It feels like ages since I have been here, properly. Save the odd 52 Mondays post. (See, I can stick things out!)
It is fair to say I have been busier than ever. What with exam build-up from April, then marking in June and July, it’s a four-month slog to the top of the mountain. I still have some clients here and there, but I actually have one whole week off from now until next Monday. One whole week! And a bank holiday as well! I bet I’m twitching by Monday evening.
Mostly, my life has been work & dogs. Work and dogs. Work and dogs. The weather is unspeakably cool for July (shhhh! I’m kind of enjoying it. 23°C and sunny is just my type of weather for outside work!) but it has been a busy time trying to finish things off.
In between, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the refuge trying to capture photos of the dogs there. One of the boss ladies was even getting a bit specific the other day. “Can you get some dog poses like this, or like that?” she asked. In my head, I was thinking, “They are dogs. You get what you get.” especially since the whole purpose of me taking them was that often the dogs only got photographed on entry from the pound, and then really for ID purposes, not for promotion purposes. Now I’ve done so many of the dogs (a good sixty or so have had a ‘re-looking’ – the French for a makeover!) everyone’s a critic.
I do notice that. I wonder if all people face the same thing? People who have a cheap point-and-shoot and no particular photography know-how whatsoever saying ‘you should do it like this…’
I took this photo.
Last week, a lady with a cheap point-and-shoot said “Don’t try and take a photo of them from above.”
Err…. why not? Little Jo looks wonderful for his ‘from above’ shot.
To be fair, you get what you get. Some dogs are happy to sit and pose for a photo. I found the easiest dogs are ones who will sit for a biscuit and look at you when you are doing it.
Do I have any tips for it?
Get down to the dog’s level if the dog won’t sit and look up for a treat.
Put your camera on a low f-stop like 6.3. Not lower. Then you get the nose in focus, but not the face or eyes. Or you get the eyes in focus but a blurry nose. Then put it on a quick ISO, like 1600 or 3200. Anything less and even in sunlight you aren’t likely to get a clear shot. Zoom in fairly close, and you have to use auto-focus, because manual takes too long and they are gone!
Clean the dog’s eyes of sleep and yuck. I am always forgetting to do this. See above.
Have a good partner. One lady I walk with really loves walking the dogs. But the only time she is still with them, she has treats straight out. Her hands are in all my shots, or her body, or she says “this dog is bored!” and wanders off. Bless her. She means she is bored, of course! If you have someone with you who understands photography, so much the better. They’ll keep hands and legs clear. If you have a certain assistant, she will elicit the kind of looks of blind adoration from dogs that give you super winning shots.
If you are doing it on the lead, hold the lead fairly tight (not straining or pulling – that makes the dog look like a lead fiend!) about a foot away from the dog’s head. The dog’s movement is restricted but they look free.
Take photos after a walk, if possible, so they are happy and a little less energetic. If you have a ball of energy like I had with Rosalie, my toughest dog yet, you may have to find a bit of space and give them ten minutes to tire themselves out off-lead. Every single shot of Rosalie, she was moving too quickly to capture. Plus, she has zero recall and zero interest in treats. Plus, being on a lead is stressful. She has serious and sad weals that you can feel with your fingers where she has been restrained for long periods of time.
But it will happen! This shot took 30 minutes to get, including walk!
If you can take a photo without treats and toys, so much the better. Then they won’t strain at the lead and the pose looks more natural. A miaow is the best way to get most dogs’ attention, especially refuge dogs who don’t know their name. The camera click can give you the money shot… head on one side out of curiosity, and great focus.
Don’t take the shot in full sunlight… it is too contrasty. (see above) Shade is great, though you need a faster ISO and shutter speed.
And it is best if you know the dogs a little, to try and capture a little of their character. When you can catch a little old guy having a rest, it’s fab
I am a big fan of uniform backgrounds. Doesn’t matter if it’s a grey one, a stone one, a path or a load of greenery. But not too much of everything. This is true of body shots as well as close-up portraits.
And of course, for every Rosalie that takes a half-hour for one decent shot, there are hundreds who give you smiles and eyes and happy faces.
There are also some who are out-and-out posers.
As well as some who are camera shy, who are so upset by the camera that you have to give them a bit of time to do their best
If you are lucky, you get some great ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots that capture the different aspects of the dog on arrival and after they know they are safe.
This is Chance. He was saved from euthanasia in another pound. Here he is a couple of days into his stay. (above) And a couple of days after (below)
So this is what I have been doing two or three afternoons a week. Oh, and then the evenings, I spend editing. It’s not just a case of take a photo and bang it up on the website. I haven’t time to do a lot of editing, but a simple crop, colour adjust and balance adjust will usually make the most out of most images.
Though I would like to say, yes, animal photographers make it look incredibly easy. But whoever said you should never work with children or animals was right. Especially animals.
So what else? Not to mention a lot of walks with my own beasties. Amigo, my refuge dog, took some time to settle in – that’s another (not very traumatic) story – but he can now come on walks with my own two as well.
And there has even been a little of this:
And some of this:
What a busy few months it has been!