Interview: Martin Hill - DPOTY
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  • Interview: Martin Hill

Q: Tell us about yourself – how long have you been a dog photographer?

I originally took up photography around 6 years ago after quitting smoking! It was about four years ago I started photographing dogs as a subject matter.

Q: How did you start as a dog photographer?

I started by volunteering at Wood Green the Animals Charity as a photographer.

Q: What’s the best thing you love about being a dog photographer?

For me I would say it’s the challenge of getting the right image that will complement the dog. Dogs are of all shapes and sizes so every shoot is always going to be different. I love the chance to meet with different breeds of dogs and see what their personalities are. When I work with dogs and owners it provides an opportunity to capture the bond between both, which sometimes is best captured in a photograph. I especially find working with dogs for rehoming rewarding, because I know I am helping them to find their ‘forever home’. Being more of an outdoor person dog photography provides a chance to work in the outdoors and to see new areas.

Q: Do you specialize in any particular breeds?

Photography at rehoming charities covers all breeds of dogs and they are all great to work with! I suppose if I had to pick a breed it would have to be the Labrador.

Q: Why this breed?

Labradors are great to interact with! All dogs are great but I find Labradors are so much fun to work with as they are more than willing to play ball for action shots, splash around in water or pose for portraits. They have a great range of facial expressions as well!

Q: You photograph for a lot of dog rescues – how did you get started in photographing rescue dogs?

The first few years I dabbled around in different types of photography, from urban exploration to macro. My partner noticed our local rehoming Centre in Huntingdon; Wood Green the Animals Charity, were looking for photographers to help improve the photos to help with the rehoming of their dogs. I applied and was among one of the first volunteer photographers to join them. It is now four years on and still volunteering!

Q: What’s the greatest challenge in photographing dogs in rescue?

Rescue dog photography is different from photographing for clients. Rehoming dogs arrive from anywhere, abandoned or stray, with a history or none and all manner of issues from nervousness to stressed, to depressed. I work closely with the staff and other volunteer dog handlers to ensure we make the photographic session a positive experience.

Q: What’s the best thing you experience about photographing dogs in rescue?

Knowing that the photographs you create help to get public attention and interest about long term dogs that require rehoming. There is a great sense of personal reward when you find a dog has been re-homed from a person seeing one of your photos.

Q: What is your favourite photo that you have taken?

I would say one of my favourite shots was taken from a training course. We had been taking photos of gun dogs jumping into water, when a young black Labrador was given his turn to have a go. I managed to get a shot of him in full leap from the bank towards the water.

Q: Why is it one of your favorites?

I just loved the shot, as it captured the spirit of a Labrador and to me the essence of their love of water. The expression of concentration on the young labs face just summed up its thoughts, in my mind anyway! This image, for me captured a moment in time that made the passion for dog photography become a reality and open my eyes to a new direction. The image of the Labrador now forms the silhouette of my logo a resemblance of the passion an interest I have for the canine breed.

Q: Would you have any tips to offer new dog photographers just starting out?

Practice: Todays photography is instantaneous, with results visible as soon as you have pressed the shutter release allowing a review of image and the chance to adjust settings and see the results. Learn about your camera, what are its limits and what results do you want to get from it? Patience: Working with dogs or any animal requires a degree of patience as most dogs will only know a handful of commands and these can be temperamental depending on the environment you are working in. If things are not working out as planned let the dog have a break and move to a different location. Respect: Never put a dog in a situation it will not feel comfortable! No shot is worth distressing a dog. Learn to recognize their signs and pay attention to their behavior. Background: Learn to scan the background for objects that can be easily removed, i.e leads, toys, rubbish etc. A few seconds to check and remove any distractions while on location can save time later in processing!

Q: What’s the best thing about working as a professional dog photographer?

This is something I am building towards.

Q: What is your favourite type of dog photography to shoot? (E.g. agility, outdoor, crufts, dog shows?)

I love shooting action shots! The eye never sees the exact details when a dog is chasing after a ball or jumping into a lake. The focus in a dogs eyes and the definition in its muscles can really make a cuddly Labrador appear to be something alien to the one that normally take on walks! Q: Are you working on any new dog photography project(s) that you would like to talk about? The last couple of months I have been mainly working on a web page and working on growing my business which provides new challenges and develops new skills.

Q: Any tips for people entering the rescue dog category for Dog Photographer of the Year?

Take your time and let the subject become accustomed to you. A lot of the time with rehoming dogs is the different people they see from staff and public. Spend a little time with the dog and let it become comfortable with you and your camera. Learn to use squeaker, whistle, crisp packets basically anything that will sound really interesting to get some really great committed eye contact!

To find out more about Martin’s work visit: www.martinhill.co.uk

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