Exceeding expectations

It is about the whole dog photography experience not just part of it and meeting the expectations you set, preferably exceeding them so the client really has a WOW moment.

A recent commission is a good example of this. A lady bought her Mum one of our dog photography location experience vouchers for Christmas and her Mum booked the session for March and we have just completed the experience with the delivery of the prints and canvas she ordered.

The whole experience starts with the initial phone call to make the arrangements for the location setting and how you make the client feel at ease and how you set the expectations for the location. When I learned the location was to be inside a 12th Century village church I was intrigued and excited by the challenge this would pose as the light in an old church can be limited and I was determined to shoot only using the natural light available which would be limited.

As the church has a very special connection with my client, she arranged special permission from the vicar and we met up and drove to the church which is a truly beautiful building with some of the oldest pews in the country so we had real history and feellng in our location.

From a photographers point of view we were in a location the dog had never been in before, we had a nervous client who was hoping her dog would behave and a dog that was wondering what was going on.

This is where my 25 plus years experience as a dog behaviourist really comes into its own as I can easily direct the client how to behave and interact with the dog and I know how to get the dogs attention without over exciting the dog so we get the most natural expression from the dog.

We were in the church for over an hour, the light was lovely, the dog was amazing and the images were beautiful. Throughout the whole experience I made sure the client was happy, I was showing her images on the back of the camera as we went, I was making sure the dog was happy and the hour soon flew by.

I went back to show my client the images on her laptop and she loved them and ordered several prints and canvas. She was very impressed with the look of the photographs in her laptop and I took the opportunity to suggest she will love them even more in print.

There is no comparison and nothing can prepare the client for the first look at the printed image, the quality of the fine art print paper we use is of the highest available, the mounting card is of the highest quality and the wrapping is applied by hand. The ink used in the printing process is giclee, the finest fine art ink that remains printed fresh for many years because my client is investing in quality, not just in the images but in me, the photographer.

From happy clients who appreciate your work and the quality of your service referrals will come and your name will spread. I love what I do, I love photography and I love dogs and this passion delights my clients. My knowledge of dog behaviour gives them security and reassurance that their dog will enjoy the experience as much as they will.

This is just one of the images my client ordered as a fine art print:

Bichon Frise in a church

when a dog loves a woman...

A slight variation from the song title by Michael Bolton but very true in this case as you will see from the photograph. We all have a strong connection and bond with our dogs but some have a depth to that connection that is extraordinary. This is such a story and how I was able to photograph the dog and his owner

I ran a dog photography competition, this is something I do quite frequently and my dog photography competitions always have a prize worth winning so they generate a lot of interest.

I always read carefully the entries and each one gets a personal reply. It can be emotional reading the things people have been through with their dogs and some stories are quite a tough read.

I extend an offer to all entrants to come to the studio for a photography session with their dog and this owner took me up on it.

I won’t divulge details of her story but she has been through some very tough times and she is convinced her dog played a huge part in getting her through into a much better place.

When I photograph dogs and their owners, I am not just looking for nicely posed shots. These are always nice to have and lovely to show the owners after their studio session but I really like to capture images that truly capture the deep connection.

The photograph is a crop of the original as the owner and the dog are gazing at each other and I don’t reveal owners faces unless I have their permission.

This image is a very powerful one for me, look at the dogs foot and claws, he is holding on to her, something he has done a lot of during their life together.

dog and owner Hi 5-1497.jpg

The connection is so obvious, this is what I look for in my dog photography. I don’t have to see the dog or the owners face, the connection is there to see, in the studio you could feel the charge of love as they connected and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, a truly magical moment I was delighted to record.

I showed the owner the photographs today and she had to choose from 30. This was one she didn’t select today, the photographs she did select were of her and her dog and the photographs she chose are stunning.

To help her make a choice, I explained which were my favourites and why and this helped make her choice. These images will be transformed into stunning canvas and fine art prints that will be beautiful.

