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The Secrets To Taking Awesome Dog Portraits By Elke Vogelsang

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 25th 2014

Here at HQ, we have a special spot in our hearts for dogs. So when we stumbled upon Elke Vogelsang's dog portraits, we were instantly smitten. Her ability to capture her four-legged subjects at their most expressive and playful is just extraordinary. Mostly shot in close-ups, each portrait brims with intimacy, a sense of humor, and the photographer's own technique.

So how does she do it? We asked this Germany-based photographer to share her personal story, her own tips to getting a good portrait shot, and her choice of gear. Ready to step into Elke's world and gather some handy tips? Scroll down, and prepare to be amazed!


LET'S MEET ELKE!

How did you get into dog portrait photography?

ELKE: Dogs and photography always played a huge part in my life. When our first dog, Noodles joined our family, I felt the need to improve my photography and capture her beauty and character. This was seven years ago. We now have three dogs, and all three of them are well-trained "photography companion dogs" as I call them. They love to pose for the camera, because they know they will always get a reward. You'll find pictures of them on magazine covers and in books worldwide, which makes me very proud. I still can't believe that this former hobby of mine turned out to be such a rewarding and exciting job! Because of the many dog pictures I show on 500px and Facebook, I now have quite a few customers who want their dogs to be portrayed. So I have the chance to combine two of my passions — dogs and photography.



Where do you find inspiration?

ELKE: Of course, 500px is my favorite website when it comes to admiring pictures. But I am also a huge movie fan, and I find inspiration in films or quotes. Music and books, of course, are further sources of inspiration. I did an "A Picture A Day" challenge for more than a year — I think it was nearly two years. This turned out to be the best thing I ever did to improve my photography. Every single day, I had to come up with a picture that's worth showing publicly. This led to lots of ideas and pictures, which led to further ideas and pictures. So I guess my number one inspiration is to just do it — to snap away, to explore, and experiment. I'm kind of addicted to photography. Furthermore, my dogs are my inspiration. They are very eager models, and all three of them have completely different characters, which makes it quite easy to come up with different ideas, and try out different approaches.



How do you find the dogs to photograph?

ELKE: Quite a few of the pictures are of my own three dogs — Noodles, Scout, and Ioli. Furthermore, I photograph client dogs, and I'm happy for every client who wants more unusual pictures.




That's so adorable, right down to their names! Now for a fun question — what's your favorite breed of dog?

ELKE: My favorite breed? Rescue! Well, that's a saying I like! To me it will always be a dog from an animal shelter or from a rescue organization. As long as there are too many unwanted dogs in the world, I will always adopt one of these. Nevertheless, everybody should decide this for themselves.



ELKE (continued): I'm also very much in love with sighthounds, especially the Galgo Español. My two girls — Noodles and Scout — are Galgo mixes. All three of my dogs are Spanish. Since Spanish sighthounds are still used for hunting in Spain, at the end of the hunting season some hunters get rid of their less successful dogs. They either abandon or kill them. When these abandoned dogs roam the streets, they produce further unwanted dogs. So lots of Spanish sighthounds and sighthound mixes — as well as other breeds — die in kill shelters. Thanks to the work of Spanish and International Rescue Organizations, some dogs find homes in Spain, and others are shipped abroad to Germany or England or elsewhere. Sighthounds are the perfect family dogs. They have a wonderful, calm, and gentle nature.

Thank you, Elke! It was great to get to know you better. Now let's move on to your technique!


ELKE'S TIPS TO HANDLING AND PHOTOGRAPHING DOGS


1. Be patient

"Give the dogs some time to get used to you being around and to relax. The dog's owner plays a major part in entertaining the dog, but sometimes the owners are even more nervous than the dogs. That's when you have to try to calm them down. Dogs, or any other animal, should never be hassled to do something."

2. Let the dogs explore the studio or the location

"The atmosphere should always be as relaxed as possible, which is especially important with portraits."

