Quite simply, the better the photograph(s) I work from, the better the portrait will be. If geographically feasible I will happily take the photos for you but this doesn’t work for many of my clients. I am based in South Somerset but travel widely so please ask.
- First of all, consider if there is a particular expression or pose you would like me to capture. Some dogs and horses look better from one side because of their markings, scars etc.
- Be patient. A Labrador will spend the first ten minutes looking embarrassed, a spaniel will bounce off the walls before they settle. Don’t rush things or get cross and they will soon relax.
- Ideally you need two helpers. One to hold the dog’s lead and the second to stand behind you rustling a bag of treats, or something to get their attention.
- A 3/4 angle usually works best but there are plenty of examples, particularly if the dog has a very long nose, where head on can produce a wonderful result. Take a good selection to give yourself plenty of choice. You must be at their level, so perhaps put a small dog on a table in the garden or lie on the grass to take photos of a larger animal. You don’t want to be taking photos of the top of their head.
- The best results will be produced with an SLR camera, but ‘phone cameras can deliver excellent results in the right conditions.
- Beware distortion so avoid getting too close.
- I need to be able to see the twinkle in their eye, every whisker and marking, so take the photos on a bright but not necessarily very sunny day, which can produce harsh shadows.
- Additional close up photos of eyes, specific markings and video clips can be very helpful.
- On a hot day, or if they are very excited, you may get their tongue hanging out. This can look attractive but not if eight inches of tongue is visible!
- With horses the rules are similar. Decide whether you want tack on or off (I prefer without), which side you find more attractive and whether you want the mane to be visible or not.
- Decide whether you want a natural, scruffy mane or whether you want it beautifully groomed.
- Remove all mud, dirt, sweat marks etc.
- You will inevitably get better results when they have their summer coat so if they are clipped out or look like a woolly mammoth it might be worth waiting for the warmer months.
- Buckle a head collar around their necks so you still have control, and get someone to stand behind your shoulder and attract their attention. You want to elicit pricked ears and interest, not a charge to come and see what is on offer, so a packet of polos rather than a bucket of feed is preferable.
It is worth taking a lot of photos (oh the joys of digital!) to choose from. It’s amazing how completely different an animal can look from different angles.
If your animal has a distinctive pose (which you love but it wouldn’t work as the main picture); a special toy; loves swimming etc, or you have an amazing action shot of you competing or hunting, or your dog retrieving a bird, you might like to consider a vignette or two to personalise your picture further. If you need more help please don’t hesitate to ask.