Bond, connection, love...

When you discuss the connection and the bond between an owner and their dog we all have our own ideas of what that looks like, how it is expressed and what it feels like. If you have a dog, you will have your own experinces of what makes a strong bond, or connection and how that demonstrates the love you share with your dog.

It is those moments we share with our dog that develop and strengthen our bond, those shared experiences that bring us closer together.

We can all recollect our favourite holiday with our dog or our favourite day trip or road trip to a new and exciting destination.

When photographing dogs, either in the studio or on location, I get asked a very common question:

Can you make sure you capture the dogs character?

That usually means the dog is doing something they really enjoy so their face is full of interest and life. I make sure I do take these style of photographs because the client has asked me to but they are missing a huge opportunity to capture a level of expression and character and this is the one they see with their dog because it involves the dog looking at them.

You are your dogs world and they live their life for you so what better way to capture and demonstrate their character than like this…..

Bruce the pug-0700.jpg

You see, this image is not capturing the dogs face because he is not looking at the camera, he is looking at his world. Of course it is nice for us to see the dog looking at the camera and the owner in this image chose an image with that as their pose.

For me this is a more powerful statement because it is a moment they are sharing together, sharing their bond, their connection and their love.

There are many other photographs I took during this session and I like many of them but it is this one that moves me the most as it is so special because it captures so very well the love the owner and dog share and they joy that brings both of them.

Everyone will have a different favourite photograph because we all see things slightly differently but there can be no mistaking the emotion captured in this photograph.

A good photograph will trigger a memory of the moment the photograph was taken and that memory will trigger an emotional memory that will remind you how you were feeling when the photograph was taken.

I will remember taking this photograph and the others from the session because I remember the emotion and the love these two shared.

Making dogs look beautiful

As a professional dog photographer, I specialise in making dogs look beautiful so it made sense when Leicester Dog Grooming asked me to take photographs of dogs they are also making look beautiful so they can share the images on their social media channels and on their web site.

We went across to Billesdon and set up a nice and simple two light approach as you can see.


It is always interesting to show you the set up and the location so you can see the challenges we face sometimes on a location shoot. A groomers is a busy place and can be noisy which adds to the challenge of getting a nice expression from the dog. This is one of the shots that we took…

Dog owners want their dogs to look beautiful and they want the groomer to make sure that happens and this makes it easier for the photographer to make a beautiful image when the dog looks her best.

The environment and setting is a challenge but it is something over which we have no control, all we can control is the lighting which was on low power and very close to the dog so we get a lovely soft and warm light which perfectly compliments the colours in the dogs freshly groomed coat.

These are just two of he images we took on the day and show different dogs but looking beautiful, fresh from the groomers table, looking and smelling wonderful.

Look out for the images on social media and their web site.

First time in the studio...

What do you do when a dog has never been in a dog photography studio before, he has no idea what is going on and has never seen a flash before? How do you get a good photograph let alone one that will WOW his owner?

This is where my extensive experience as a dog behaviourist really comes into its own as I can understand the body language the dog is showing me and I can help the owners understand their dog and how he is reacting and they can stay relaxed. It is the combination of understanding the dog and helping the owners that helps the dog relax very quickly and feel confident enough to show off his character.

It is the character of the dog that must shine through in the photograph as that is what the owner and the viewer want to see, that draws the viewer in to the photograph and makes them stop a little longer to take in the view!

As part of the settling in process in our studio, we allow the dog to run free and explore the studio and whilst we are doing this we fire the flashes. The burst of light and the sounds the flashes make can startle a dog initially but with sufficient repetition they soon relax and ignore the lights and sounds.

This is Bruce, a three year old Pug who had never been in a dog photography studio before and who was very wary when he first came in.

His owner was just as worried as she thought he would be a nightmare, wouldn’t sit still and would cock his leg up on everything.

She wanted photographs of Bruce on his own and with her which is always a challenge but it something we are used to working through to produce our usual high standard of images.