3. Ask the dog's owner in advance to bring the dog's favorite food or toy

"Of course, a well-trained dog is a plus, but sometimes your model has his or her own will. Then you have to try to persuade them with something they really like — whether it's food or a toy. Ask the owner in advance to bring the dog's favorite food or toy, but wait to see if it's really necessary to use these items. Sometimes dogs get overexcited when you show them their favorite food or toy. Take a few minutes to watch the dog and its behavior to see how you can try to get its attention. Every dog is different and every dog needs a different approach. This is something I really like about this job."

4. Get an assistant

"A well-trained dog is definitely a pro, but some just don't follow orders, so it's always good to have a person to assist you. Although you can produce gorgeous spontaneous shots while watching the action unfold, you will get more predictable results when you are able to direct the dog."

5. Get their attention by using sounds

"Some dogs react to food or toys. Some are just not interested in either. You could use a squeaky toy to try to get a dog's attention. Let your assistant hold the toy behind your head and squeeze it. But take care — some dogs won't sit and wait — they will jump towards the toy, which could ruin the portrait you are about to shoot. But you might also get a surprised look from a dog looking straight into your camera. Test a few sounds and see what happens. Try whistling or humming. You can download apps with animal sounds for your mobile. Start every noise at a very low volume. This usually works better than loud noises. Always take care not to scare the animal off."




ELKE'S MUST-HAVE GEAR

"Since I am also a wedding photographer, I have high end equipment to be able to capture every moment without any technical limitations."

BODY:
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EOS 7D (backup camera)

LENSES:
Canon EF 70-200 2.8 IS USM II: "My favorite lens for action photography."
Canon EF 100 mm 2.8: "It's great for portraits, action photography, and of course, macro photography."
Canon EF 85 mm 1.8
Canon EF 50 mm 1.4
Canon EF 24-70 mm 2.8

COMPACT:

Fujifilm X-20: "This picture is a collage of three pictures of the same dog. Sitting right in front of the dog, I feed the dog with treats, holding the camera very close to its snout. It takes lots of patience and lots of treats. The dogs love it, but you have to make sure they don't get too fat. This was shot with a Fujifilm X-20, which has a super macro mode in the wide angle range, but I guess you can take this with any other wide angle lens with macro function. To be honest, I took my favorite and most successful pictures with this basic compact camera. The series, Nice Nosing You was also shot on this camera."


Fujifilm X-M1 with two prime lenses, Fujinon XF 18 mm 2.0 and Fujinon XF 35 mm 1.4: "I love the Fujifilm X series. This is my favorite camera now to have with me on all occasions. It is always in my bag, whether I'm walking the dogs, or on a shopping trip. I take the pictures for my series, Urban Dogscapes with this camera. It's small and lightweight, but offers an amazing quality."


ELKE'S POST-PROCESSING TOOLS

1. Lightroom: "Most of my post-processing is done in Lightroom."
2. Photoshop: "I use this for cloning with a plug-in called Efex Pro, which I like."



ELKE'S STUDIO SETUP

1. Elinchrome D-Lite 4 set with two flashes: "I tend to keep it simple. I usually only use one with a striplight or a square softbox."
2. Mobile Flash with High-Speed functionality
3. Plain charcoal-colored backdrop: "My favorite backdrop. I love reduced pictures, just focusing on the dog."










Follow Elke to see more of her adorable work! You can also check out her Facebook Page and website. Interested in buying her prints? Here you go!
     

A Photo Assignment from Canon Canada!

Published by Alexandra Kim · March 24th 2014



Hey everyone! We’ve got exciting news for you!

Our good friends at Canon Canada have put out a photo assignment, uniquely for 500px photographers worldwide. As a 500px Prime partner, they have decided to source their next photo collections from you - the 500px community. The photos will be purchased by Canon Canada through 500px Prime, which means 70% of every photo will be going back to the photography community.

