Down & Dirty
One of the best ways for a dog photographer to create unique imagery is to get on the dog's eye level. It's a basic lesson that we, as dog photographers, are taught from the very beginning. This means, getting on the ground and having your camera at the same level as the dog's eyes.
It's the same in portrait photography, except those photographers are working with a human instead of a dog.
The eyes make or break an image, so getting on "eye level" with your subject is very important.
Whether you are a professional photographer or you just love taking photos of your dog, my number 1 tip is to get level with the dog's eyes. It produces imagery that is more engaging. However, there are a few of us who have taken this lesson one step further and heeded the advice of Unleashed Education's instructor Craig Turner Bullock and have gotten even lower. Craig is passionate about dog photography and his enthusiasm bubbles over when he teaches. While shooting on the beach, he's been known to dig holes in the sand so he and his camera can get as low as possible to create the perfect image. (Sand is a sworn enemy to all DLSR cameras, just so you understand the risk he takes putting his camera in a sand hole). Along with participating in Unleashed Education's photo challenges, I'm also fortunate enough to have Craig as my photography coach and business mentor. When Craig says "Get Lower!" he means it!
I have taken his advice to heart! On every single photo session that I do, I create at least 80% of my images from the "low as I can go" perspective. If I'm lucky, I can position my subject on a perch of some sort, and I can shoot up, such as the image above of Tank, in front of the mirrored wall at MoPop. with the Space Needle reflected in the glass. This shot is "So Seattle" that I've been asked to re-create it for several clients.
After creating many images from the "low as I can go" perspective, I decided to get creative. I bought a pair of neoprene waders and got in the waters of the Puget Sound to see how low I could get in the water, without dunking my camera. This led to the image above that I created. While it's not an astonishing image, it represents the moment in time when I knew I had to get UNDER the water as well. I mean, you can't get any lower than that, right?
The image above is my first attempt at shooting at the water line. It's NOT easy! I have spent the last 18 months perfecting shots like this and have learned so much! But, that's a blog post for another time.
After creating this image, I was hooked on the "get as low as you can" process.
I will utilize picnic tables, park benches, down trees, or large rocks to get the dog positioned above me. Then, I just shoot upwards. These images are usually very engaging and brings all of the focus (AH! A pun!) right to the dog's eyes. Also, This vantage point always lends itself to amazing silhouette images!
Dear reader, I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm an over-achiever. A border collie in human form. My unofficial motto is "If it's worth doing, it's worth over doing". It's not on purpose, mind you. It's just how I roll. I'm a short little person with a bit of a squeaky voice, and rarely get taken seriously, so I've learned if I over achieve, I get taken a little more seriously.
Anyway, this personality trait has spilled over into my photography, so when I get "as low as I can go", that means, I'm laying on my stomach during most photo sessions. Doesn't matter if the grass is wet, or if there is mud or even if I've laid in something....let's say...organic. (Yes, this has happened on more than one occasion.)
Knowing that I'm going to get down and dirty during a photo session, my wardrobe has changed considerably! No longer do I wear my favorite pair of jeans and my cutest tennis shoes because they will get ruined.
I now have a pair of briar pants, several pair of Hunter rain boots, a pair of water resistant overalls and even a pair of fishing waders for shooting on the beach.
I do have to admit to thinking to myself before a session "I'm not going to get wet (or dirty, or muddy), so I'm just going to wear my jeans". Oh, dear reader, I kid myself!
The way I look at it now is if haven't walked away from a photo session covered in dirt and/or mud, or soaking wet, than I haven't done my job.
So, if you ever witness one of my photo session, I will most likely be laying on the ground. This is especially challenging in the snow, because I have a hard time getting up. Rolling over seems to help, but it is the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen and 99% of the time the dog thinks I'm inviting him/her to play and I end up back in the snow on my butt. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Down and dirty is the way to go, in my opinion.
Hugs to your dog!
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Seattle Dog Photographer