Photographing Four-Legged Friends with Larrie Barlow
“My favourite thing about photographing dogs is their diversity. They come in all shapes, sizes, textures, colours… and without a doubt, a million and one expressions!” It’s always inspiring to meet photographers who are passionate about their subject, and Larrie is a prime example. He loves photography, he loves getting creative with his art, and he loves using his skills to capture the unique personalities of man’s best friend.
I’m passionate about my photography and I thrive on new projects that test the creativity and artistic flair from within,” he tells us, “I’ve lived in the Cotswolds most of my life. I love the countryside and everything in it, with a big love for dogs of all shapes and sizes.” A professional photographer with almost 30 years experience, Larrie’s captured everything from sports photography for universities, to firefighters facing down a blaze while working for the Fire Service College. “I’ve photographed so many weird and wonderful things; stuntmen and women on fire, explosions, riots, royalty and VIPs. I’ve taken portraits of everyone from town criers to clowns, from models to Elvis impersonators, from foreign princesses to ghosts!”
“I’ve always been interested in photography, I used to take black and white photos of the dogs at home as a teenager.” Larrie’s photography might have blossomed into a varied photography career, but using his camera to capture the humble dog has maintained a firm place in his heart. “They can be unpredictable – attentive, loving, playful or stubborn, which means they’re great fun to photograph.”
Larrie doesn’t just photograph his own pets. He’s had his work published in multiple magazines, and first started working with renowned animal welfare charity Dogs Trust around 20 years ago. He’s since visited Dogs Trust centres all around the country, using his photography skills and love of animals to capture gorgeous portraits of dogs in need. “I’ve also done photo shoots for Dogs for Good (a charity focused on training assistance and support dogs) which like the others, was great fun.”
For Larrie, sharing his creative skills with animal charities is a way of giving back. “Dogs Trust will always have a special meaning for me. My first dog came from there, and quite a few since! I visit Dogs Trust Kenilworth every few months to take photos specifically of dogs who are harder to re-home. I also help raise money at their Annual Fun Day by doing pet portraits.”
It takes a dog lover to capture the quirks and charms of each individual dog, and this is apparent in Larrie’s photography. Each shot shines with personality, from endearing head-tilts to an expectant lolling tongue. If you’ve got a four-legged friend you think the world of, Larrie’s kindly shared his top tips for capturing them at their best.
Dog Photography Tips
Photograph in familiar surroundings
“To ensure the best environment for photographing a dog, it’s all about letting them do what they want to do in their own familiar surroundings. So the photo shoot can be on their usual walking route or at their home, it’s all about making sure they feel safe and at ease.”
Be patient, let the dog settle
“When I visit a client’s home the first thing that happens is that the owners start trying to get their dog to do things e.g. sit, lay down, wait, look at me and so on. I always suggest that the dog is left to do whatever they like until they become settled. This can take a long time, but if you want the best out of the dog then you should prepare to be patient. It’s worth the wait.”
No one knows a dog better than their owner
“A point to remember when trying to capture photos portraying the dog’s character; no one knows the dog’s personality better than their two-legged companions. Only the owners would recognise specific characteristics of their individual dog, like the way an ear occasionally flops or a tilting head and attentive look, a stuck lip or wrinkled nose. It’s important to get as much information as you can from the people they share their lives with before you start.”
Capture an excited dog at speed
“Use focus tracking to keep the subject in focus, especially when they are running and darting about. Use backbutton focusing for a quick reaction to the dog’s change of direction, and use a fast shutter speed for freezing those action shots.”
“Always avoid using flash, many dogs are wary of it. If light is low or fading, it’s better to use a higher ISO setting.”
Always come bearing gifts
“Don’t forget props! Bring some favourite treats to ensure cooperation, like cheese, cocktail sausages or favourite toys. Come prepared with that squeaker, and you just might get that great shot you’re looking for.”
Get down at eye level and engage
“General advice for anyone trying their paw at dog photography would be to get on the same eye level as the dog. Too often photos are taken stood up looking down at the dog. Engage with them, make it fun for the dog and they won’t disappoint.
‘Most importantly, have fun yourself! Don’t be afraid to get muddy or wet, it’ll wash out and you’ll dry off.”