Never work with kids or animals? I beg to differ…

On December 20, 2012 by Simon Fleming

I recently had the pleasure of doing a shoot for Sharon Crichton and her company Positive Dog Training. I have been a client of Sharon’s in the past, taking my German Shepherd Maya to two of her 7 week classes covering basic obedience and essential dog training. Her courses and methods, as her business name implies, utilise modern positive reinforcement training techniques. I can say from personal experience that these really work well, and are a far more productive and pleasant way (for both dog and owner) to learn dog obedience and training than some of the alternatives available.

Getting back to the photography side of things, Sharon was needing images for a number of different purposes. Some specific shots for new advertising material she was putting together, images that showed some of her training techniques and general dog handling scenarios, plus some portraits of her and her husband and their two Dalmatians. All the images were shot late in the day at a park close to the city.

These are a few of my favourites from the shoot…


In all the images lighting was courtesy of Nikon speedlights. In the image above I had two firing through a large umbrella (held by an assistant), and after shooting a number of shots and not being quite happy with them I decided to put another speedlight about 20 metres behind Sharon and her dogs to add some separation and interest to the background – which was looking like a boring dark blob. Shot this at 200mm, laying flat on the deck in the grass trying not to get eaten too badly by mosquitos which were prolific that evening.

A simple portrait of Sharon, this time using one speedlight with a Joe McNally version of the 24″ Lastolite Ezybox – an awesome lightweight bit of kit that produces a really nice quality of light from a single speedlight.


As the evening really started to melt into that beautiful last light I grabbed the opportunity to shoot a couple of completely different looking family portraits. Both were shot in very similar positions in the park but in opposite directions – just goes to show how you can really capture a completely different look and feel just by some simple moves sometimes. For these, I had the umbrella back with a couple of speedlights firing through it – the umbrella was tilted upwards to minimise the spill into the foreground. Both were again shot with a 200mm lens, and from a very low angle. Speedlights were gelled warm to blend better with the warm sunlight.



None of these have much Photoshopping going on – I strive to get as close to the mark in camera, and then just a add a few finishing touches to suit my tastes in post processing. It means more planning and tighter execution at time of shooting but it is really satisfying when you come away with images like these – not to mention more time efficient in post.


Once the sun had disappeared I knew we still had the opportunity to make a few more images with a different look by blending flash (through the umbrella again) with the blue twilight. My assistant Ros kept ahead and to the side of Sharon as she walked, whilst I was down on the deck again to capture these.


Ros on VAL duty…


It was a fun and productive evening of shooting, and we came away with some great images. Sharon was a pleasure to work with (which always helps to make better images), and I would thoroughly recommend her services if you are looking for quality dog training.



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