Dog Photography - an art in itself that takes a different breed...
A new year is upon us! 2021, hopefully the year we can move forward and hug our family and friends again (at some point anyway!) and for me hopefully many more shoots than last year!
I'm sure it didn't escape your notice that over lockdown there was somewhat of a surge in puppy purchasing - people were at home, and it seems those who couldn't have dogs before corona now found themselves in a situation where dogs were a viable option. What might have escaped your notice (but didn't escape the dog photographers of this worlds notice) is that lots of people who previously didn't photograph dogs now did... making the most of the surge in puppy popularity!
Now, many might not see an issue with this or may think, as a community, we are a bit bitter about it as it's increased our competition - however the issue is, is that photographing dogs is an art in itself - and I'd like to take a moment to explain why you should consider going with a specialist dog photographer for images of your furry family members, rather than a photographer that photographs a bit of everything...
As an example - I would NEVER consider photographing babies, they're very, very precious and photographers that photograph them well have invested in a lot of time, money and effort in learning to do it right - not just so they get the best photos, but so the babies are safe and content while being photographed... no one wants a photo of their newborn infant crying on the wall... The same goes for dogs.
Dog specialist photographers are a unique "breed' if you like - we too spend a lot of time, money and effort in obtaining the specialist skills required to photograph dogs properly and successfully. It's very different to photographing people and places, different angles and points of view are required - which is why you'll find us lying on the ground most of the time! But aside from all that, and possibly more importantly, you need to understand dogs - and I don't just mean you need to own one... Some of the best dog photographers I know don't own dogs (its not that they don't want to! Their current circumstances mean it's just not sensible...) - I mean you really need to UNDERSTAND them and the way they communicate. You see, most of us dog photographers don't just invest time in learning how to photograph dogs but also in understanding them. Canine behaviour is a mystical world to many. Dogs speak with their body and have very subtle ways of telling us they're uneasy or starting to feel stressed and unhappy in situations, if these subtle communications are missed or ignored stress builds quickly and stressed dogs are unhappy and in some cases stressed dogs can be dangerous too! This is why choosing to go with a dog specialist photographer over a general photographer is so important... You want the best images of your dog possible, but surely you also want your dog to be happy and content while they're being taken - after all that is what shines through in the images produced for you!
How do you know someone can understand dogs though? Take a look at their images!
Dogs should look happy, confident and content in the images - head held up (unless intentionally laid down) ears forward, eye contact with the camera (if looking directly towards the camera, often dog photographers will also get dogs to look out in a certain direction too) - Warning signs would be dogs in images with their ears back, actively avoiding eye contact with the camera, hunched over with their head down.
Further to looking at images, you may even find they have qualifications and/or a background in dogs and their behaviour!
The best way I can demonstrate this with photos of my own is via some terrible mobile snaps.... so bare with me!
Here we can see two puppies who have just arrived at their new home - they're worried and scared and we can see this in their eyes, posture and general overall demeanour...
in this set we have the same puppies after they've settled in their new homes. Much more confident, heads held high, eye contact and inquisitive - this is what we want to see!
Now I'm not saying general photographers can't capture images of happy dogs, of course they can, but having a photoshoot can be a strange situation for dogs. A studio can be a strange place full of scary lights and objects, even if your outdoors on a location shoot you wouldn't ordinarily ask your dog to sit in strange places while out on a walk. Some dogs can take anything you ask them to do in their stride, others find the whole situation much more worrying - throw in an owner who is getting stressed because they wont sit and the worrying increases 10 fold! People who understand dogs will get this, give them time to settle and get comfortable and they'll recognise when this happens. We understand dogs don't always do what you want them to too when and where you want them to! If something doesn't work we'll try something easier for them and you and stop you worrying if they're not playing ball today - if people don't fully understand them they may not have the forethought to do this and make an uncomfortable or strange situation more stressful for your pup (and you!).
Photography is art, who you choose to work with has a lot to do with whether you like their style and vision - but when it comes to dog photography it should also be about how well they understand dogs and their needs too - there are lots of dog photographers out there that do this fantastically well and it's definitely worth taking the time to look for them - for the sake of your images and your dogs stress levels!
(And just so I don't have a blog with only awful phone snaps... here's some images of that little red lab puppy now he's all grown up!)