Pet Portraits in 90 minutes

Whilst weddings take up the bulk of my business, I also shoot a lot of portraits. Recently, however, I've had a lot of enquiries asking if I can shoot pet portraits too. Well, as I always say - if it lives and breathes, I'll shoot it! Whether the subject is a bride in a £4,500 one-off dress, a 40-something divorcee who just wants to feel good about herself for the first time in years, or someones four-legged companion - I will do my utmost to create something special for each and every one of them.
If you ask any professional photographer what makes a successful shot,  you can expect pretty much guarantee every single one of them to tell you it's down to lighting. To illustrate this point, I took my backpack and portable portrait kit with me earlier this evening while I walked my dogs, with the intention of showing just exactly how much of a difference a little bit of lighting know-how can make (well, it would be too easy to just set up a couple of backdrops in a studio, wouldn't it?). My area of operations was a quiet corner of a field where I walk the dogs every day - nothing special, just a few bushes and some grass. I started out by taking a couple of shots with my camera in Programme mode (full-auto - the camera decides the exposure for me and tries to create an average snapshot) to show the kind of shot which anyone could take.

Not much wrong with them, is there? Well, no - as far as snaps go. But that's about it - they're just snaps of my dogs while we're out walking.
But what if I add a couple of little magic boxes - let's call them 'wireless triggers' shall we? And let's imagine that these 'triggers' allow me to take my speedlite flash off the top of the camera (worst bloody place in the world to put the thing, in my opinion) and still be able to use it up to 150 metres away. This would let me control the light falling on my subjects and help to add some 'modelling' to the way it falls. Now, I can really go to town and create something which really captures the personality of the dogs in an environment where they feel completely at home:

 Notice the way the light 'lifts' the dogs off the background, while the angle it was set at helps to show off the muscles of the smooth-coated one? Keeping a flash on top of the camera does NOT do this (the angle of the light creates the shadows and helps show off the texture of their fur)
I used a 70-200 f4 L lens for this one to help compress the background a little.

Remember how this same location looked as a snapshot?

As we get closer to sunset, I'm able to move the light around to allow the setting sun to create a beautiful backlight on the dogs as the speedlite  lifts them just enough to make them stand out:

 All these shots were taken within 90 minutes of arriving at our location and have only received some very basic editing to increase the contrast slightly. 3 different settings for 3 hyper dogs in less than 90 minutes and, I'm sure you'll agree, something a wee bit more than just snapshots?
For details on pet portraits, email: or text: PETS followed by your name, to 07885 772577.


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