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Craig Cantwell

One of the best Pet Photographers in UK

This week I am happy to share with you all the story of a pet photographer. Despite the fact that this type of photographic work is not very popular in Latin America or Spain, I think it is very important to be able to have a beautiful photo session with our pets, and give them the importance they really deserve in our lives. After all, they are one more member of our family.

My name is Craig Cantwell and I am a Pet Portrait Photographer. I first started taking photos when I was taking Art at school in the days of 35mm film. My Plans was to study Arts at University but I decided at 18 to join the Metropolitan Police. Whilst serving on Organised Crime and Drug Squads I was trained to become a surveillance photographer which got me interested in photography again but my career was ended by a serious injured in 2003. Some years after I did the HNC in Photography and while I was doing the HND my photography business really took off and I had to leave College to concentrate on my business. My Pet Studio opened in July of 2019 and since then I haven't stopped working.

When did you start doing Pet Photography?

I was asked to photograph a couple of dogs for friends back in early 2018 when I was still photographing lots of other genres. In November of 2018 I was asked to do a fundraising shoot for PADS (Perthshire Abandoned Dog Society) in partnership with Dog Friendly Perthshire. We expected about 15 dogs to turn up but over 80 did!! I managed to photograph 77 of them and we raised over £1200 for the charity. I was petrified, I had very little studio experience and had certainly never photographed as many dogs in a day. It was a baptism of fire though, and from that day onwards I have been photographing dogs and I carry on raising funds for various animal charities. All my own pet dogs have been rescues and I am passionate about helping any charity that finds loving new homes for animals.

Nikon D850. f/13. Shutter Speed: 1/200sec. ISO 125

I did this photo shoot with the German Short Haired Pointer for a dog food company. When we finished the photo shoot, I did a couple of quick portraits, one of which was awarded a Gold from The Guild of Photographers.

What is the most challenging things in your work?

Without a doubt it is working with dogs that have little or no discipline and those that have been abused by previous keepers. Gaining the trust of a dog that is extremely timid or shows fear based reactions (what some incorrectly see as aggression) is a real challenge, but they soon sense I am no danger and most become my friend pretty quickly. That is an extremely rewarding feeling and I know when I have made a connection with a dog and won its trust. A happy dog is always easier and more fun to photograph and if, for any reason, a dog is becoming stressed, I will call a halt to the photoshoot and we try some activities to ensure the dog’s happiness.

Mia visited to get her portrait added to the Pet Portrait Gallery in Scotland’s most Pet Friendly Hotel, The Atholl Arms in Dunkeld, Perthshire. There is a gallery of my work in the hotel.

Tell me the best and the worst experience you had to face doing your job?

My best experience working with dogs is every time I meet and photograph dogs, whether they be ones I have never met before or returning customers. I LOVE what I do and it brings me, the dogs and their humans so much joy 😊 Puppy shoots are always fun but not as joyful as many might think. They leave a LOT of mess EVERYWHERE!! My most challenging moment was probably just recently. I was out on location with a client who had a pack of very large dogs. She had very little control over them, their recall was poor, and a poor lady who was fearful of dogs had them all running up to her. The dogs would not return to their human, and the poor lady was petrified when they all surrounded her. The client just couldn’t see any problem, and questioned why people fearful of dogs would be walking in the Countryside!! I told her that the Countryside is there for everyone to enjoy irrespective of their fears, and it is incumbent on all dog owners to be responsible. I also had to get her to pick up her dogs poo. I insist on all my shoots that we respect the countryside, keep dogs under control, and collect all waste and if a client won’t do that, I have no hesitation in walking away from the shoot. We all need to be responsible for keeping Scotland beautiful! This is all in made clear in my T’s and C’s.

Nikon D850. F/3.5. Shutter Speed: 1/8000 sec. ISO 200.

This little Boston Terrier pup visited one of my Pop-Up charity fundraisers. This particular fundraiser was for playground equipment for a school in Broughty Ferry, Scotland.

Could you please share some tips about how to do Pet Photography?

The main tips I would give for any dog session are the same whether it be out on location or in the studio. Stay calm and focused, and get the dogs and humans to do the same. If we are stressed the dogs pick up on that. Get down to eye level or below so that the dog is looking straight at you rather than up at you. Use flash, even in the daylight. Flash will reduce the harshness of shadows when the light is harsh. Learn dog behaviour. I have had dogs living with me a lot of my life but I also completed a couple of courses on Dog Behaviour and Canine First Aid. Both are essential for anyone wanting to get into Dog Photography.

Nikon D850. F/16. Shutter speed. 1/200sec. ISO 160

I was lucky enough to shoot 2 Dalmatian puppy litters within a few weeks of each other. Great fun but very messy!

How did you get this picture?

Lots of patience 😊 It took about two hours to get them all to sleep, and we lined them all up. When they woke up, I captured a few shots 😊

Nikon D850. F/7.1 Shutter speed 1/200sec. ISO 100

The beauty of where I live is that I can offer both studio and location shoots at the same time. This was taken in my garden.

I often get asked to photograph other “Pets”. This was taken whilst on a shoot on an Estate near Glenshee in Scotland.

Nikon D700. F/4.5. Shutter Speed 1/5000 sec. ISO 200.

As my reputation as an animal photographer has grown, so has the diversity of pets I have been asked to photograph. This was a visit to the Dog Friendly Newton Farm near Forfar where they give farm tours. The images will be used for marketing.

One of the great things about living in Scotland is the access to miles of accessible countryside.

Scotland has an Ambassadog, George, the Golden Retriever. Last year I spent a couple of days with him as he visited Dog Friendly accommodation and attractions throughout Angus.

What Photography mean for you?

After 30 years of dealing with dangerous criminals, their victims and the most vulnerable in society, I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of some of the horrors I witnessed. Photographing and working with animals is almost like therapy for me. When I am "in the moment' with a dog and my camera, theres is no happier place to be.

Baxter. Nikon D850. F/3.5. Shutter Speed 1/1600 sec. ISO 400

Craig Cantwell

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