Helping dogs show off

Photographing dogs, for either private or commercial use is a wonderful experience yet are entirely different in their requirements.

For the dogs owner, they are looking for images that capture the character of their dog and they already know what that character is and they are going to like most of the images you take, because the images are of their dog, they know and love their dog where as in a commercial shoot, the client does not know the dog and is looking for an image that will create engagement with the audience, create the correct association with the product or brand.

But there is an overlap as the audience will want to engage with the image from a pet dog perspective so it is important to have a relaxed dog that is able to communicate their character, as with the dog owner it is the expression of character that will communicate to the audience.

Enough of the psychology, this was such a fun shoot to do as the dog models were really having fun.

The dog and the bag is on a table which is covered in a rug so it looks more like home and the background in a natural colour that complements the dog and the product with a lovely warm feel.

Labradors love food, most dog models love food so they soon learn that working in the studio is well rewarded which makes for a happy team!

Leo the Labrador with his favourite food Wainwrights.

Our performing dog artists

What a day we had in the studio with three amazing performing dog artists. I have worked with many trained dogs over the years but these three are simply something else as is their owner and trainer Lucy Creek.

Capturing dog expressions can really help advertising engage with more people but a dog that can really capture the attention by an action or pose is even more valuable and these dogs are more than capable of adding real engagement value to your products or services advertising and marketing materials.

Working in our Coalville studio, just a few minutes from junction 22 of the M1 we are ideally placed to meet your advertising and marketing needs.

All it takes is a phone call to 01530 242209 to start a conversation which will let the ideas grow and develop into the images you want and your audience will love.

Just two of our performing dog artists owned and trained by Lucy Creek

Looking for a reason...

What do you mean looking for the reason? It is a strange statement to put out there!

I’ll explain my thought process. It started with a throw away comment by a client the other day. The comment was something like “its easy these days photography as every photo you take costs you nothing because you can just delete the ones you don’t want”

There is a degree of truth is this statement but digital photography is far from free. You have to buy the camera, the lens, the batteries, the memory card and then you have to learn how to use all of those things to create the image you want. Certainly there are no development of film costs but there is the software to process your images and the computer on which you run the software to process the images so things are far from free.

So this should then have a bearing on your thought process and this brings me to the title of this blog, looking for the reason.

Looking for the reason to press the shutter button. Why should I take the shot? What is the point of the image I am about to take?

Will it captivate and hold the attention of the viewer or will they just give it a cursory glance and think that’s nice?

Whatever subject is in front of you, you need to look for the reason to take the photograph.

When I am photographing dogs, I am always aware of every other dog photograph have seen and I am thinking to myself,”is what I am about to take different and telling a story?”

If I can’t answer that question, I don’t press the shutter. Sure, I take photographs I later delete, although that usually happens when I start to view them for processing and decide if I really like them or not.

Only the images I really like will be shown to my client, although I do also include some I am personally not keen on as these are sometimes just what connects with the client.

There has to be a connection with the image which means there has to be a reason to take it and I am always looking for the reason.

Dog Photography workshop 20th May 2018

That was a great workshop! The whole morning session was spent setting up cameras to get the most out of them and helping improve the understanding of what the menu settings actually mean and how they help control the camera.

If you give your camera too much choice, especially the high end ones, the camera will confuse itself and give you what it considers the best compromise. This is rarely what the photographer is looking for. This particularly applies to the autofocus system, you may have heard of the expression "the autofocus is hunting yet I am focussed on my subject"!

If your autofocus doesn't know where you are focussing, it will look for the highest level of contrast in the frame or on the subject.

If you are precisely telling your camera where to focus, you will get what you want.

On the beginner level cameras you can only choose a single focus point or all of them so the choice here is easier to make, use a single focus point and make sure you move the focus point across the frame to focus where you want. Or you can focus and recompose but this is difficult with a moving subject.

On the enthusiast level cameras you can select groups of focus points to help achieve focus but here you are starting to give your camera options so this can mean the camera will choose where to focus rather than where you actually want it to.

Sometimes we can get drawn into the belief that we have a really good camera so getting a good photograph will be easy. Actually the better the camera you have, the more you need to understand how it works so you can get the best out of it, it just won't do it for you!

Unfortunately there is only one way to get to know your camera properly and that is to read the manual and then go through all the menu settings on your camera so you understand what they do. Then play about with the settings and see how they affect the cameras performance so you can take the theory and turn it into practical knowledge. There are only so many YouTube videos you can watch and listen so someone else opinion where it is your interpretation that is important because you are a unique photographer!

So we went through all the menu settings and then we went through each of the lenses that had been brought along to ensure everyone understood the capabilities and limitations of their respective lenses.

A very popular lens is the 70-200mm f 2.8 and several manufacturers produce these lenses and they are very good lenses but the do have limitations. If I asked you what is the focus distance limit on this lens would you know what I mean?

A lens can take photographs of huge distances can't it? It certainly can but if you then pull the image in, zoom in on the back of the camera or crop it post processing you will get distortion as you pull the image in. This is because the subject is too far away from the lens to record sufficient detail for a crop.

With the 70-200 f 2.8, mine is the series ii Canon, the maximum focussing distance is only 10m!

To get an image I can properly work with in post processing, my subject has to be within 10m of the end of my lens! The minimum focussing distance is 1.2m, if anything is closer that that my lens won't focus so I only have an effective working range of 8.8m.

If a dog is running straight towards me, I only have 8.8m in which to get the shot, if that dog is running fast then I have to know what I am doing and have my camera set up properly to give me the best chance of getting a WOW picture.

There is much more to cameras and lenses that we might realise and we have to know our equipment.

The afternoon session was spent testing ourselves and our kit with dogs coming towards us, slowly at first and the at increasing speeds. This included dogs jumping towards us.

