A majority of my photo shoots take place at the client’s home. However, since moving downtown, a larger contingent of people prefer to include the sights of the city in their shoots. This is great! It’s fun to take an active pup and capture a day around town, taking in all Washington D.C. has to offer. However, there is a major problem to overcome in these scenarios. It’s illegal to take your dog off leash in these public locations. Therefore, not only do you have to worry about the leash being in the photos, you also have to figure out how to keep the dog’s owner (or your assistant) out of the frame. You also have to worry about other people getting in the background of your shot. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible to avoid. However, with a little preparation and a bit of simple Photoshop magic, you can get the shot you want. Take the following picture:
This happy pup is Copper. I wanted a wide shot of Copper sitting by the fountain at Dupont Circle. I also wanted Copper’s eyes to be pointing back towards the middle of the frame or towards me. Therefore, I had Copper’s owner stand in the middle of the staircase. Copper did his job. But now, of course, Copper’s owner is now a part of the photo. This is fine, because I also took this shot:
Once I had the shot of Copper being cute, I told the owner to take both him and herself out of the frame. Without moving, I took a shot of only the fountain. Why did I do this? Because I plan on merging the two images and removing Copper’s owner. I fired up Lightroom, selected both images, and opened them both as layers in Photoshop.
Now the fun part begins. Select both layers and choose “Auto-Align Layers” from the Edit menu. This will align both images so that the same portions of each picture will line up with the corresponding part on the other picture. This tool is marvelously effective. If you used a tripod to capture both images without moving the tripod, this part is unnecessary.
Make sure the frame without the dog is the bottom layer of the two. Once you have done that, create a layer mask for the top photo. This can be done by clicking the layer mask button at the bottom of the layers section, or by choosing layer mask from the layer menu.
The layer mask will allow us to mask out all parts of an image that we don’t want to see. Since our images are aligned and stacked, masking out parts of the top image (our image with both owner and dog) will reveal parts of the bottom image (the empty image of just the fountain). Therefore, we can simply paint away all unwanted portions. With the layer mask selected, choose the paintbrush and set it to black, and paint away the owner.
This image shows the owner partially removed. Since the images are aligned, removing the owner reveals the steps that were behind her! It will work for the rest of the image as well. I continued painting and removed all of the owner, the leash, and a few people from the background.
There you have it! It is not a particularly difficult task to accomplish, but this trick is VITAL for photographers who want to get photos of dogs in public places without wasting too much time.
Brad Novak – Secrets of Pet Photography – Shooting in Public Places
Brad Novak has been photographing dogs in the Washington D.C. area for 5 years. While volunteering as a dog foster parent he enjoyed the challenge of creating beautiful pictures of his foster dogs so they would be adopted faster, and this quickly became his passion. If you would like a photoshoot with your pet, please fill out the contact page HERE.