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Minimalist Photography

Lesson 18 of 27

Sled Dog Portrait Image Review

Curtis Jones

Minimalist Photography

Curtis Jones

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Lesson Info

18. Sled Dog Portrait Image Review
Work through examples from our time out with the dogs to better understand how to select for and breakdown the cleanest most interesting portrait of the day.

Lesson Info

Sled Dog Portrait Image Review

I've opened light room up here to just give you guys a really quick idea of what I had in mind when I went out to the dog yard that day and I wanted to get two photos, one of the dog, a primary dog kind of in the environment of the dog yard with some of the other dogs the background. And I just wanted to try to create a wider angle image still keeping it nice and clean and minimal, but definitely more of the dog in its environment. And then the second shot that I wanted to try to get was gonna be something closer more cropped in a very simple clean portrait of a single dog. And so you can see here, I took many frames. I found a dog that seemed to be into the activity and was playing along. Give me lots of great expressions and uh, and I worked the scene with this simple, the single dog, both as the environmental portrait and as the straight single portrait. And we're gonna go over those and some of the decisions that I made in Photoshop right now. So here in Photoshop, I wanted to go o...

ver these two images that I've selected from light room. Well, two concepts. I have four images opened here in Photoshop and I'm gonna show you kind of the two that I was kind of wavering back and forth on for both concepts and why. I decided on the final images that I did. Here's the first image in Photoshop, the wider angle dog and its environment in the yard that I was talking about. And what I like about this shot is that I do have the primary dog up front and close to the lens. That little bit of wide angle distortion is really helping sell those features. He's got these very angular features with the ears and the nose and I love it. I love that he's facing me. I love that we're getting that engagement with camera, the lines. I was sort of debating on whether or not I was going to take them out and post right now. They're kind of working for me as like a leading line that's going back into the frame and it does represent what the yard looks like. So I'm not totally uh needing to get, you know, to take those out uh with Photoshop, although in the final image, I do clean up some of the lines. Uh but in this shot, I like how it works. I like how it leads back into the frame. And what also I'd like to point out, which was important for me was the fact that all these dogs back here kind of just doing their own thing. But it was really important to wait for a moment when there was separation between each one, and I wanted that separation, and it's important to not let the dogs all cross over onto one another, because then it just becomes this, like it's out of focus as it is, and then it would just become this mess and this ball of sort of shape and form without really any distinction of what it is the viewers looking at. So this works quite well uh as is and I do like how it turned out, but it wasn't exactly what I was going for. The second image is more of what I had in mind and right away, you're going to notice that I've kind of gone against what I just said in the last image and that being that I do have dogs overlapping in the background and ideally I would have space between this first dog here and the dogs behind him. But I'm working with live animals, I don't have all that kind of control. And so I don't know, I feel like this actually worked out quite well for the conditions. I do. What's most important here is getting space between the front dog and the dog's in the back. So that part I like quite a lot. And as you can see, I've cleaned up the lines connecting the dogs just to get a cleaner and get rid of more of that distraction and clutter. So also I've lowered my ankle. You'll see as I go through here, I'm progressing towards getting on the dog's level to create a more engaging subject and uh to not have that top down sort of domineering perspective. Here's the second concept which was the single dog portrait. He's got a great look, he's animated. I really love how you can see the snow on his for it's really like coming out really well. The contrast is great. He's looking at camera, love the expression, I love that. It's centered. Um I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. A lot of my minimalist work in particular has very, very heavy for center framing. So I love I love that kind of work. His ears are on point, no pun intended, but they are they're very those strong triangles and the strong face. All this negative space really helps with the strong form and shape of the dog himself. So, overall, I really like this image. I think it works well. I think it would be good for, you know, um publication. You could put all kinds of text or whatever up and down the side here and it's clean and it's fun, but it's not exactly what I would call a super interesting or layered, minimalist image. It doesn't have a lot of depth and a lot of times minimalism, photography can fall into that formula where it's very flat, there's just one dimension. And so I wanted to see if I could build some dimension and depth back into a portrait of this dog. And that's what I was trying to do with this final image here. So this is the same dog, It's not as tight, it is more of the dog and the environment is kind of a hybrid between the first concept and the second concept. It's not really a tight portrait and it's not really the dog in the yard with the other dogs. But it is my favorite shot of the shoot. I love the expression, I love how he's got that sort of downcast, somber look, just chilling out. I love how all the snow is like really showing up on his for all that texture. And this is a big thing here which was getting really, really low now. So we're on the dog's level he's lying down and I wanted to build depth back in by making sure I had snow right up against the lens and it was causing like a physical sort of obstruction in the lens And at a low depth of field at like 2 8 that comes out as a blur. It's just a soft blur that doesn't really distract the eye or take attention away from the dog. But it helps soften the lead in as you're going into the frame, you know? And then you've got the obvious beautiful subject right in the middle whose tax sharp with all that really nice texture and beautiful snow detail and then just a soft, subtle hint of the environment, the ice chunks in the snow in the yard going on in the background. And again, that's just another uh outcome of using the telephoto lens in a shallow depth of field, especially on the snowy days with so much atmosphere, you can really play with that depth. So you've got the uh first, 2nd and 3rd layers going all the way back through with the telephoto doing a lot of the work and the actual snowfall in the atmosphere, doing a lot of the work as well to help create those layers and build what I think is a what I feel is the strongest and most uh compelling Shot of the of the four of the day for me. Bye. Come on. Right.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 


  • Understand and apply the fundamentals of creating strong minimalist compositions.
  • Use negative space with intention. Establish mood, control balance in your frame, and elevate your subject from the visual clutter.
  • Avoid common traps that can lead to flat or boring minimalist images.
  • Explore how much information to keep and how much to take away from the image before it loses impact.
  • Understand common gear and technique choices that complement the minimalist style.


Do you ever wonder why certain photographs linger with the viewer long after they see them? Why sometimes the smallest point of interest makes the biggest impression? How so much “nothing” can feel so compelling in a scene? Minimalism photography techniques can add a powerful storytelling element to any genre, they can evoke emotion, and bring balance to your frame. Using Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic as his backdrop, this class will outline Curtis’s approach to creating stronger images with a minimalist mindset.

Learn to use the creative techniques of minimalism to intentionally account for every inch of your frame. Discover how to minimize clutter, work with negative space, and master visual balance to boost the overall impact of your compositions. Working in a clean visual style students will learn to look for strong anchors, shapes, and lines while eliminating visual distractions. Curtis will share his experiences and images from some of the world’s most remote destinations to help kick-start your journey toward simplified, cleaner photographs that capture the essence of our world.


  • Beginner and intermediate photographers interested in outdoor and landscape photography.
  • Photographers who want to understand and create with elements of minimalism to help capture the strength and essence of your subject.
  • Photographers looking to create cleaner, simplified images that leave an impact on the viewer.


Adobe Lightroom Classic (8.4.1)
Adobe Photoshop CC (20.0.8)

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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This is a brilliant course which I can highly recommend. I have done some Minimalist photography but still found the lessons very interesting. I enjoyed the discussion on colour vs. B&W. My favourite part was to learn how long it takes to plan a shoot, wait for the right conditions, even change the subject if the initial idea doesn't work and see the other images taken during the shoot before (or after) the final image. The presentation is excellent - love the cat :-).

Bradley Wari

Great Job! Great course! loved the bloopers, had a few laughs. I really enjoyed how he showed a little of how he worked the scene of a few of his images. showing multiple images and how he got to THE shot.

Deb Williams

Great class, good length and easy to follow along. A fantastic way to challenge yourself to look at composition differently and a course full of useful tips to try out.