Thursday, June 23, 2011

On-Location Pet Photography

For all you pet owners and furry friend lovers out there...this one is for you!

I recently adopted a dog that was rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri. I almost instantly fell in love with Sully. He is a 2 year old male poodle with a very sweet personality and oh! so snugly. He is turning into a wonderful companion for our little Yorki-poo female, Ginger.

I feel huge joy when photographing animals. I seek to capture that joy in my furry subjects through photography, and translate it into beautiful photographic art for their care givers to cherish now and forever. I will photograph your pet on-location where your animal is most comfortable and I can be most creative. I offer various styles including fine art pet photography, classic portraits, fun images and unique perspectives. Your pets' personality will shine through!

Meet Sully and Ginger...

Photo by Tara Craigon

Photo by Tara Craigon

Photo by Tara Craigon

Photo by Tara Craigon

Photo by Tara Craigon

If you are interested in having your furry friend photographed, please contact us for a free consultation!

Benefits of Pet Ownership

When thinking of ways to moderate stress in life, usually techniques like meditation, yoga and journaling come to mind. These are great techniques, to be sure. But getting a new best friend can also have many stress relieving and health benefits.

While human friends provide great social support and come with some incredible benefits, let's focus on the benefits of our furry friends: cats and dogs!

Research shows that, unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one accordingly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits — perhaps more than people!

Here are 10 benefits of owning a pet:

1. Pets Can Add Structure to Your Life

2. Pets Are Date Magnets

3. Pets Can Improve Your Mood

4. Pets Encourage You To Get Out And Exercise

5. Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs

6. Pets Can Improve Family Bonds

7. Pets Are Allergy Fighters

8. Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love

9. Pets Can Reduce Stress — Sometimes More Than People
10. Pets are great companions for the Aged

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Recently, I was part of a group photography show titled No Rule(z). I was one of six artists who came together to produce an exhibition of visual art created solely by 'alternative' means (anything but a DSLR). Everything from Lomography to using expired film, cross-processing film and multiple exposures to iPhoneography!

Invitation design by Tara Craigon

The No Rule(z) photography exhibit was all about breaking down barriers and allowing creativity to find itself in the work that we created. In addition, by choosing alternative processes, we allowed ourselves to let go of all the technicalities that come with taking photographs. No Rule(z) was about the sense of surprise and discovery that comes when you get your first roll of film developed and find that magical shot; it's about discovering the happy mistakes that make a mediocre shot an amazing piece of art. Overall, No Rule(z) was about letting go and having a little fun.

I chose iPhoneography as my 'alternative' means of image capture. Freedom Photography, is how I define it. Many will limit the definition of "iPhoneography" to only those images taken with an iPhone and processed with apps on the iPhone. I think it is more about artistic expression than the technique.
Photographs aren't just about dynamic range and megapixels, they're about stories and moments.

The iPhone's simplicity and accessibility helps me concentrate more on seeing and recognizing those wonderful slices of life that unfold everyday before our eyes. With all the technical skills required to shoot with my DSLR, I feel very unencumbered to just shoot what I want, wherever I am and edit the image in a way that I am feeling in that moment. I love it. It brings be joy. It keeps those creative juices flowing. It fuels my inspiration for more elaborate photography projects I want to shoot with my DSLR and because the iPhone is always with me, I'm able to capture so many fleeting opportunities.

Whether I process the iPhone's digital images with iPhone apps or on my desktop computer is not the point. It's more about completing the artistic vision that came to my mind. I believe that taking photographs with an iPhone can lead to heightened visual awareness and that is the key for me. This iPhoneography philosophy has become my visual catalyst. The hardware surrounding this catalyst just happens to also make phone calls and play my music!

Here are some of my favorite contributions...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

HDR Photography

What is HDR Photography?

High Dynamic Range photography or HDR photography is an advanced set of photography techniques that play on image’s dynamic range in exposures. HDR Photography allows photographers to capture a greater range of tonal detail than any camera could capture thru a single photo. While many imaging experts regard HDR photography as the future of digital photography, the discipline has long been in existence.

HDR photography is present in many pictures taken through modern day digital cameras. The truth is, if you are a real photography enthusiast then there is a great chance that you have taken at least one photo exemplifying HDR photography.

The real functions or even executions of HDR photography may be debatable. But no matter which website or source you consult they will always say it is a technique that employs the great use of exposure range to get distinct values between light and dark areas of the image. Its real intention is to create an image that accurately characterizes the intensity levels found in natural scenes. If you ever wondered why the picture you took was different from the scenery you actually saw, then maybe it’s time for you to learn HDR photography.

HDR Photography is the technique used to capture and represent the full (as possible) DR found in a scene with high perceptual accuracy and precision. To remember things better, think of the 3S: sunlight, shadows and subjects. These are the things that make an ordinary picture an HDR image.

© Tara Craigon Photography

Theory Behind HDR photography

There are two theories behind HDR photography. And as the technology around HDR photography evolves so is the discipline itself. But if one wants to take HDR imagery seriously then he must first understand the concepts and theories that make up this discipline.

