Dog Show Photography Tips from Randy Roberts
Randy Roberts gives us an advanced institute in successful show win photography.
Randy literally grew up in the sport. His grandparents started in purebred dogs in the ‘30s breeding Lhasa Apso, miniature Poodles and English Cocker Spaniels. His dad started dog show win photography in the Pacific Northwest in the late ‘40s after World War II. Randy himself shot his first show at 15 years old.
What’s your Best Side?
The exhibitor’s job is to properly position the dog for the photographer, to know where the camera is looking. Every dog has its best angle and each exhibitor needs to know what that is.
Case study: the long and the short of it
As an example, a beautiful headed dog on an animal that is perhaps a bit long-backed for the breed, use a three-quarter angle, bringing the front slightly toward the camera. Randy notes that the photographer should have read all standards and know the breeds. But equally important is for the exhibitors to have read their standards and to KNOW what’s good and bad about their animals.
Photography Time Limits
Be aware of a judge’s schedule and be courteous to the judge, photographer and other exhibitors by not spending an inordinate amount of time chatting about your dog. Dog shows don’t revolve around YOUR schedule. It is not recommended to ask for a win photo before the end of a “set” of dogs and then, only if the judge has time available before the next time slot is scheduled to begin.
Randy Roberts: The View from Shoulder Height
What the camera sees is very different from what exhibitor sees. The camera is at shoulder height to the dog, while the exhibitor is looking down. That difference in angle means the exhibitor doesn’t always have a grasp of what the photographer sees in the lens. Trust your photographer to give you guidance if you are unsure. Often a foot will be offset slightly in order to create depth to the image, and so on.
Get up, stand up!
Just like for people, posture is important for your dog! You can bring the body up by lifting the head so the dog isn’t slumping. Here it’s also important to use bait properly. Baiting is not just feeding the dog. You want to make the dog reach, make it come up over its front, reach up, then bring the bait down to get the arch of neck if that’s your goal.
Case study: “The camera is going to steal my soul”
Some dogs appear to think the camera is going to steal their soul. Whether the dog is shy, reactive or simply inexperienced, the camera is a big, scary piece of glass and the dogs can see light through the lens. This can be stressful for the dog. Get the dog to relax, change his focus to something other than the camera. Spend time just hanging out with the photographer — sit with the dog on the podium to desensitize him to the area. And remember, you the exhibitor may well be jacked up and the dog will react to your jangling nerves also.
Dog Show Photographer Pet Peeves and Innovations
Don’t stand across the room and tell me the shot wasn’t good, Randy says. “If you want to see the actual shot, by all means, stand next to me. I want you to get the shot you want. But if you can’t see what I see, don’t criticize.”
Online photos and digital images have been both a blessing and a challenge, Randy says. “We trained everybody for 50 years that you get two 8”x10” prints in the mail,” he adds. “Changing that culture is difficult, but digital is where we need to go.”
Parting words from Randy Roberts
“Don’t forget to smile,” Randy reminds us all. “The reason you see me is you just won. Smile, have a great time.”
Randy Roberts Biography
Randy Roberts grew up with a camera in hand. His experience with photography started in the dog show business shooting professional photographs by his father’s side. Randy credits his dad in guiding his career in photography by giving his his first professional assignment was at the age of 15 in Billings MT, and mentoring him in the business and art of professional photography. Developing thousands of prints in the dark room as a child helped give Randy a thorough understanding of presentation and developing a photograph. He spent seventeen years in the family business until it expanded out of photography. Then for the next 15 years he did photography for pleasure only.
Randy recently rekindled his passion in the photography world when digital photography emerged on the forefront of photography. Though originally he only shot with medium and large format cameras he finds that digital photography gives him a creative outlet that was not available to him with these traditional methods.
His initial goal was to reestablish himself as one of the top dog show photographers in the US. In the last two years his vision has expanded into fine art photography. He has poured new passion, energy and love into creating prints that are a dramatic and beautiful. His desire is to share his passion for these beautiful prints with others.
Randy does the complete package of taking, editing, and framing his pictures.. RandyRobertsPhotos.com
Allison Foley: Wet Towel Trick Tip of the Week
5 - 10 minutes prior to entering the ring, stand your dog on a wet towel.
- Traction - Wet pads help maintain traction indoors or outdoors.
- Don't use anti-slip products that just pick up chalk and dirt, and prevent your dog's pads from cooling.
- Mental preparation - Triggers the dog that it is time to focus and prepare to enter the ring.
- Creates a no-go zone for you and your dog - a private space ringside.
More tips and courses available at Leading Edge Dog Show Academy.