Q: What was it like placing in Dog Photographer of the Year?
It was an exhilarating feeling, I have coveted this award for some time, so when I received the phone call to say I’d won the puppy category I literally squealed with excitement. I was driving at the time (on hands free!) so had to contain myself as much as possible so I didn’t crash! Attending the Gallery opening in London was a proud moment; it was a thrill to see my image on the wall and even more exciting when it went on the Kennel Club website! Going to Crufts to be presented with the award was one of the highlights of my year. I was brimming with exultation, and looking back at the photos/videos of the presentation I can see it written all over my face!
Q: What made you enter our annual competition?
I have entered every category of the competition for the last two years because entering just seemed acutely appropriate. It involves my two key passions, which also happen to be the core elements of my business - Cat's Dog Photography. During my previous job as a family portraiture photographer, I found myself enjoying dog photo sessions significantly more than other shoots. There seemed to be an innate connection between the dogs & me, which allows me to capture each dog's personality. This realisation inspired me to start Cat’s Dog Photography, so what better competition to enter than Dog Photographer of the Year? Winning my category was a wonderful experience, I will certainly be entering again this year and keeping my fingers and toes crossed!
Q: Was it difficult to choose your images for entry?
Yes very hard! In fact I ran a poll on my business’ Facebook page (Cat’s Dog Photography) collecting votes to help me decide. It was the followers’ response that swayed me to enter the image I did, I very nearly entered a different picture, so I am very grateful for the CatsDog fans input.
Q: Tell us about yourself – how long have you been a dog photographer?
I have been a professional photographer for ten years. I started specialising in dog photography in 2013 after several years specialising in studio based family portraits. I realised that dogs are far more comfortable when they are out in a natural environment and knew from my experience in the studio that people wanted photographs of their dogs, so I set up Cat’s Dog Photography. The studio experience I had setting up family photos is really useful for crafting shots of owners with their dogs. Kids and their dogs are a real challenge, but satisfying when you see the results .
Q: How did you start as a dog photographer?
When setting up Cat’s Dog Photography I went part time at my studio job, to allow me to build up a client base and portfolio of dog photographs, capturing the individual unique characters of my subjects. I soon had enough work to go full time as a dog photographer and saw the business boom over the following year. We now have six members of the CatsDog team including four photographers.
Q: Do you specialise in any particular breeds?
I photograph breeds of all shapes and sizes, but my personal favourites are Dalmatians, Huskies ) and Chihuahuas (I love this one especially because she looks all tired and sleepy and you can see her tiny little paws!)
Q: Why this breed?
Dalmatians are such unique and handsome dogs because of their beautiful spots. I love all Spitz breeds, but Huskies in particular because of their majestic and wolf-like appearance. I love that both these breeds often have blue or different coloured eyes, it makes them even more unusual. Although I have a bias towards Chihuahuas because I own one, they are so adorable with their diminutive features and characters way too big for their size. Funnily enough, all the favourites I have listed are also three of the hardest to shoot! They are all typically stubborn breeds, Huskies in particularly are rarely motivated by food or toys. Fortunately we have lots of tricks up our sleeves when it comes to photographing them!
Q: What is your favourite photo that you have taken?
I love the photograph of my dog Poppy.
Q: Why is it one of your favourites?
I like this not only because she is my girl, but because she looks like a little deer poking her head through the grass, and the pearl necklace she’s wearing makes her look like a diva! The shallow depth of field on this image, along with the contrasting orange and green colours, makes it more dynamic. I love her alert expression, it wasn’t taken far from my house and I remember her on high alert, watching out for other dogs!
Q: Would you have any tips to offer new dog photographers just starting out?
It’s really important to keep what you are doing enjoyable; dogs are the most fun-loving animals I know and you meet some real characters so to keep up with them you have to have a passion for what you do. You have to be prepared for anything, even wading knee deep into muddy water to the right shot! Of course having the right equipment and knowing how best to use it is key too, post production is often overlooked but it is just as important as capturing the image in the first place. For example the dogs leads had to be photoshopped out – so it looks like they are all posing in the perfect position. In reality they were trying to leg it!
Q: What’s the best thing about working as a professional dog photographer?
The dogs – of course! Just being around them makes me happy, I can’t imagine my life without them in it. We get to hear all sorts of amazing stories about the dogs we meet, such as a deaf dog who had already lost an eye when she was used for badger baiting. She was found dumped outside after her other eye had been kicked in. After being rescued and recovering at a local vets, she ended up at the pound with just one day until her destroy date, luckily her Mum heard about her and rescued her in the nick of time. Another amazing client we’ve had was a lady who rescued a dog who had been abused by his owner. Even though he had on one occasion bitten he out of fear, she completely understood him and wouldn’t give up on him – she knew if she did he would be put to sleep. How admirable is that? Even better I get to eternalize the character of the dogs I photograph by creating a memento my clients can keep even after their pet have gone.
Q: What is your favourite type of dog photography to shoot? (e.g. agility, outdoor, crufts, dog shows?)
I love photographing dogs outside, sunshine rain or snow there is always a new challenge. My favourite shoots are on the odd occasions when my partner and fellow CatsDog photographer, Michael, can join me on a shoot. We normally shoot separately, but if we have time to shoot together it’s always a lot of fun and the extra pair of experienced hands is very useful, especially when there is lots of dogs to photograph! I am also lucky enough to be able to take my Chihuahua Poppy on some photo shoots with me, provided my client is ok with it. I call her my ‘glamorous’ assistant, (or very un-glamorous assistant one she’s been running through the mud!) She can be very useful for demonstrating what I want my client to do with their dog and sometimes even helps me to get the dogs attention.
Q: Are you working on any new dog photography project(s) that you would like to talk about?
We are currently expanding the business and plan to have an even bigger CatsDog team this time next year. We are also in the process of a calendar project, where each month we publish half a dozen of our best photos from that month on Facebook and ask our followers to vote. We will be selling the calendar around Christmas time and donating some of the proceeds to a dog charity, which one though? We are yet to decide!
Q: Any tips for people entering Dog Photographer of the Year?
Try not to be biased when picking your images. Think about what the judges will see and how they will perceive your image. Best of luck to everyone!