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Getting Started As a Dog Photographer – Interview with Tracy Kidd

Marianne Stenger
5th March 2019

Photographing animals can be challenging and unpredictable, but all the effort and patience that goes into it is so worth it when you finally get the photographs you envisioned. Dogs in particular are fun to work with, and the close bond they share with humans is always rewarding to capture.

Each year, the Kennel Club runs its Dog Photographer of the Year competition, which receives submissions from both amateur and professional photographers all around the world.

Last year’s winner in the category ‘Dogs at Work’ was Darlington-based events and portrait photographer Tracy Kidd. Her photograph shows of a group of tired but happy spaniels and retrievers who are ready to head home after participating in a pheasant shoot.

In addition to photographing dogs, Tracy frequently also covers equestrian events. We asked her to tell us a bit about her award winning photograph and process as a photographer, as well the challenges and joys of her job.

How did you get started as a photographer?

I decided, at the age of 40, that I wanted to follow my passion and become a professional photographer. Being a mum and having horses as well as a busy husband that works away a lot, I decided that I would teach myself, along with some help from courses and online tuition. Studying this way meant I could be more flexible in my learning.

Social media can be a powerful tool, and once I had a built up a strong portfolio was able to share my work more widely, the jobs started to come in. This doesn’t happen overnight, of course, but I had given myself five years to learn the job and get to a standard I was proud of.

Since I owned horses and also loved being outside, I went down the equestrian route. Country sports followed, and dogs have now become a large part of my work.

Can you tell us about your winning photograph? What’s the story behind it?

The ‘Wayne’s Team’ image came about when I was out on a pheasant shoot last season. I was following the gun dogs especially as it’s amazing to see them all working together. They are so well trained.

At lunch time I asked Wayne if I could get a photo of all his girls together. We popped them in the back of the truck and that’s when I caught the winning image. I decided to enter the competition and I was absolutely thrilled when I found I’d won the Dogs at Work category.

What is your favourite part about working with animals?

I love being outside and having to work out the light. You always have to watch for the right moment and try to be in the right place at the right time. It takes some planning, but it’s also so unpredictable and that’s the fun. I never know really how it’s going to go or what I might end up shooting.

But the best thing about it all is making people happy, and giving them something they love to have forever. Photographs are powerful things.

What photography equipment do you rely on when photographing animals?

I use Nikon D800’s and a D850 with a 24-70mm 2.8 lens. I also used a 70 to 200mm 2.8 lens to get in closer. I don’t use a lot of flash outside as it can scare the animals.

Do you prefer working indoors or outdoors?

I really love working outdoors. It’s exciting trying to find different backdrops and locations to shoot. Learning about light is essential and can make all the difference to your work. After all, that is what photography is all about – light.

What are some of the challenges of working with animals?

The hardest part about working with animals is getting them to behave the way you want them to. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t, so you need to be prepared to try something else.

There’s usually a way to make it work though. I’m very relaxed and I always make an effort to help my clients feel that way too. You can’t guarantee the behaviour of an animal, so try to have a fluid plan before you go and be prepared for anything.

Do you have any advice for photographers looking to get into this area of photography?

Start by using social media as a platform to showcase your work. It’s free after all. Try to find a way to be a bit different so that your work will stand out and make an impression on people.

Buy the best lenses you can afford and then spend all your waking hours photographing and practicing, as this is the best way to improve.

You will also need to make sure you are in the right places to photograph what you want. If you want to photograph dogs, start by going where the people with the dogs are. Look for interesting places to shoot from and pay attention the light. When is the best to be there?

When you’re just starting out, you may need to volunteer your services for free to build up a reputation and portfolio online. Don’t be afraid of doing this, because you will need the images to show off as much as they do and you never know what doors it can open. Most importantly, just keep shooting and never give up.

Want to find out more about Tracy’s work or see some of her photography? You can visit her website Tracy Kidd Photography or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.