Dogsonality – a guide to creative dog photography by Elke Vogelsang
Elke started her talk with a short history of how a series of family crises meant that she used photography to cope with the pressure. She was looking after her mother-in-law who was suffering from dementia, then her father died which meant her mother needed helping. As this was all happening, she found her husband unconscious in the bath. He had suffered from an aneurysm and spent three months in hospital.
Elke had already taken up a project of taking a photo every day and continued with the project. She tried everything to photograph and this gave her a creative outlet during this stressful time. Walking her dogs and taking photographs was a great help.
In May 2011 she registered a business as a photographer but continued her part time job as a translator of technical English into German. She took photos of her dogs and client’s dogs, usually outdoors, which she preferred, but also in the studio which she found less interesting. She kept taking photos every day for two years and would write articles for websites to publicise her photographic work. While on holiday the website Bored Panda featured her in an article, she didn’t have time to select the photos to illustrate the piece so asked the website to choose. They chose to focus on her studio shots and the piece went viral. She became famous for her studio shots of dogs not her outdoor shots and hasn’t looked back.
She gave us her 10 Golden Rules of
- Separating subject from background: large aperture, long focal length, distance between subject and background, large sensor.
- Telephoto lens for portraits: 200mm for elegant and action shots, 12mm for heavily distorted quirky shot, 24mm for funny cartoon character look.
- Eye level viewpoint.
- Eyes always sharp: at least 1/400 sec, continuous focus, single point focus.
- Subject not in middle of frame.
- Space for gaze to look into.
- Fast shutter speed to freeze moment: if outdoors 1/1250 sec, no more than 5 frames a second, fast memory card, image stabilisation off.
- Dog looking happy: interested, motivated, ears up and forward. Elke uses noises (whispering, whistle, kazoo, swanee whistle, do not introduce loud noises too soon), treats (save best ones till last) and toys to keep the dogs interested – beware of using a ball as the dog may have a ball obsession.
- Light is everything. One strobe with soft box, reflectors. If outdoors overcast sky or have subject in shadow. Careful with black and white dogs, don’t blow out the highlights.
These rules only apply as long as you cant come up with something creative.
She added that rather than just the ‘hero shot’ have a go at producing picture series, these are fun and improves your eye for detail. She showed us the work of photographers she admires: Andrew Knapp and his Find Momo series, Tanja Brandt and her dog and bird series and Claudio Piccoli with his dogs in action series.
For someone who is creative and very talented Elke says that talent is overrated. Tenacity, continuity, and patience is far more important than talent.
Her images were stunning, creative and captured the personality of her subjects.