The photograph above was achieved without treats or toys, Bruce just really got into the whole role of being a model and he just loved performing for the camera.

For a complete beginner he certainly learned fast and found this is something he can really do and, pardon the expression, get his teeth into!

He loved the studio, he loved the lights and he loved posing. His owner loved the whole studio experience and this is what she said in a follow up email when I asked her if she enjoyed it:

“Oh Saturday was just brilliant- Bruce really surprised me at how much he was posing, he really enjoyed it!”

This is what you get when you and your dog come for a dog photography studio experience, we all have a great deal of fun and I make lots of silly noises whilst behind the camera so we get really great expressions from the dog.

The hour soon flies by and by the end of the session we will have taken between 200 and 250 images. These are sorted after the shoot and we choose around 30 to edit, process and then we come to your house to show you our work and this is where you can order the images you love.

Our job is to make choosing as difficult as possible by presenting you with 30 images that you will love so much you will want to buy them all!

We love photographing dogs in our studio, we love photographing dogs on location and we make sure we do our best to help you have the best experience possible.

Beautiful chocolate Labradors!

As far as working dogs go, chocolate Labradors are up there with the best of them.

Beauty, grace, purpose, power and amazing gentleness all rolled into one. They are more at home out on the field working or relaxing in front of the fire after a hard day out with the guns but this beauty had to come and take on a different form of work, she had to pose in our dog photography studio and she loved the experience.

Chocolate Labradors are very intelligent and can be quite intense, especially when they have picked up a scent. This is relatively easy to show when photographing the dog when she is out working, it is more of a challenge to capture those character traits when photographing a dog in the studio.

In this photograph, she is focused and ready as she would be out in the field.

You can see the intensity in the dogs face, her ears are alert as she listens for an instruction and her eyes are focused on her owner, just waiting to go! Photographing a dark dog is a challenge and the lighting has to be just right so we can see the sparkle in her eyes, we can see her gorgeous colour and the features of her face.

This next photograph of a chocolate Labrador is out in the field and we can see the dog in his perfect environment.

You can see the same characteristics in the dog, the focus of the eyes, the intense stare, the alertness of the ears as he listens for a command and the closed mouth, almost holding his breath in anticipation of the work ahead.

These two photographs of chocolate Labradors are of completely different dogs in completely different environments yet are very similar.

The two photographs really capture the things that people love about chocolate Labradors and the colour is just beautiful.

Photographing working dogs when they are actually working or out in the field with their owner on an organised shoot is where the real magic happens and photographing the dog next to their owner with a pheasant in their mouth are the sort of images that gets hung on the wall to remember such a good day where the owner and their dog worked together as a team and loved every minute.

These images are protected by copyright and may not be copied or used in any way.

©dog photography by Havers

Why Beagles are great in the dog photography studio?

Why are Beagles great in the dog photography studio?

Because they are Beagles! Beagles are strong minded, wilful, determined, mischevieous and full of character.

Even at 13 years old as our model is. Their colours, their face, their eyes all help to draw you in to the portrait, to hold your attention and captivate!

Beagles tend to have fine temperament and are steady by nature so they can cope with the noises and flashes in the studio and they love having their photograph taken.

Beagles are fun to be around and if the mood in the dog is fun and happy, that lifts the mood of everyone in the studio and makes photographing the dog so much fun and if the Beagle is having fun that shines through in the beautiful portrait we create.

Beagles love to perform and to be the centre of attention, some would say they like attention too much and become very good at getting it!

Beagles love to scent and can get carried away when a strong smell wafts across their nose and we all know what a Beagle sounds like when in full scent following mode, that is a sound to wake everyone up!

Beagles were used to hunt hare because of their fine sense of smell and their remarkable stamina, this means however if your Beagle takes off on a scent, he isn’t going to get tired and will take some finding.

Beagles make superb pets and due to their compact size, they are easy to live with and are very trainable which s a great help when they are in the studio having their dog portraits created.

