Unleashed Education Blog

Shannon's Mentoring Session with Kierrah the Boxer X

mentoring Nov 26, 2013

I choose my models for mentoring sessions very carefully, as I want my students to have the best possible experience. Most of the time, I prefer to use dogs who have a good level of obedience so we can concentrate on the photography side of things, not having to worry too much or waste valuable learning time trying to work with untrained dogs. That said, with students more advanced in the photography side of things, I absolutely will use an untrained dog, as working with the dog is a very important part of successfully photographing them.

This mentoring session fell into the former category, so when I read through 10-month-old Kierrah's model application, I knew she was the girl for us. Her mum Brittany said:

"Despite her age, Kierrah is a very well behaved dog and has a great recall. Off-leash is no problem and not much will distract her from my commands. She is a beautiful natured dog and is happy to be near anyone. She is very well socialised with other animals as I foster dogs all the time and she has grown up around my horse and cattle."


We started off in the dog park where Kierrah could race around chasing a ball, allowing us to practice action shots.

She also sat prettily for treats, showing us her personality with those expressive eyes and gorgeous head wrinkles and showering us with love in the breaks.

Here's Shannon working with Kierrah herself - I always allow lots of time for this so my students can get some valuable real-world experience.

Kierrah indulged all our strange requests, which involved balancing on logs. This is the technique I love to use during sessions as it is actually easier to set up than it looks - which gives the owner or handler a real sense of achievement! With the dog elevated, it's also much easier to shoot upwards and create a clutter free background. I talk about this type of shot more in my e-book Dog Shots, in the chapter "Log On".

About halfway through the session, we, unfortunately, lost the sunshine. An injection of colour by other means can make up for it though, it's no secret that I love colour in my images! I've been dying to shoot at this graffiti wall location since I spotted it and scouted it with my dog Luna a few weeks prior.

Kierrah absolutely rocked it in front of the graffiti walls. Graffiti can be distracting though so in order to keep the focus on my subject, I prefer to sit the dog out from the wall a little and use a shallow depth of field to blur the details, resulting in abstract colour rather than recognisable imagery.

Though if the design is based on fewer colours and is bold enough, it can be good to use the graffiti as an area of interest in the background.

Kierrah worked for us beautifully, happy to please her mum and sneak in lots of cuddle moments for myself and my mentor student Shannon. We fell in love with her and I did consider stealing her for myself!

Find out more about my one-on-one pet photography mentoring and get in touch if you'd like to book your own.

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