Orange roses window light
Digital Photography Tips


I have no images to share from the shoot I did last week therefore I’m posting these gorgeous roses instead.

This post is about a session I did a few days ago and how making mistakes can help you be a better photographer, just make sure you learn from your mistakes and don’t allow the experience of making mistakes crush your spirit.

I’m chuffed with my very own self  because I finally launched the moi du toi photography Facebook page , another small step towards opening my photography business, yay!   I don’t charge for my sessions just yet because I’m still building my portfolio.  The deal is this, I get to use a clients pet as a model to build my portfolio and in return the client receives a disk with processed images ready for printing.

Normally I am quite nervous before a session but last week I was so thrilled with my images from the impromptu sunset shoot of that delightful cat Sam Smith that I wasn’t really nervous, just excited and keen for my upcoming doggy photo shoot.

Without going into too much detail I will say that the whole session started to go to hell in a hand-basket from the get-go and I panicked.  I shot wildly and stupidly, wasting valuable doggy attention-getting-tactics on shots that were useless, poorly lit and badly composed. It is safe to say that the session was a nightmare.

Ahem! We interrupt this post with a pretty picture image to ease the tension.  Seriously, these roses really are that orange…

natural light orange roses

After the shoot I rushed home and began downloading the images immediately to see what I could salvage.  Silently I scanned each of the downloaded images and in the end managed to produce only 3 good shots, 3  out of over a 100 taken!  I’m not ashamed to admit that I just cried and cried and then I cried some more.  Why? Because just when I thought I was getting a handle on photography after working so hard at it for the last two and a half years, it all fell apart during one pet photography shoot and I felt like a complete failure.

Over a cup of tea (the eternal panacea) and after I had calmed down and pulled myself towards myself, Mr T had a great idea.  As the client had no device to view the digital images on, he suggested that I salvage the situation and push some positive energy into the whole sorry episode by having the 3 good  images printed at the lab and then giving them to the client as a gift instead.

Fantastic idea Mr T!  I duly ordered the images and on receiving them back from the lab I took them round to the clients home.  She seemed a little annoyed when I rang her doorbell unannounced (oops! I lost her phone number so couldn’t call beforehand) and a little surprised when I handed the images to her unceremoniously over the garden gate, in my excitement to give them to her I forgot to put them in an envelope.

 To say she was unimpressed is an under statement.  Glancing briefly at two of the photographs she muttered  unconvincingly “Er, thanks, that’s nice”, she didn’t even notice the third image until I pointed it out to her.  You know how on those British sitcoms people always say they are “gutted”?  Well that was me, honestly, I may as well have just  handed her a dagger and asked her to stab me in the heart with it, it would have been less painful.  A little over the top I know but what can I say? I’m a sensitive little drama queen and I was completely freaked out.

Who was to blame?  The client?  No.  I was to blame and I will certainly do it differently next time…

Ah but first! Another happy image to lighten the mood…

Natural light photography roses


  • You are not the photographer for everyone – Make sure your portfolio reflects your style of photography and prior to booking a shoot make sure your client has seen your portfolio and knows your style i.e. Studio portraits as opposed to Lifestyle or journalist photography.
  • When building a portfolio, don’t approach people and beg to be allowed to photograph their pet.  Go to the local pet store, dog groomers, veterinarian and ask if you can post on their noticeboard a  “Casting Call for Pet Models” that offers a free or heavily discounted photo session .  Stipulate the pets you’d prefer, cats, dogs, kittens, certain breeds or temperaments.  That way you are more likely to attract the kind of pets you need for your portfolio and the kind of people who WANT you to photograph their pets, who will be co-operative and helpful when you do so. You don’t want  people who think they are doing YOU a favour by letting you photograph their animals.
  • Put a system in place for storing client data and contact details!
  • Brief your client that it is possible they may be in some of the shots and give subtle advice  e.g. If the clients face will more than likely be in the shot, a bit of make-up, neat hairstyle and an appropriate colour shirt will help you to make them look good.  Alternatively if the shot is of the dog sitting at the owners feet, paying attention to shoes or toenails in the case of bare feet is über important.
  • Ask about the pets personality, are they shy, nervous, boisterous or hyper?  Try not to gush and overwhelm a pet during a shoot, don’t give the animal too much attention.  A good rule to follow is greet pets only after they greet you. Giving attention to a nervous animal will make them more nervous, giving attention to a hyper animal will make them more hyper.  Allow nervous animals to relax and hyper animals calm down before you start the session.  You can always cuddle and play with them afterwards.
  • Prior to the session, discuss time and location for the shoot with the client stipulating the type of light you are looking for i.e. early morning or late afternoon light, window or door light depending on whether the shots will be indoor or outdoor or both.
  • Give the client a ballpark idea on how long the session will take.
  • Take the most important shots first and don’t keep shooting past the stipulated time period or when it is obvious your model is tired.
  • When things start going pear shaped, DON’T PANIC!  Take a deep breath and think about what you are doing, take a short break if necessary.
  • Have a well thought out strategy for getting the pets attention.  Don’t let it become a free-for-all of treats, squeaky noises and toys.  Only use treats as a last resort and ask the client first.
  • Wait until the lighting and composition is right and you are ready to take the shot before using attention getting tactics.  Animals bore easily and using the same tactic over and over will ruin the surprise element.
  • Practice directing and showing clients (at home of course) what you need them to do i.e. “Could you sit like this?”, “Can you move closer to your puppy?” and so on.  Act with confidence, try to sound as though you have everything under control and know exactly what you are doing.
  • Assure the client their pet is doing a great job, even if things are not going as smoothly as you would like.
  • Value yourself and your craft and teach your client to do the same.  Lead by example, don’t be available to do the shoot “Oh any time is fine.  Whenever you like, what suits you?”.  Consult your diary (even if it is empty) and give a couple of times and dates for the client to choose from.
  • You are a creative, treasure your art.  If you decide (out of the kindness of your lovely heart)  to give the client some printed images, handle them with care and love. Just because he or she is not paying for them is no reason to chuck them around the place, hand them unceremoniously over the garden gate or lash fingerprints all over them.
  • Wrap the images (or the digital image disk) in tissue paper with a bow or in a pretty box and make a big deal of opening them up for the client to look at, handle the images as though they were silk.  Show the client the value of the images because wrapped up in each image is your very own blood, sweat and tears, your creativity, all the hours of learning to shoot in manual mode, hours learning to post process images in Lightroom or Photoshop, wear and tear on your camera and lenses, the time and cost involved in researching color management, the trials and errors that go into finding a lab that will print great quality images and time spent away from your family or that afternoon you could have spent watching 4 episodes of Game of Thrones back to back.
  • Please don’t take one rubbish photo shoot as validation of your worth as a photographer.  Keep honing your craft, keep shooting, keep learning, get valuable feedback from other photographers or mentors and be honest with yourself.  Look back on images you took two years ago, even six months ago and see the improvement, if you are not improving, do something about it.
  • Never give up.  There will be days like this, times when you will want to hide your camera in the back of the wardrobe and never take another photograph and that’s okay.  Give yourself a moment to catch your breath, have a cry and a cup of tea but never give up.

natural light photography, orange roses

Remember when you were little and part of the journey towards becoming all grown up, was experiencing “Growing Pains”?  Think of these bumps in the road as “Photography Growing Pains”, a necessary part of the exciting, frightening, challenging, gratifying, maddening, thrilling journey towards becoming a better photographer.

Well Peeps, that’s what I learned this week and if it helps at least one person, then I’m happy.

All my love