A few weeks ago me and Charlie (the dog) swapped our usual Sunday morning routine of lounging around the house for something a wee bit different. We jumped into the car and headed into the city bright and early for a dog photography class. The class was organised by Kilometre Zero with Ally Jones as our teacher. Ally is a professional dog walker as well a fully trained photographer so knows a thing or two about taking great dog pictures. If you like cute dog photos (who doesn’t) make sure you follow his Instagram.
With Charlie being a country dog this was all very exciting for him. Holyrood Park in Edinburgh is very different from our usual spots with lots of cars, dogs and people to speak too. Considering me and Charlie are lucky if we meet another dog walker during our usual walk through the fields I was worried it would all be too much for him. However, Charlie was in his element with everyone giving him attention and lots of grass to run around on.
Ally was great him and you could tell he really loved dogs. And trust me if you can handle my crazy beast then you really love dogs. He’s made a friend for life with Charlie even playing fetch with him. My dog normally only fetches the ball for Mr B – no one else can throw it far enough for Charlie. Honestly, he stands and looks at me like ‘what kind of throw is that’ whenever I try to play. So that must mean he liked Ally.
Once all the introductions were over it was time to get stuck in learning how to get photos of our dog. I take a lot of photos of the dog if you look through the camera roll on my phone it’s mostly pictures of him. But I wouldn’t say any of them were very good. Yes, they’re fine for sharing on Facebook or Instagram but I won’t be printing any out to display in the house anytime soon. So I was keen to learn how to get decent shots of the dog. In particular, action shots as Charlie is a bit of a poser so portraits are pretty easy to get.
The idea of the class is to learn how to use your own camera so I took along my not very fancy Olympus Pen. Within about 2 minutes Ally had figured out all my camera settings. Now if you want an idea of my photography skills I had no clue these settings existed. I’m very much a point and shoot photographer. So poor Ally had his work cut out with me. And to matters worse, we all know how hard it is working with teachers. But he was very patient with me and explain how the camera works in a way I could understand (baring in mind this was a Sunday morning my levels of understanding were very low). Then came the fun bit practising my new found ‘skills’. I think I managed to get a few good photos of Charlie if I do say so myself. And picked up a few tips to try out on our walks together.
I’m not going to go into details on camera settings etc because I don’t really understand what I’m talking about. And you’ll have to sign up to a class for that information. But I wanted to share a couple of tips I picked up which we can all try out no matter what camera you have.
I have a tendency to snap a picture from where I’m standing which is often the path while Charlie is running through the field. But Ally suggested getting up close to Charlie and what a difference it makes. Luckily he is pretty comfortable with me shoving a camera in his face so I can get as close as I want. As everything in life is a game to Charlie having a ball in your hand helps too. You can see the details of his face in the close-up images and since Charlie has such an expressive face that’s what you want to see.
I laughed in Ally’s face when he suggested this. Please remember I have a very active collie and I’m very small and slow so there was no chance of me keeping up with him. However, I did manage to get a few shots running with Charlie before he took off and left me standing. The idea behind this is that the camera finds it easy to focus if it’s moving at the same pace as the dog. This should mean less blurry pictures. This is a tip that I’m going to try out on our walks together as it makes taking photos more of a game for our dog. I know Charlie loved having me running around with him.
Whether it’s playing about with your camera settings or trying different techniques it’s good to experiment. At the end of the day, one of the best things about digital photography is you can delete photos. So why not try something different the worst that can happen is a blurry photo. I think for someone like me with pretty non-existent photography skills experimenting is the best way to learn how your camera works.
Oh and have a ball handy!
If you’re in Edinburgh and fancy learning some dog photography tips and tricks with Ally the next workshop in on Sunday 6th August in Holyrood Park. You can book your place here. And if you happen to be looking for a dog walker I highly recommend Ally. Charlie loved him and you can tell Ally really enjoys working with dogs. If he covered our area I would 100% hire him for Charlie’s walks. You can find out more at the Hiking Hounds Facebook page.
* I was offered a free place at the workshop in return for this review. It’s also worth mentioning that I went to school with Ally so had an existing relationship with him. However, as usual all thoughts and opinions are my own.