Q: Lee – you were a judge last year on our panel for Dog Photographer of the Year 2014. What was it like to help judge the world’s largest dog photographer competition?
It was really enjoyable! It was great to get the chance to look around the Kennel Club offices and to meet other people who are interested in dog photography.
Q: You have been represented by the Kennel Club Picture Library for several years now – what does it mean to you to be represented by the Kennel Club as a photographer?
It means a lot to me to be represented by the Kennel Club Picture Library, mainly because it is recognised around the world and has such a good reputation.
Q: Tell us about yourself – how long have you been a dog photographer?
For about 14 years now, I think!
Q: How did you start out as a photographer?
I started out as a photographer while I was still working shifts as a Control Craftsman on the Blast Furnaces at the Scunthorpe Steelworks. I bought my first camera second-hand from a workmate.
Q: How has photography changed since you started out as a photographer?
Probably the greatest change is how far camera technology has advanced. When I first started out I had to submit slides to magazines, now everything is sent on a disc or straight to a server!
Q: How did you start to focus on photographing dogs in particular?
Dogs were the first thing I photographed. My Dad was a part-time Gamekeeper and we always had at least two English Springer Spaniels, which became my models!
Q: Do you specialise in photographing any particular breeds?
I suppose I specialise in photographing working dogs – mainly English Springer Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers.
Q: Why this breed?
Probably because I was brought up with English Springer Spaniels (which are my favourite breed of all) and all of my Dad's brothers and shooting friends either had Spaniels or Labradors.
Q: What is your favourite dog photo that you have taken?
My favourite is usually the best from the last shoot I did! It changes all the time, though my favourite at the moment is one from last year of a friend's Black Labrador at the end of a cold winter day. I shot into the setting sun to capture the dog's breath in the cold air.
Q: Would you have any tips to offer new dog photographers just starting out today?
I would advise them to shoot from the dog's eye-level, rather than looking down at the dog, and to watch your backgrounds! The background is just as important as the subject and can make or break a photograph.
Q: What’s the best thing about working as a professional dog photographer?
The best thing is probably meeting people who share my love of dogs, and being around dogs!
Q: What is your favourite type of dog photography to shoot? (E.g. agility, outdoor, crufts, dog shows?)
My favourite type of photography to take would be posed portraits. Because I photograph working dogs means that they are usually well trained and will sit and stay where I want them to. This allows me to have control over things like the background and direction of lighting.
Q: Are you working on any new dog photography project(s) that you would like to talk about? (A book or magazine project?) At present I'm waiting for the shooting season to get into full-swing so I can get out with the camera on my local shoots again.
Q: Any tips for people entering Dog Photographer of the Year – what do Judges look for?
As a photographer what I look for differs from what other judges often look for! For me a photograph has to be technical good to start with – lighting, exposure, composition and camera technique must all be spot-on. I then hope to feel an emotional connection with the photograph – if I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside then I like the photograph!
Lee’s photography can be viewed on his website: http://www.lee-beel-photography.co.uk/ as well as on the official Kennel Club Image store where you can purchase some of Lee’s photos www.dogimages.org.uk