Canon Canada is looking for photos in 3 categories: "At Play", "Personal Connection", and "Getaway". 14 winning photos will be chosen per category. You can submit as many entries for as many categories as you want, so go on! Get creative!

HOW TO ENTER:

1. Select or take a photo that fits any or all of the 3 themes.

2. Upload and tag your photo.
For “At Play”, use the hashtag #CanonAtPlay
For “Personal Connection”, use the hashtag #CanonPersonalConnection
For “Getaway”, use the hashtag #CanonGetaway

3. You’re done! You can track all the “At Play” entries here, all the “Personal Connection” entries here, and all the “Getaway” entries here.

A COUPLE OF RULES:
1. You have until Monday, March 31, 2014 to submit your entries.
2. Your photo must be taken with both a Canon camera and a Canon lens. The assignment is for Canon, after all!
3. Your photo must fall within one of the categories listed above.
4. Your submission(s) must be Safe For Work.

The winners will be announced on Thursday, April 3, 2014, so be sure to check back to see if your photo was chosen. Happy snapping!

Pro tip: Make sure your store is enabled so we can license it to Canon Canada through 500px Prime!

     

Weekly Monday Contest

Published by Alexandra Kim · March 24th 2014

Want to be featured on our blog? Every week, we'll announce a theme, and you'll have until Sunday (March 30 at 11 PM PST) to submit your photo as an entry. You may already have an existing photo that fits the theme, or you can upload a brand new photo. Scroll down to see which photos from last week's theme—ABANDONED SPACES—made it to our winning gallery. And don't forget to check out our new theme for next week - we have something VERY special planned for you!

This Week's Gallery

Last week we asked you to get in touch with the lost souls of buildings, fields, trains, castles. These are the discarded, the deserted, the left behind. But you’ve helped find new beauty in these abandoned spaces - and we’re happy to share our favorite 12 here!

Which of these speaks to you the most? Let us know in the comments below!


Every week, we hold a random draw giveaway for all those who entered the challenge. The winner of this draw receives a two-month Awesome membership! Our lucky draw winner this week is Tiago Gonçalves.

We will not be announcing a new theme for next week. Instead, please stay tuned for an exciting announcement from our friends at Canon Canada!
     

20 Spectacular Images By 2014 Sony World Photography Awards Winners

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 24th 2014

Last week, the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards finally announced the winners of their Open, Youth, and National competitions. We're proud to see some of our own 500px members in this list of winners and finalists. Congrats and hats off to these talented photographers in our community!

Scroll down to browse some of the winning images. Then click on each photo to get to know each photographer and see more of their work.

OPEN COMPETITION WINNERS

These are among the ten that will also compete for a cash prize and "Overall Open Photographer of the Year" title on April 30th.

Valerie Prudon


Winner for Arts & Culture category
"This photo was taken in Branxton, Australia in October 2013. After shooting some of the rodeo itself, I decided to go behind the scene to capture the typical environment of this kind of event. This is when I noticed this group of cowboys having a chat and relaxing. Their specific outfits, their boots, their hats and the horses in the background with the sunset made this photo authentic. This was THE moment and I am glad I took a few seconds to immortalize it."

Vlad Eftenie


Winner for Low Light category

Ivan Pedretti


Winner for Panoramic category
"This is a re-edit from one of my favorite images: Panoramic view from south to north of the lighthouse under the milky way arch in Capo Spartivento, Sardinia. Stitched panorama of 12 shots."

YOUTH WINNER

Turjoy Chowdhury

His winning photo is not on the site, but it can be viewed here.

NATIONAL WINNERS AND RUNNERS UP

Dowon Choi


1st Place, Korea National Award
"Ripples spread to my heart."

Hyunmoo Lee


2nd Place, Korea National Award

Sungjin Kim


2nd Place, Korea National Award

Santu Mondal


3rd Place, India National Award

Adhi Prayoga

His winning photo is not on the site, but it can be viewed here.

