Roslyn’s Mentoring Session with Unit the American Staffordshire Terrier
I drove into the carpark rubbing sleep from my eyes. After staying up late to pick my partner up from the airport, then leaving to get to Claisebrook Cove in East Perth for our bright and early 5.30am start, there wasn’t much sleep to be had the night before! Luckily the en-route coffee kicked in pretty quickly and by the time my mentoring student Roslyn and doggy model for the morning Unit and his mum Sophie arrived (after having travelled even further!) we were well and truly raring to go!
The second of my Perth mentoring sessions, we decided upon an urban spot as the location. These environments can be challenging to shoot in but also a great way to test out your composition skills and explore the effects of different focal lengths on perspective.
While we were initially greeted with a clouded sunrise, it did give us the opportunity to shoot with some softer light along this wooden jetty which faced directly east. Luckily, Unit has been trained to advanced level in obedience so was great at long distance stays! In these shots, we were shooting with a long (for me, my 70-200mm) lens to carve out a narrow slice of background behind Unit and reduce the cluttered background.
Unit’s recalls were also really great, so we made use of that to practice some “run to me” action shots. Before we started shooting I’d introduced Roslyn to the back button focusing method which I find gives a great tracking success rate for these types of shots – and indeed all forms of shooting!
Another method to reduce a cluttered background is to elevate the dog and shoot upwards – usually into trees or buildings. I love Unit’s leg markings and white feet, so this was a good opportunity to focus on these.
Heading off for a walk around the neighbourhood, I always keep an eye out for interesting colours and textures. We were lucky enough to find this fantastic red wall! If a client ordered this image, there’s a couple of little Photoshop edits I would make before sending it to print, including removing the grate on the left and the sprinklers from the garden. Anything to simplify and remove distractions is a good idea, especially if the image is being viewed every day on a wall.
With the sun finally making an appearance and the sky clearing to a beautiful pure blue, it was time for some full sun shots of Unit on a grassy green hill. The green and blue in this shot has been enhanced slightly in Lightroom using the HSL panel, by reducing the Luminescence (brightness) and increasing the Saturation of the two colours. Just to give the image a little extra pop!
When location scouting the previous day I’d taken a few reference shots. This shows a corner of the park with a couple of photo possibilities – can you spot them?
The red pebbled areas provided interesting colours and textures for some cute “puppy dog eyes” shot of Unit.
While the log provided a handy way to elevate Unit and shoot upwards into the tree and blue sky to reduce ground-level clutter.
Due to the way this location was laid-out, there weren’t many opportunities for backlighting, but plenty for shooting in full sun! This little corner of the park featured some interesting grasses and low bushes, providing some greenery – a nicer background in my opinion than the surrounding houses.
There was a tiny beach on the waterfront so at the end of the session we let loose and did some blind action shooting. Sometimes the best way of getting personality-filled shots is to interact with the dog directly, though it does take practice to shoot and play simultaneously! I recommend using a hand strap on your camera to help keep a grip when shooting one-handed in these situations.
Unit was pretty keen to settle down with a good stick for a well-earned chew, so we finished up with some wide-angle ground level shots of him enjoying his prize. Shooting at wide angle (24mm for this shot) and with a shallow depth of field (f2.8) blurs the background and “throws” it further away due to the perspective – keeping the focus of the image firmly on the subject.
This is what Roslyn had to say about her pet photography mentoring session:
Charlotte clearly has a passion for what she does and I think it is fantastic that she is so willing to share her knowledge with aspiring photographers. The mentoring session was a great mix of technical and practical topics and I definitely feel more confident in using my camera, managing a photo shoot and processing my images. I am looking forward to applying everything that I learnt to all my photographic work, not just dog photography!
Check out the mentoring information if you’re interested in booking your own session.
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