This is the best pet photographer in the world
- Credit: Ian Boichat Origin Studios
'Photographing dogs for me is really about getting images that capture the character of the dog, whether that’s playful, soulful, dignified or just plain nuts!' says Ian Boichat, the newly crowned International Pet Photographer of the Year.
Working at his new studio in the village of Flaunden, after a decade in nearby Bricket Wood, Ian specialises in dogs, families and commercial photography but has photographed everything from cats to horses.
'In some ways many of the animal photos I take are similar to human portraits, especially those which have more of a headshot pose rather than showing the whole animal,' Ian explains. 'I love pet portraits with direct eye contact as I feel that really helps the owner or person viewing the image to connect with the animal.'
The Master Photographers Association, which judges thousands of entries from around the world each year, said of Ian's winning image of Ziggy the Italian greyhound that 'the elegance of the pedigree dog showing so much pride and poise just shone through'.
So how does he do it? Never work with animals or children is the old adage, and Ian does both, what's his secret?
'Animal photography is not without its challenges. It’s fair to say that communicating with animals is a little more difficult than with humans! I am quite fluent in dog though and I also have some tricks up my sleeve whether that’s making ridiculous noises - I’ll do anything for the shot - or using a tasty treat. I find a treat will motivate even the most uncooperative pooch! I also photograph horses in my studio and let's just say whilst they are beautiful animals I have had some photo shoots where I’ve spent more time cleaning up after them than behind the lens!'
Is there any camera trickery involved to get the finished result?
'In the studio the lighting I use enables the photographs to pull out amazing details, for example in their eyes or fur, but this does mean we have to get them to sit or stand in exactly the right spot. I find patience is a skill I use on a daily basis!
'Much as we do with humans we try and present the animals in their best light, so once I have taken the photo I have been known to spend hours in Photoshop removing dust, dirt and often drool from the image, even dogs don’t want a bad hair day immortalised in a photo.'
Being passionate about animals is also key to relating well to his subjects, Ian adds. And he's had a lot of practice outside his profession too, owning many different animals in his 54 years, including his current one, a four-year-old Bernese mountain dog called Dylan.
With cameras so readily available on smartphones, does he have any tips for the amateur?
'Most dog and cat owners have many photos of their pets but these days they are often snaps taken on a phone which are great at capturing moments but less likely to be the sort of image that you would want to have on your wall. I’m a big fan of printing photos however as they are more likely to be appreciated than hiding away on a hard drive somewhere. I do find that many of my clients would prefer a portrait of their pet on the wall than their own family!
'Sadly many pets don’t live as long as we might like. They leave a massive hole in our lives when they go and a beautiful portrait is a lovely way to keep their memory alive. The response from my clients when they see the finished artworks is what makes this genre of photography so worthwhile.'