Kaffegram by Harri Tarvainen
Harri Tarvainen
Harri Tarvainen

Harri Tarvainen is a professional photographer who’s specialized in outdoor and action photography. He got his first Canon, an EOS300 film camera, in high school and had his own darkroom for developing the photos he took. Over the years Harri has photographed a wide range of images from snowboarding to commercial photos, but it was his dog Kaffe and photographing his pure happiness that brought back the joy of shooting pictures in his spare time as well.

“With Kaffe, it never feels like the moments taking photos and exploring outdoors are in vain – there’s always a certain lightness in photographing Kaffe, even if the photos don’t turn out quite as I hoped beforehand. I strongly feel that images need to transmit feelings and most of all, tell stories – they don’t need to be traditionally considered as perfect to provide the right feelings. Sometimes some things that can be considered as flaws, such as a crooked horizon or over exposed areas can be a good thing, something that brings unexpected beauty. There is so much emotion in imperfection, you just have to see it.”

To Harri, it’s important to encourage everyone’s enthusiasm in photography. He strongly believes that with some tips and tricks of the trade and Canon’s wide range of tools anyone can shoot amazing pictures.

You can find Kaffe and Harri on Instagram under @kaffegram & @harritarvainen.

Here are Harri’s TOP 5 tips for taking pictures of your pet:

Kaffegram story photo 1

1. PORTRAITS

Best portraits are usually shot at eye level, but sometimes you can show diverse emotions by choosing an interesting new angle that’s a bit different.

This picture was shot with a Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8 L USM II and a Canon EOS 5D MK III on one of our hikes. The photographer is about to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and some chocolate - but not before the companion gets some treats too! This perspective makes Kaffe´s intense stare appear even more demanding. If I would’ve shot the portrait from a lower angle the model would look big and powerful - quite the opposite than here.

If you can´t make your subject pop out from the background by using wide aperture and longer zoom, it might be a good idea to keep the color scheme subtle. Concentrate on eyes and frame your shot tight. Best portraits are not just looks but personality too. Shoot plenty of frames and pick the ones that portray your pet best.

Kaffegram story photo 2

2. SILHOUETTES AND SUNSETS

I´ve been asked many times what kind of settings to use when shooting in nature. The truth is that if my angle or framing is not fixed then some of the automated modes work best. The most important setting though is the time you set on your alarm clock to catch the early morning light!

Even the most familiar places you go to for everyday walks might look surprisingly new and be amazing settings for your pics if you visit them on different times of the day, when the light is different.

For good silhouette shots, place your model sideways. The background should be peaceful. Try to place your pet on top of something and take your photo from a low angle to get the sky on the background. A reflection from water or ice often makes the shot even more interesting.

The automatic exposure may try to compensate the shadows of the silhouette by overexposing the photo, and this is when you lose all the nice colors of the sky! An easy way to fix this is to underexpose your photo by a few steps.

Kaffegram story photo 3

3. FAST ACTION

Capturing the moments that pass by in the blink of an eye is one the most fascinating yet challenging aspects of photography.

A low perspective, fast shutter speed and a pre-focused shot were the keys for this photo. I took my widest 14mm lens, as it´s a great tool for making wide and spacious landscapes, cool interior shots or action shots like this where I´m in the center of action. The wide angle makes Kaffe´s leap look even higher than it actually is. The action happens approximately one meter from my camera and placing the camera on the ground makes Kaffe look like he´s jumping over the sun!

To freeze the action I went for a really fast shutter speed of 1/3200s with TV (Time Value) mode. The action really close to camera makes the moving object appear even faster. If I can´t control the light perfectly, I prefer shooting with P, AV or TV mode and compensate the exposure by over- or underexposing the frame.

Kaffegram story photo 4

4. LIGHT YOUR DARKEST MOMENTS

The sun was about to set, and after a hot day the water in the lake was so warm that we decided to take a late-night swim. Luckily, I had my tripod with me, so I could shoot this dreamy photo.

I wanted to give all the possible free space for water and sky in this shot and chose the 14mm wide angle lens. There were some small waves on the lake, but the long exposure makes the water surface look soft, even a bit blurry, even though my favorite model stays all sharp. Long exposure shots of water always look incredibly dream-like! Use a tripod to combine sharp and motion blurred elements in your images or move your camera while taking a photo to create some abstract painting-like effects.
The most challenging aspect here was to keep Kaffe completely still without any movement. As he is a retriever and loves to fetch sticks from water, I took a stick in my hand and was about to throw it in. Kaffe was focused on looking at the place where I threw the stick a few times before, and here was my perfect chance to capture the shot!

Kaffegram story photo 5

5. COMPOSITION

When taking a powerful photo, in the end, it all comes down to composition.

The square Instagram format favors symmetrical composition, where the main object is framed in the middle of the photo. Often the symmetric composition can be a bit static. To add more energy to your image you might want to frame your object on the right or left, or maybe even tilt your camera to get some cool diagonals. Every photographer’s go to -move for a balanced shot is the rule of thirds where you frame your object, horizon or other elements so that they are placed one third from the edge of the photo.

One aspect of composing your shot is framing - what you decide to show and what to leave out of your photo. But it can also mean searching different ‘frames’ like geometrical shapes that you can place around your object. I had a vision of a portrait reflection from a black coffee. I placed Kaffe against a window to get a light background behind him. After that, I started looking for the right place for my coffee mug to reflect his image. I ended up having Kaffe on a couch and the coffee mug on the floor! Finally, after dozens of shots I found the right angle where Kaffe´s head is perfectly framed by the rim of the mug.

I prefer shooting with Center Autofocus. After focusing in the middle of the frame I leave my trigger finger halfway pressed down so that the focus is locked. Then I re-frame the shot and compose my main object and other elements so that they are in balance. The best and simplest trick for making great compositions is to stop before taking the shot and think: ”How would this look better?”. Usually this thought leads into action - you might take a step side, tilt your camera or stand on a chair for a better angle. It doesn't matter if you don’t remember all the rules of classical compositions. Just a simple thought before taking the shot will turn into action that improves your captures!

Sign up for our newsletter

Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe

Sign up now