Anyone who follows @freya.and.frankie on Instagram will know that I enjoy capturing their antics and sharing the fun. When professional dog photographer, Nicki Cameron, began to follow them – and after looking at her Instagram posts – I was intrigued as to how she created her beautiful images. And so I decided to commission her to take up the challenge of my two.
Once the formalities of paying the deposit are over – in this case 50% at the time of booking and the final payment the day before the shoot – it’s all about information gathering. Nicki takes both portraits and outdoor shoots; I was looking for spontaneous images taken in the great outdoors, natural and authentic.
“Gleaning as much information as possible on exactly what the owner would like to achieve from the shoot is pure gold.
The more I know, the more successful the result. I’ve been working with dogs for over 15 years and sessions are designed to be relaxed and fun. I’ve lots of tricks up my sleeve and, if all else fails, we can always rely of good old bribery. It’s about making the whole experience to be as enjoyable as possible.” Niki Cameron – Pet & People Photographer
10 Top Tips
ONE: Choose the right photographer. This sounds obvious, but choosing a specialist photographer will make all the difference. Photographers tend to develop an area of expertise – some cover occasions, such as weddings and events, while others prefer studio work, or taking landscapes, static catalogue images, etc. These various specialisms need different skill sets, so it’s crucial you chose one experienced in animal behaviour and genuinely love working with pets. It takes real skill to capture the unique personality of a dog and persuade them to pose.
TWO: Request to see the photographer’s portfolio. Photographers will usually showcase a selection on their website, but if you’re looking for print versions, rather than digital, ask to see a few examples. From this you can then decide which photos you like the look of, which will help the photographer understand your needs.
THREE: Do they offer a free consultation? This is for more in-depth photoshoots. These could include the family, etc, and gives you the opportunity to chat about your ideas and also see if you feel comfortable with the photographer. Having images taken can make you feel awkward and it certainly helps if your feel relaxed around them.
FOUR: Check the detail. What exactly is included in the fee? How much would any additional images cost? What happens if the date you choose doesn’t work out? Frankie ripped her claw a few days before our planned shoot. Nicki was really understanding and postponed without hesitation. Weather is always precarious in the UK. If your shoot is outdoors and it rains, would an alternative be offered and would there be a financial penalty to pay? Can you swap to an indoor shoot if it rains? Do they charge for travel if it’s an external venue? How and when will you be able to access the images to choose from? Clarify everything from the outset so there are no surprises!
FIVE: Decide what type of images you’d like and what you’ll use them for. Posed or action; studio or landscape; a black, soft, or bright background; poster size, cards, or a coffee table book? Your plans will help inform your photographer and they may also be able to offer suggestions.
SIX: Give your chosen photographer as many details as you can about your dog. This will really help prepare them for the day. I was pretty candid. “Both bonkers, relatively good behaviour and used to having their Insta photos taken. Freya can be stubborn and a bit of a diva, but is a trained therapy dog. Frankie is a lockdown puppy, hyper and can be a little anxious, but both are fun loving and friendly. Freya loves tummy rubs and being stroked. Frankie loves to play tuggie. Both enjoy fetch the ball and will do almost anything for treats!” As Nicki was following their Instagram page, she already had a good idea of the challenges that lay ahead.
SEVEN: Location and time of day. If not in a studio or your home, it helps to choose a location either your dog, or your photographer is familiar with. Avoid long grass, your dog will disappear. If you’d like water shots, chose somewhere it’s safe for them to plunge. Blue green algae can be an issue at certain times of year, for example. As my shoot was to be outdoors, I took advice from Nicki as to the best time of day for a natural light. Photographers like to avoid bright sunlight, for example.
EIGHT: Identify any idiosyncrasies. Mine both look bedraggled in water, so this was avoided. They have typical fluff-filled doodle faces, which means something as simple as sniffing in long grass can result in soggy mouths, or in woodland areas, faces full of sticks and soil. Obviously, it depends on the breed of your dog, but doodles notoriously need a comb or two during a shoot – it would seem I didn’t want them to be absolutely natural after all!
NINE: On the day. Bring along your dog’s favourite treats, ball or toys – whatever motivates them to run, jump and play. Initially, your photographer will spend some time with your dog getting to know them. Together you can then stimulate them to encourage the style formation of the shots you’ve decided upon. Also take water for them to drink. Our shoot was on a hot day which resulted in plenty of tongues hanging out – that type of natural I didn’t mind, but they did need several drinks which scuppered the ‘no wet mouths’ bit!
TEN: After the day. Once you’ve established when your photo selection will be available, it’s great fun choosing your favourites. If you’ve agreed full copyright, the photographer will ask for your permission to use any of the images they would like to promote their work. Nicki and I were both thrilled when the above image of Freya and Frankie was awarded first place in iPhotography’s Top 10 for July!
Oh and if you’re delighted with the results, please write them a lovely review – after all referral is the best form of advertising.
“Our session with Nicki was such fun, it was like going on a dog walk with a friend. Nicki’s flexibility is brilliant! When we need to delay our shoot until early evening, it was still too hot for images without tongues, but she managed to take some fabulous photos.“
Sally-Anne, Freya & Frankie
NOTE: This post was created completely independently and not commissioned or sponsored by Nicki