Shooting modes can also have a big impact on how successful we are. I prefer to shoot in full manual mode as I have complete control of my camera. This does require a great deal of practice as you have to react to changing light conditions quickly so being aware of the available light is paramount, after all, photography is all about the use of light!

I did switch into aperture priority mode as my clients were struggling with a straight to manual jump and I switched the ISO to auto so my camera was now making decisions about exposure with i didn't agree with and it was a great discussion point, even though it was much easier to get a shot, what was I, as a photographer actually learning?

The camera is helping and that might mean the chance to get the shot is improved which I can understand if you are photographing wildlife and you may only get one chance but we are photographing dogs so we do have the opportunity to do it again, especially in my dog photography workshops!

Manual mode is where the challenges lie as it makes you think about the exposure triangle of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you will be changing one or more of these three things to get your shot so you need to have control of them! Then practice so you become familiar with how to change them quickly, the more you do it, the more natural the process becomes and the less you will have to worry about it!

The availability of light will determine your settings and for dogs in motion you will need a minimum of 1/1000 shutter speed, an aperture setting to allow sufficient depth of field to keep a dog in focus as it runs towards you which will be at least f7.1 and an ISO to enable you to maintain these settings in the available light. If the dog is slow moving, you might be able to reduce you aperture to f5.6 but you also have to bear in mind the size of the dog and the dogs nose as well as keeping the legs and feet in focus as the dog extends its stride in a run. There is a lot to think about!

Or you can shoot in full auto mode and hope for the best! I know which I prefer, full manual mode every time! Thank you for reading!

If you would like to join me for the day and learn more about your camera, lenses and dogs, the date for my next workshop is Sunday 29th July and you can book by clicking here


The second most important of a photograph is composition, the most important part is light and I will write on that seperately.

Composition makes or breaks the photograph, it can engage the viewer or make the photograph invisible because it fails to draw the viewers attention.

When photographing dogs, the most important element is the eyes, the need to sharp and in focus, another important aspect is expression. The most expressive part of a dog is the head as you have the eyes, ears and head tilt all of which combine for eye catching expressions that will draw the viewer but it is still the composition that needs to be correct.

That is a very interesting statement because what is correct composition? It is whatever you think works because you are taking the photograph and your vision is unique to you.

You do have an obligation to capture images the dogs owner will love also so you have to take many pictures but your composition is still the key, if the image is sharp and the owner can see the dogs eyes, they will largely be happy and not pay much attention to the composition if the composition is correct.

If the composition is not correct the owner will notice because something in the picture has drawn there attention away from their dog.

Cluttered backgrounds can be a big source of distraction because we are so focussed n the dog through the viewfinder we stop looking to see what is around the dog. If the back ground is simple and plain, it is easier to blur by adjusting your depth of field. if it is cluttered, it is much harder to blur to make is more insignificant. 

Where you place the dog in the frame can make or break your photograph so have a think where you want the dog to be, either move your focus point or focus and recompose to achieve your desired effect and try lots os different positions in the frame as you can create very different pictures by placing the dog in different parts of the frame.

Get close to the dog, be bold, be creative and don't be afraid to make a mistake, it is free to delete an image!



Location shooting

Every photographer has a preferred way of working and their own style. Much photographic work is studio based where everything is under control, the subject, the lights, the setting, the props and the time. The weather does not even enter the equation because inside a studio is warm, dry and well lit. Whilst I am happy working in a studio, I have a portable set up, I am much happier out in the fields and woods where dogs are behaving more naturally and having fun just being themselves.

Our dogs have real character, it makes them unique and is the reason we love them so much and I love to capture their character where they are happiest and that is usually out on a walk with you. It is also usually regardless of weather, most dogs don't care if its dull, cloudy, cold or raining they still manage to have a good time. Some of my favourite images are of dogs out in the rain, they still have a great time! I have just as much fun photographing dogs in the rain and cold, I just wrap me and my camera up and out we go!!

Which brings me onto this shot of Digby. It wasn't raining but it was very dull and cloudy on the walk but it didn't put Digby off nor did it put me off. Not too many people enjoy lying down in a very wet field on a cold, dull day but I do because I am doing something I absolutely love, I am photographing dogs having a great time. Fun is infectious, if the dog is having fun, how can you not be? You have to love what you do!

Digby is having a breather and just paused and I managed to capture this image as he looks around to see what he should investigate next. Sure enough, just after I took this shot, he was off again looking for mischief. He has an adorable character which made him great fun for work with!

Digby catching his breath after a great run in the field!

Digby catching his breath after a great run in the field!

Theodore german shepherd

i have four German shepherd dogs and they are probably the most photographed dogs around. i take them everywhere with me and as I always have my camera with me, sometimes to the annoyance of my wife, i am always well placed to get a good photograph.

the dog is this photograph is Theodore, he is my wife dog hence the name! a bit to soft and cuddly for my taste and it is challenge when praising him in public to use his full name!

out of the many thousands of images i have of my dogs it is very difficult to pick a favourite so i am blogging about this one as a friend who used him to breed with her dog asked for a picture.

german shepherds are very handsome dogs but theo's colour makes him quite tricky to photograph because he has a dark face and a dark face can confuse the camera as it struggles to balance the light and dark. underexposure is helpful as this will lighten the face but there is the risk of over exposing the background, especially if the day is well lit with sunshine.

post processing can also help but in reality it is best to use a small amount of under exposure to let more light in whilst making sure the back ground is quite a dark colour, green vegetation works well as it is also a nice consistent colour.

as ever, it comes down to thinking about what you are going to photograph, where and what is your subject and background. I'm sure there is a word for all that, oh yes, composition!

If you take the time to ensure your composition is good, you photograph will be engaging and attractive to people as they will want to explore the frame with their eyes.