Klaus Dyba’s background in art direction and sports comes in handy when working with animals. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a lighting master, too. The Cologne-based photographer captures “everything surrounding people and animals” in his studio, but dogs are a particular passion.“People can see a portrait photographer like a dentist. They need you once in a while, but they are happy when you’re finished. Dogs are different. Taking their portraits is so surprising every time—I see confidence, pride, ease, trust, happiness… Compared to taking portraits of humans, there is much joy while taking these images” he explains. Here, we learn a few tricks.
I was a studio photographer, so I used a lot of flash. After a while I figured out that you have so many different characters when shooting dogs. And with my studio light I could support the characteristics in each shot. I printed images of my Chihuahua at 3 feet by 3 feet and it looked great. I made a big proud dog out of a small scary dog. It felt special and people wanted such images of their own dogs.
It’s always funny shooting great Danes. They just think they are tiny Chihuahuas. It seems, also, they like to cuddle a lot. It feels special when you lie on the ground and a massive great Dane decides to sit on you. But bad things can also happen and did happen. First rule: all dogs should go for a walk before shooting. Especially big great Danes, if you know what I mean.
Learn to make stupid sounds, as this works better than treats. As soon as treats are involved, the dog is not relaxed. Take longer breaks between shots, with some rewards. As soon as you feel the dog is afraid of the flash or intimidated by all the equipment (light-stands, soft boxes), please stop.
One of my favourite images is of my own dog, Rocco. It’s a total frontal shot and he looks like a super-cool dude. But he is just squinting his eyes because he was sick of all the flash light. These shots make dog photography so much fun. You can’t plan things like that. You’ll never know what happens.
I try not to be so stressed all the time. If you work with dogs, you need to be calm. I try to use this behaviour in my real life as well.
All images courtesy of Klaus Dyba
Article published at Four&Sons, Issue Ten.
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