Bobby Bong


3rd Place, Indonesia National Award
"Panoramic photo stitch of 7 vertical photos."

Daniel Chia


3rd Place, Singapore National Award
"Built in the 60s, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee houses some of the oldest Public Housing Blocks in Singapore. More than 80% of Singapore's entire population lives in public housing. industrial modernist cubes of monotony, punctuated by varied paraphernalia - potted plants, religious altars, chained bikes, racks of wet clothes marking and defining personal spaces; individual homes in a patterned whole, like intricate tilework. Culture is not maintained through mere inheritance, something left over from our forefathers which we struggle to keep relevant. But from the banal, the mundane, the ritual, we create culture, variation, and somehow, coherence."

Trinh Xuan Hai


1st Place, Vietnam National Award

Torsten Muehlbacher


3rd Place, Austria National Award
"Church in Iceland"

Pygmalion Karatzas


2nd Place, Greece National Award
"By architect Zaha Hadid"

Raban Haaijk


3rd Place, Netherlands National Award
"Rotterdam Awakes - finishing building the new largest building of the Netherlands by Rem Koolhaas"

Lisa Vaz


2nd Place, Portugal National Award
"Fisherman at Inle Lake in Myanmar"

Patrick Ems


1st Place, Switzerland National Award

Ummu Kandilcioglu

Her winning photo is not on the site, but it can be viewed here.

Sean Batten


1st Place, United Kingdom National Award

Luis Roberto Lainez


2nd Place, Centroamerica National Award
"In the middle of the desert I found this beautiful leafless tree that captured my attention. I think the branches resemble all the connections we make throughout life."

Cristian Alvarado


1st Place, Chile National Award

Miguel Burdiles Medina


3rd Place, Chile National Award
"Merzouga"

Neville Jones


1st Place, Australia National Award
"A Cormorant Fisherman going home after fishing on the Li River near Xingping in China."

Chris Round

His winning photo is not on the site, but it can be viewed here.

Feel free to discuss all the winning photos in the comments below!
     

36 Photos Of Stormtroopers Doing Awesome Things

Published by Klassy Goldberg · March 21st 2014

In the Star Wars saga, we're told never to underestimate the power of the Force, or the Dark Side for that matter. The same should go for Imperial Stormtroopers. They may not the smartest tools in the shed, but, man, can these long-legged military men really let loose! From dance parties to drag-racing — scroll down to see what Stormtroopers really do when Darth Vader isn't looking!

1. Binge-watching on Netflix



2. Auditioning for Cake Boss



3. Killing it on the dancefloor





4. Egging houses on a school night



5. Being all-around doting dads





6. Taking selfies like a pro



7. Surfing vintage porn



8. Celebrating Cinco De Mayo every. single. day



9. Going on epic hikes in Endor



10. Riding dirty



11. ...and showing off



12. Going to the dog park



13. Getting pampered at the spa



14. Making out like there's no tomorrow



15. Rooftopping like whoa



16. Having the raddest dance offs





17. Pulling pranks on each other



18. Skating like a pro



19. Recruiting the youth of tomorrow



20. Shooting hoops with ballers



21. Tightrope-walking across Cloud City (We double dare you, Lando!)





22. Visiting the zoo



23. Rolling with the punches like champs



24. Going on field trips to icy Hoth



25. DIY-ing some cool hacks



26. Office spring cleaning



27. Doing random acts of kindness



28. Just rocking out with the guys



29. Drag racing with super-charged warp drives





30. Learning how to use the Force (and failing)



31. Seducing the ladies



32. Taking trips to the moon



33. Facetiming with the boss (basically, working weekends)



34. Playing live sold-out shows to fangirls everywhere



35. Going on neat dates



36. Doing graffiti on the Death Star



Want to see more still life images of toys doing cool things? Click here.
     

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