When you have a camera, some friends, and have demonstrated at least a little competence behind the lens, you will invariably end up with requests to photograph said friends. I don’t usually make rules for myself, but one policy I try to uphold is to never turn down assignments like this one.
Kelsey is a good friend and colleague of mine, and a fabulous artist as well. In addition to running textiles courses within the same organization as I teach some of my photography courses, she is also a professor of textile design at a nearby college, a new homeowner, and now the proud caretaker of her new puppy. Right as I arrived in Boston for a few days off between Glasgow and Los Angeles, Kelsey asked me to come photograph her little family. I was all packed up to head out to the west coast, but luckily we were able to fit in a little time right before I left for the airport.
Now, I’m not a pet photographer by any means, and I spent my entire childhood around cats, so having to be flashy and loud to attract the attention of a puppy was absolutely not something I was used to. Fortunately, Olive herself naturally provided plenty of fun action and curiosity to make up for my cat-oriented sensibilities.
Before we jump right in to the moral of the story, have a look at some of the images:
Wait, is that dog in a tree? Why is the light so glowy and nice? Those look nothing like your other portraits!
Indeed, that dog is in a tree. And yes, I took significantly more liberties than I usually do in toning the images. But Kelsey was more than happy to roll with all of it, and most importantly, she was very satisfied with the results.
Since this shoot was relatively low-stakes, I used it as a chance to experiment with posing, as well as trying out some new post-processing ideas. I wouldn’t ask most subjects to climb trees for me, nor would I necessarily move the colors around as much as I did, but given the chance to, one must ask: why not?
But beware! A low-stakes shoot does not mean that low effort is warranted, or even acceptable: every assignment deserves no less than your fullest efforts and most careful eye. Not only do you do a disservice to your friend or client by going easy on them, you also lose a chance to experiment and play around without worrying about professional repercussions! Even more so, by slacking off on an assignment, you deprive yourself of time spent practicing behind the camera — and you don’t have any time to waste on the path to mastering your craft!