Photographing Dogs with the Westcott Switch

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: August 16, 2018

Category: Photography

A few days ago, along with my wife, I headed down to Essex to visit the folks at Love Under Dogs; a UK based Charity that re-homes stray dogs from the Brasov, Dog Shelter in Romania. Pretty much all the dogs in the shelter have known nothing but pain and suffering all their lives but Love Under Dogs give them the second chance they so deserve by bringing them to the UK and giving them all the medical care and attention they need and of course lots and lots of love.

Love Under Dogs aren’t a huge charity by any means. They’re not one of the BIG organisations like Battersea Dogs Home or Dogs Trust that thankfully receive thousands and thousands in generous donations; quite the opposite in fact.

My wife Anne had been following Love Under Dogs’ Social Media for some time and had donated in the past but over time we both started to think that maybe there was something  we could do to help. The Staff do an incredible job especially given the limited resources but thinking of what I do, the saying of ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is so true so I got in touch offering to come along and take portraits of the dogs to help get them noticed and hopefully a forever home; and that’s exactly what we did.

We headed down a few days ago, met up with one of the founders Karine, members of staff and of course got to hang out with some of the dogs which was emotional in so many ways.

I took some photography kit with me on the off chance I may get to photograph some of the dogs and sure enough did exactly that; you can see a couple of the results below…

Love Underdogs

Charlie was an absolute delight. Such a lovely character who just wanted lots of fuss. He’d run around the play area and then head back straight to me and rest his chin on my leg and look up whilst I rubbed his face and kissed the top of his head. He loved it!

Love Under Dogs

Polina … what a darling. A pup in an adult dogs body, again with such a sweet nature. In fact ALL the dogs we met on this first visit were so sweet which is incredible considering the life they’ve come from.

Below are a few Behind the Scenes pictures from when I was taking some of the portraits…Love Under Dogs

Kit List

The kit I was using was what I refer to as my Anytime, Anywhere Portrait Kit which includes:

… and of course a camera which this time was my Sony A7 RII, but generally with this kit I use a Sony A6500

Great thing with all this kit is that it’s so compact. In fact everything except for the light stand can fit into the bag that the Westcott Switch Rapid Box Beauty Dish comes with, and because it’s so compact and light it means I take it everywhere; hence my Anytime, Anywhere Portrait Kit.

The Westcott Rapid Box Switch Beauty Dish is a SUPERB modifier. Well built, solid, compact, easy and quick to assemble but best of all the exact same modifier I can use with my studio lights OR a speedlight which is in fact what the Switch System Range is all about.

Westcott Switch

Lessons Learned

As for the photography side of things, I learned a ton of stuff…

Obviously photographing people which is what I normally do is very different to photographing dogs; one of the main differences being they don’t / hardly keep still OR look where you want them to look. So, there’s plenty of persuasion in the form of treats and funny noises that comes into play. Some of the dogs didn’t like the flash so moved away after each picture; some didn’t mind it at all like Charlie and Polina.

This first visit was a great tester and great way to re-assess to see other ways to work that will also give great results i.e. use of a reflector instead of a flash, using a long lens to distance myself from the dog so they don’t feel so nervous around kit. One thing that definitely worked well was using the articulated screen on the back of my camera. This I could use for composing the shot, pin pointing the focus but mainly using it so that I didn’t have to hide behind the camera and make the dog nervous…does that make sense?

Setting the camera up to focus on a larger area (i.e. more focus points) and Continuous / Servo focus worked great, as did using a wider lens (16-35mm) to allow for movement of the dog but not have them go out of the frame. Having the flash pretty much on camera axis seemed the best way to go too. This way the dog was only looking in one direction at some strange kit which was towards the camera. Having a flash off to the side made the dog feel nervous as there were two strange items coming from 2 different directions.

Also letting the dogs come up and have a good ole sniff at the kit seemed to help too.

Post Production

So for this visit we stayed in the play area; a secure area for the dogs to run, jump and climb without coming to harm.

Of course there were items all around and with more time and a proper photo shoot next time we can move some of these out of view instead of removing them later in post production. My main concern was to position the dogs to they were between the distant trees and so had sky behind them. Having them with trees directly behind didn’t make take them stand out so well and as the goal here is to make them stand out and get noticed, they were positioned so that the trees either side, sort of framed them.

Then during the retouching it was a case of removing distractions / cleaning up and bring the picture to life with colour, sharpness and contrast…

Love Under Dogs

Love Under Dogs

The Future

I’m going to be heading back there in a couple of weeks to build on what we have discussed and done so far. I’ll be taking more portraits but what I am looking to do in addition to this is to teach the staff how to take the portraits, show them the minimal kit they would need and also (possibly) arranging for small groups to come along and one by one take portraits. This was everyone will benefit; folks learning how to take pictures, funds being raised for Love Under Dogs and ultimately helping to find homes for these wonderfully loving and forgiving furry friends.

Check out the current Love Under Dogs website at this link:

Also make sure to follow them on Social Media:

and hey if you can help in any way be it spreading the word, donating even the smallest amount OR even adding to your family, that would be FANTASTIC!

Thanks for looking in,

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