The most fundamental of all HDR photography theories is to take multiple shots at varying exposure levels of a particular subject. A special computer program will then combine the images together into a single image. This is just an incarnation of the original theory during the time when there are no digital cameras and advanced computers and programs were nothing more than a work of science-fiction.

The second theory is the one that capitalizes on the RAW processing software to create various exposure levels of the same image. Modern Digital SLR camera and a lot of the Point and Shoot models allow photographers to capture RAW images. A RAW image or file is the data captured by your Camera’s sensor that is not processed yet and therefore does have color information. You can manipulate this file, adjust its color, lighting or while balance.


Post processing is the last stage in HDR photography that you can really control. This is where technical skills merge with creative sensibility. And with the introduction of advanced digital cameras and photo editing software, HDR image post-processing is made a lot easier.
However, this does not guarantee that having an excellent HDR image will be as easy as clicking the shutter button. There may be times that the three or more images you took with varying exposure values are simply not enough. With this, the only chance you are left with is to do a post-processing of the image.

Post-processing generally involves color correction, saturation, contrast and brightness and darkness adjustment and other image element manipulation. But in HDR photography we need to concentrate on contrast and brightness and darkness adjustment. Brightness and darkness adjustment is the direct digital translation of exposure manipulation in the picture taking stage. If in the camera you adjust exposure settings, in the post-processing stage you will adjust the brightness.

The main advantage of process is surpassing the limitation of actually configuring your camera in different exposure levels. While some cameras may have eight exposure settings and therefore 8 different images, post-processing can simply give you a limitless number.

After the shoot, transfer the images to your computer. There is a merge to HDR feature in many photo editing software including Adobe Photoshop CS2 and above, Photomatix Pro, Dynamic Photo HDR and others. Post-processing software also allows you to blend photographs with different exposures. This clearly increases the dynamic range of the final output photo. There is also tone mapping which reveals highlight and shadow details in an HDR image made from multiple exposures.

Text credited to Haje Jan Kamps,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shooting Crystals; All The Colors Of The Rainbow

© Tara Craigon Photography

Text courtesy of Jim Zuckerman, PhotoGraphic Magazine, March 2011

One of the more interesting projects I’ve explored in photography is shooting birefringent crystals. Birefringence is the splitting of a light ray by a crystal into two components that are at different velocities and are polarized at right angles to each other. What this means in terms of photography is that when light passes through the crystals, you can see rainbow colors in the unique and beautiful forms that make up the crystal.

The Chemicals
The first step is obtaining the crystals. Common birefringent substances that will crystallize are Epsom salts and photographic fix (the type used to fix black and white prints in the darkroom).If you choose to use Epsom salts or photographic fixer, you have to dissolve the solid white chemical in water and then pour the liquid on the sheet of glass. Over several hours or even days, the water evaporates forming crystals on the glass. You won’t see any colors at all at this point.


To get the rainbow colors, you have to use two polarizing filters. A circular polarizing filter screws onto the front of the camera lens, and a second (in the form of a sheet of polarizing plastic) is placed between the sheet of glass on which the crystals have formed and the light source.

© Tara Craigon Photography

The Technique

When a light source passes through the sheet of glass from behind, and one of the polarizers (it doesn’t matter which one) is rotated, the brilliant colors of the crystals are revealed. It’s a beautiful sight. I like to position the polarizers such that there is maximum contrast and maximum color. This is obvious when you look through the viewfinder because you will see exactly what you’ll be able to capture.

Make sure that the camera’s white balance is set correctly. I recommend using the Tungsten White Balance setting assuming you are using a tungsten light source, and you should use Daylight White Balance if using window light (you can use window light but the exposures will be long). Don’t use AWB (Auto White Balance) because the colors won’t be correct.

The crystals that have formed on the glass are quite small, and to reveal the wonderful detail and color you will need a macro lens or a set of extension tubes, or both. A bellows would also work well.

Macro photography requires technical discipline. This means a tripod is a must, and at the same time it’s critically important to make sure that the plane of the glass is parallel with the back of the camera (i.e. the plane of the digital sensor).
Look at the set up from the side to make sure these two planes are as parallel as possible. When taking the picture, use the mirror lock-up feature to minimize vibration, and I recommend triggering the camera with a wireless trigger, a cable release or the self-timer set to 10 seconds. In addition, make sure no one is walking around in the room in which you are shooting. When a tiny subject is magnified with macro equipment, even a subtle vibration will cause the tripod to vibrate, thus making the picture disappointingly unsharp.


With significant magnification, focus is unbelievably critical. If the sheet of glass isn’t exactly parallel with the plane of the digital sensor, even f/32 won’t give you enough depth of field. Therefore, I looked through the viewfinder and tweaked the angle of the glass in tiny increments until the crystals looked sharp to me from edge to edge. I turned the autofocus mechanism off so I could add tiny adjustments manually. In this situation, autofocus doesn’t work.

This technique, and all macro photography, works best when your tripod head can lock the position of the camera firmly. If there is a tiny amount of slippage typical of inexpensive heads, you’ll be very frustrated !

Give it a try! You will be amazed with the possible results!