Beagles are lovely to be around, they are social, love a good fuss and want to help and they want to please and this is a real asset.

Why Pugs make great dog photography models.

I am often asked which breed makes the best dog photography model? Which breed do you enjoy photographing the most?

These are very simple questions to answer, every dog is a great dog model, every dog can be relaxed enough to show their character for the camera.

Pugs are a popular breed of dog and their features make them very endearing to the viewer. They do have their health problems and can be an acquired taste but they do make taking their photographs easy.

Their colouration helps as there are areas of high contrast which helps the camera focus, that’s the boring technical stuff out of the way so back to the question.

Pugs tend to have big characters and are not usually shy or wary. The Pugs I have worked with have a zest for life and a curiosity to explore what is around them and it is this energy that comes across on their photographs and it is this character and energy that engages the viewer and draws them into the image.

Pug owners will know exactly what I am talking about and have experienced their character for themselves and when I am photographing Pugs, I am repeatedly asked to make sure I capture their character.

Pugs are very expressive and are great communicators and these characteristics really shine through the image.

This is Marty, you would never have guessed his name if I hadn’t told you!

Marty is a great dog photography model, look at the power of his gaze! He knows he is good, he has and shows that confidence with his bold posture and use of eye contact and his character oozes into the camera and really engages with you, the viewer.

There is such an aura of confidence, this is also Marty and he really knows how to show off for the camera and how to demonstrate how much of a dude he is.

I love working with dogs and photographing dogs is the most fun as I get to meet such wonderful characters, photograph them and create beautiful portraits for their owners to keep and enjoy.

Our dogs are only with us for a short time and I have beautiful portraits of all the dogs I have had the pleasure of living with. Such happy memories.

Frank is a Frug who has style...

Frank is a Frug, a French bulldog cross Pug and he has a favourite walking essential, his Julius K9 harness.

Frank loves it because it is very smart and he thinks he looks great in it, who are we to disagree?

Comfort and safety are very important to Frank so as he takes his daily exercise he knows he is smart and safe.

Frank is one of our dog actors and models and he loves to work in front of the camera, we use Bowen lights, Canon cameras and lenses to create the most engaging images for our clients. We are based near Leicester in the centre of the UK and we specialise in commercial dog photography and creating images that truly engage the viewer which only enhances their perception of the service, product or brand the image is promoting.

Frank is so happy working n the studio, off camera are other dog actors and dog models from our team just relaxing and waiting their turn to work on their project.

We love Franks expression in this photograph as he just looks so relaxed and cool, he is a dude which is a good reflection and a positive association for the Julius K9 harness he is modelling.

Frank is not a pedigree but his favourite food is!

Frank is a cross between a French Bulldog and a Pug which makes him a Frug. Now Frank may not be a pedigree, but his favourite food and snacks certainly are as you can see from our lovely studio photograph.

Our client asked us for a photograph that would include some Pedigree dog food and snacks so we looked through our dog actors and models database and Frank was the perfect fit for our clients needs and as you can see, Frank loves working in front of the camera.

This image was taken in our studio with professional Bowen lights, Canon professional cameras and lenses and with a great deal of fun as Frank is such a pleasure to work with.

Commercial dog photography is all about engaging with the audience by creating an image that draws and holds the viewers attention and Frank has certainly nailed that part of the brief with his very cute expression.

Whatever your service, product or brand, the inclusion of the right dog actor or model with the right setting and lighting we can create for you images that draw your audience in, holds their attention and helps them engage with you.

Frank loves his Pedigree dog food, he loves the treats in the photograph and he was working for the Tasty bites during this shoot so he is a true product ambassador for Pedigree dog food and Tasty Bites treats. Such a star!

If you would like more information about how we create our images and how the inclusion of the correct dog actor or model from our own team could change your advertising and marketing please get in touch through our contact page and we will call you for an initial chat.

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