Meet Jess, a two year old chocolate Labrador. Jess attended a dog portrait session, accompanied by her owners, earlier this month, with a challenge! Jess was no stranger to portrait sessions and having attended a session with one of Preston's best known dog photographers, I was given the challenge of shedding the traditional formalities in favour of a more relaxed approach, creating a series of stunning candid portraits without poses.
A dog portrait without posing?
Indeed. Well I was up for the challenge. Dog portraits traditionally entail one curious dog, a beautiful location, and a dog photographer making unusual noises to get the dogs attention with a liberal dose of "sit", "lie down", and "stay" commands. Not my style, so to be asked to perform a candid portrait session, completely absent of the unusual rituals of quacking like a duck and balancing toys on my head was like music to my ears.
I've always preferred the candid approach to dog photography. A long walk through the landscape, being sure to stop off at various places of interest, or anywhere the dog would like to play, while remaining poised to capture every spark of personality that comes out as the course of events (or mayhem) ensues.
Pet portrait lens - Sigma 150-600 Contemporary
Jess likes to run about, alot. She's unpredictable, and has been known to 'go off on one' to chase down squirrels. Given that I'm not much of a runner a big lens was required. So I brought along the 600mm beast, my sigma 150-600mm contemporary, the longest lens of it's kind under £10,000 (at the time of writing), very sharp, and quick to focus in reasonable light. Exactly what I'd need. All of the shots that follow were from that lens.
No accounting for the weather
The weather started out amazing, perfect early golden-hour light, a spattering of cloud cover for softer shadows, and no sign of rain. Great. Arriving 30 mins early at Haslam Park, there was time to tour the grounds, checking conditions, well lit spots and what-not. Everything looked fantastic... until we hit the top of the hour; time to meet Jess. The sun vanished behind the clouds. Lovely [sarcasm].
Well, I'm not one to shy away from a bit of weather, I'd be in the wrong job if I was, so I'd just have to be a little more selective of where and how I shoot, crank up the ISO a touch, and carry on. No artificial light was to be used in this shoot! I did say I was up for a challenge.
Dog swaps and fluffy mobs
Haslam Park is a very dog friendly location, meaning there are lots of very friendly dogs about. This always makes for some very amusing moments. About 15 minutes in, shooting had to go on hold when another Retriever decided to join in, things got very friendly and somehow there was a temporary dog swap... Jess and the unknown Retriever decided to follow each other's owners.
Now, lying prone as I often am for all these stunning low shots leaves me somewhat vulnerable (and interesting) to the many other friendly dogs that want to come see what's going on. Being mobbed by random dogs including the one I'm photographing tends to be an occupational hazard. Not complaining. So on we went, alternating between being sat on by assorted dogs and trying to be invisible to Jess so we could capture her true peronality.
Haslam Park - A Stunning variety of landscapes
I love Haslam Park for it's variety. Within the space of a 30 minute walk you'll encounter woodland, 200+ year old manicured tree lined paths, open fields, wildflowers, a duck pond, and a stream. Each location offering a different opportunity for a photograph, and with the exception of the wildlife reserve dogs are allowed off the lead in complete safety. Jess felt at home, so we just let her choose the locations, and being my number one place for dog photo shoots I knew exactly where to look for the perfect shots.
A happy customer
The most important result for me was a very happy customer, and a happy dog throughout. I accepted the challenge of taking on a dog portrait without poses, perfect for my style, and despite the weather being uncooperative, captured some beautiful shots, full of personality, without having to make a single duck quack noise or balance a toy on my head. How about that!
Do you live in the Preston area? Pop over to our Shop and pick up a photo session for your pet now!