How to photograph your pets
PUBLISHED: 15:41 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:41 04 September 2017
© 2016 Martin Tosh
He only recently discovered photography, but Martin Tosh's ability to capture the character of people's beloved pets has earned him a major internationally-acclaimed accolade
As Martin Tosh travels the nation’s highways behind the wheel of his car transporter, his mind is not on the miles still to go but the light as it dances across the land he passes.
An aspiring photographer, he has just been named runner up in the Rescue Dog category of the Kennel Club’s annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition – which received almost 10,000 entries from 74 different countries across the globe. For Martin, who is completely self taught and only took up photography three years ago, it was an incredible achievement.
The winning photograph was taken on Hunstanton beach of his sister’s rescue dog Fly captured in full joy against the magnificent sunset.
“It wasn’t for an official booking, it was just a family day out, but the light was absolutely fantastic with the sunset creating this incredible silhouette. Sometimes there is a magic moment, when everything comes together,” he said.
“Fly is a gorgeous dog. He is a border collie who was given up by his original owners then given to a farmer to help herd cattle in the Peak District. He obviously wasn’t very good and instead he was left tied up most days and never walked, so my sister asked if she could take him. Now he is a very happy dog who absolutely loves his walks.”
Martin, who lives in Norwich with his wife Fiona and cats Nala and Willow, became interested in photography after Fiona began taking pictures of her late mother’s garden.
“I think she found it a therapeutic thing to do. We bought a better camera and I gradually became more and more interested. I really loved trying out new things and learning different techniques; now it is a complete obsession.
“I followed video tutorials, listened to podcasts and enrolled on online courses. I am very self-critical and I practice all the time, doing things again and again to hone my skills. One of the most crucial things is understanding light; you suddenly spend your whole life obsessed with it.”
Martin has always been an animal lover and grew up with cats and dogs, so a lot of his photography focuses on capturing the character of people’s pets.
“I bumped into somebody a couple of years ago when I was at Surlingham Ferry, taking photographs of an old sailing boat. The owner asked whether he could have a couple of the photographs so I passed on my details. When he looked on my website he saw some pictures I had taken of my cats and asked if he could book a pet photography session for his son’s black cat Lola. It was my first official shoot and it has grown from there.”
He says juggling his day job as a car transporter driver and his work as a photographer is tricky.
“Driving up and down the motorway you see lots of great scenes and the most amazing light at different times of the day, but obviously you can’t stop and take photographs so it can be incredibly frustrating. But when I am not behind the wheel, Norfolk is the most wonderful inspiring place. I love being out with my camera on the Broads at Hickling and Strumpshaw and on the north Norfolk coast.”
Here are Martin’s top tips for photographing your pet
Take photos somewhere your pet is comfortable and relaxed. Having a second person to help is always handy; while you concentrate on getting the shots they can squeak favourite toys to draw out that cute head tilt.
Get down and view the world from your pet’s perspective.
Make the experience fun. Let your pet sniff around and play, then let your pet investigate the camera before you get started and try giving them a treat or favourite toy each time you press the shutter the first few times.
Most pets move pretty fast. If you have manual controls set a fairly fast shutter speed or select sport mode to freeze the action.
You will get more beautiful looking photographs of your pet in the hours just after sunrise or before sunset, when the light is softer and golden.