Ottawa Dog Blog had the chance to interview Ottawa dog photographer Suzanne Bird. This will be the first of a series of interviews with photographers, artists and local businesses dedicated to our four legged furry friends.
How would you classify or explain your style of dog photography?
I like to capture moments as they happen, my training is in photojournalism and I worked as a staff photographer for close to 10 years. My mission is to move my clients when they see their final images in their hard covered coffee table books. I want them to capture the bond that exists and tell their story.
How did you get into doing dog-related photography?
It was a natural mesh between two passions and I was able to make a career out the two. While on maternity leave with my first child I was inspired by these fantastic dog images in editorial magazines. I loved the way the photos had a real life feel to them, but captured the feel of editorial photography. I have always been adding little quotes or sayings to my dog’s expressions, so I started to document their personalities and the business blossomed from there.
When did you first realize you are a photographer?
Probably on my first big assignment for my newspaper, but that’s the cool thing about being a photographer, the realization hits me almost once a week. My intrigue, inspiration and desire for this business has never waffled and I love the freedom and creative license it gives me.
Could you tell us some more about your work?
I am trained to capture moments and in photojournalism you are trained to capture images that speak volumes about the action at that time. There is nothing more satisfying than photographing a subject that truly cannot communicate in our language. Capturing images that speak for a dog is truly a fantastic feeling. I photograph for magazines, pregnant bellies, kids and the occasional wedding as well.
Which one item of equipment would you say is the most important to you?
Canon 70-200/2.8….love it! And the noises I can make……..don’t need an assistant with a squeeker! LOL!
What is it that inspires you to take the style of pictures you do?
Each and every dog/cat inspires me individually. I try not to have cookie cutter images pre-planned with a session. I want to make sure that I am open to what the subject is speaking to me. That being said, there are various magazines that I am addicted to and love the feel of their designs, which influences me in my style and execution of images.
What famous photographers have influenced you, and how?
Mark Tucker, Patti Gower, Sharon Montrose, Eddie Adams….the list can go one forever, I am inspired by so many images and design.
Are you a self taught photographer or did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes?
I have a degree from Carleton University and a Diploma from Loyalist college in Photojournalism.
How do you decide on locations & subjects?
Part of my job is to work with the clients location. As a staff photographer for a newspaper with deadlines, you don’t always have control over every detail of your photo session. I like the challenge and the creativeness that comes from photographing in the clients home, sight unseen. There is always going to be places and light.
What makes you choose to shoot something in B&W over color?
It is all in color all the time, the only B&W I do is with a holga camera.
In general, during a session, how many pics would you say you take to find “the right one”?
My photography sessions are more about telling a story. Most of my clients purchase photo sessions that come with hard
covered coffee table books. I shoot typically around 2-300 photos and then design each book individually, this helps me capture the mood of the session and that particular client’s character.
Do you rely on lighting (natural, or artificial), or do you rely on dark-room/computer manipulation?
I always shoot to get it right in the camera first. Any manipulation after is usually complimentary or an added effect. I shoot mostly with natural light but I bring a very light lighting kit with me for some occasions.
What do you do for fun (besides photography)?
I love soccer, working outside in the summer and hanging out with my two kids and husband.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to take a great photo of their dog?
I would suggest that you have someone else interacting with the dog and have the person taking the photos be the “observer”. If you are not familiar with your camera or have a ton of patience, then it is pretty hard to interact and get great photos
Do you have a dog(s)? if yes, what kind, please brag about your pooch here
Sure do! She is an offspring from a hurricane Katrina rescue brought to Canada by the rescue group I support, B.A.R.K. Her name is Chilly and she is a hoot, kind of like a Benji looking dog. tons of personality!
These 2 catahoula photos are part of a photo session done for the fundraising winner of the B.A.R.K. Walk-a-thon last May.
Photo Credits: All photographs by Suzanne Bird. These shots are straight from client’s “Dog Eared Book” photo sessions.