Last month I traveled to Dallas, Texas, to attend a workshop that I never thought I would get the chance to take. The Unleashed Workshop–taught by pet photography pros Teresa Berg and Bev Hollis–had been discontinued as far as I knew, until a friend of mine in Minnesota let me know they were back and filling up fast. With no time to waste, I signed on and hoped I wasn’t blowing money that could be better spent on a lens (yes, some pro lenses cost as much as a small vacation).

Turns out, I am so, so glad I went, and the payoff from attending is far greater than I even expected.

Teresa Berg and Bev Hollis were absolutely dynamic, playing off each other’s strengths and warming up the group with their friendly banter. They also were wonderfully honest–about their business practices, mistakes and successes. The workshop was a mix of defining our own photographic styles, understanding the business workflow, and being introduced to Bev’s approach to on-location shooting and Teresa’s studio/controlled lighting setup.

But the most invaluable part of the workshop was the shooting time–11 hours out in the hot Texas sun with Bev, and half a day in Teresa’s cool and comfy studio. To go in the studio and on location with these two was like drinking from a firehose: every step of a shoot, from booking through production, was covered. We had dog after dog lined up as models, and techniques covered urban shooting, “landscapes with dogs,” silhouettes, hip shooting, indoor, outdoor and all sorts of light conditions – shadow, full midday sun, continuous video light, flash and reflectors.

The biggest thing I took away from the workshop–besides the portfolio shots shown below–was a better awareness of how to control a photo session. I, like many pet owners, can sometimes get caught up in trying to chase after our four-leggers, snapping away and hoping something works. As a professional pet photographer, I know better–and I know the photos that come from that approach are less than desirable. But it was wonderful to see how two other pros approach this, and the amazing artwork that can result from it.

Photographers talk a lot about their own personal “style,” and this workshop helped me cement a few things about my style that I hadn’t nailed down yet. You will start to see that the photos I show and create will have a certain look to them. I’ll talk more about the Grumpy Pups Pet Photography style in an upcoming post, but for now, I’ll let these photos do the speaking.

photocrati gallery

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Springer spaniels in a field of Michigan wildflowers

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