Dodging, Burning and the Cat!

Canon EOS-1Ds 1/100 sec at f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 250

Setting out again to create a photo for this day, I had no idea what my subject would be. I did decide beforehand that I wanted to use a limited depth of field with a telephoto lens. I went to my front yard, where I have done some of my photos already, looking for something that would be expressly different than other shots I had made so  far.

I took photos of developing acorns, large ones at that! I photographed a squirrel, too. But my cat, Sabastian, kept following me about. So inevitably I used him as my subject. I found him to be quite a challenge at first. I would walk away from him and sit down, which for Sabastian meant I was wanting company. He would run up to me so I could have the honor of petting him. In the process I would try to get a few shots, but he was really quick. After a couple of attempts, he finally got exhausted of his efforts and laid down to keep an eye on me from his chosen position.

During the shooting he would notice the squirrels, bugs and I added some noises, as well, for good measure. I think he must have thought there was a small rodent behind me at one point. He does love a good hunt! We find offerings somewhat often somewhere around the house. Outside, that is. So he crouched down to investigate unnoticed and this is the shot I have here.

I took it into Lightroom for the initial processing, but felt Photoshop would still be necessary in order to get the effect I was looking for. Even though Lightroom can be used for the effects I wanted, I am much more comfortable, somewhat quicker, working in Photoshop.

Once there I did some basic retouching and then headed for the modifications. I started out with making a copy of the layer (⌘J) and set the mode to screen. I filled the mask layer with black (option + click on mask in layers palette) and used the brush tool set to white to show more highlights and the eyes. I duplicated that layer (⌘J) once again to reinforce the effect. I the went back to the original layer and once again duped it (⌘J) and moved it above the other layers and set this one to multiply. Filled the mask with black again and used this one to darken some areas around the edges and where I needed depth in the shadows or details in highlights that were somewhat lacking in detail. These two processes are effectively dodging and burning with more control and loss-less. Photoshop CS5 should have improved on the dodging and burning tools and this process may become less necessary.

Finally I used smart sharpen for a merged version of the image (⌘+option+shift+E) which placed all selected layers on top of them all. Saved and exported the image from Lightroom where my web settings are easily available.

I know this is just a photo of a cat, but I did look for something beyond what is typical. Patience with this subject was needed and manipulating the situation was helpful. If your a photojournalist you can't affect your subjects in the way I did without expressing that in your tag-line, but I think a cat photo wouldn't really qualify as breaking ethics too much! Putting more emphasis on the subject through dodging and burning is something to always consider. It helps with both providing a point of interest, but also in contrast and color saturation.

Happy shooting!