, a tip jar, the money (which actually took five objects to put some scratch into the jar), a piano, a bench, Lyle, the beret, Fiona, a bow, a microphone, and a stand. And then a blitz of Photoshop magic. And voila! Lyle and Fiona, ready for their Summer Tour 2017.

And that's how it's done, son. Want one for yourself? Write me here at The Secret World's Secret Headquarters and let's dream something up. Who will your pet be?

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.