steven havers dog photography blog

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

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.

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.