Now that you’ve booked your stay at our dog friendly inn North Wales with your dogs, why not capture memories of the time you’ve spent with them in the Ceiriog Valley.
Jonathan Yearsly is an award-winning dog photographer who has been capturing muddy paws for the best part of 10 years.
Below he shares some of his professional tips on how to get snappy happy with your dogs when you are next out enjoying life with them.
Get down to their level
The number one recommendation I would make to help create the best images of your dogs. I’m not suggesting that everyone spend the majority of their day lying in the mud as I do on a typical dog photo session, but it does make a massive difference to the final image. When we are down low, the camera is typically in line with the dog’s eye level, and there is a real connection between our dogs and us. You can almost see what they are thinking. It allows us to see that beautiful light in those sharp, focused eyes. We all know how much our dogs want our attention, so why not ensure we have that in the images we capture.
Focus on their eyes
It’s so crucial that the eyes are in focus. We might love our dog’s wet nose and happy smile, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s their eyes that are an essential element in an image. So unless I want to focus on another feature of a dog’s face, my photographs must have the dog’s eyes entirely in focus. Use your camera’s focus selection facility to make sure that you select that part of the face when you take a photograph. Use noises, important words, or treats to ensure you get the eye contact you desire.
Get them up on something
If you struggle to keep your dogs in place for the photograph, sometimes putting them up on a log, seat, or boulder will help. Please make sure they are safe and happy in the place you have put them, but use that time where they pause and survey where they are to take the shot. It’s an excellent opportunity to show them in the environment too. Perhaps you have a perfect vista of the mountains behind them or a particularly moody sky like this image.
Watch the direction/strength of the light
Think about the time of the day you are taking the photographs. Like humans, soft light is the most flattering for dogs. We want to work with the light to create the best images possible, rather than fighting the harsh light we often find around midday. So think about when you might be out with the dogs; earlier in the morning and late afternoons tend to have the best light. The sun is lower in the sky, and the shadows are far less pronounced. It also helps us show the dog’s fur, colouring and even muscle tone that much better. If you get it right, like in the image above, you can put the light behind the dog but generally have it behind you instead. Place yourself so the sun is behind your shoulder, the dog is looking towards you, and you will make sure you light up that face beautifully.
Photograph them in action and enjoying life
Such a great natural environment surrounds the West Arms, and it’s likely your dog will be off lead and zooming around enjoying themselves. So as well as looking to create calm and serene portraits, don’t forget to show them enjoying their time outdoors. For my sessions, I quickly work out what the dogs like to do most and work with them to create the most fantastic action images. Use their favourite ball or throw to direct them to run in a specific direction towards the camera and try and get your timing right so that you show them focused on the ball.
Make the most of the seasons
Wales certainly has all four seasons, and the landscape changes so much throughout the year. So look out for elements that highlight the time of the year you are out with the dogs. Whether it’s the stunning colours of the heathers in full bloom or perhaps there is a light scattering of snow on the ground. The colours and the contrast to your dogs help them stand out and makes for extraordinary images.
Capture them together
When you’ve more than one dog, it’s always lovely if you can photograph them enjoying their relationships with each other. Whether it’s a group shot of them sitting all together (hard to capture, I’m sure, but something I have to be able to create for all my clients) or them chasing each other down the track, it helps to show how they interact and enjoy each others company. Of course, you can always photograph them together on a lead as well; give them all something to focus on so that you don’t have to contend with all the dogs looking in different directions. Throwing a stone or a treat in the direction you want them to look is a great trick to get them engaged for that perfect shot.
Think about different locations
The Ceiriog Valley and surrounding locations offer many photographic options and dog friendly inn North Wales to explore with our dogs. For example, you could head to one of our nearby country parks to explore the mountain views or get wet in a river stream. Or how about taking a visit to Chester for the day?
Don’t forget the fun elements too
Not every image you take needs to be perfect or for the wall. Sometimes the shots you thought didn’t work turn out to capture the dog that you know best. It could be the way they looked at you at that particular moment or how their tongue is always sitting out of the side of their mouth. These make for great memories. Also, think about the whole day’s experience, bundling the dogs into the back of the car or how wet they always end up at the end of their walk. It’s all part of life as a dog owner.
Back at the hotel
When you’re staying at such a dog-friendly inn North Wales destination like the West Arms, don’t forget to take a few images to record the dogs enjoying the hotel too. Whether it’s sleeping at your feet in the bar area, drying off in front of the fire or enjoying the beer garden, the West Arms is an excellent backdrop to recording your stay away with the dogs.
Would you prefer to book a professional?
Celebrating my tenth year as a dog photography specialist, I’m very fortunate to have the stunning landscape of the North Wales countryside on my doorstep. Clients book with me to create timeless images of their dogs enjoying time outdoors and the relationship they have with them. As a special treat, I’d like to offer clients of the West Arms the chance to book a complimentary session with me during their stay. Based in a rural location nearby, we spend an hour in a fantastic country park enjoying the heathland and views across the Clywdian mountains and Cheshire plains. Get in touch when you’ve booked your stay at the West Arms, and I will confirm my availability.
Written by Jonathan Yearsley.