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A Portrait In Cornwall

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The Brief

The clients - who live near St Ives - wanted a portrait of their daughter together with the family dog. As this was to be a Christmas present for their daughter, I was asked to travel down to their home in early December, come up with some location ideas and then deliver at least six finished images before leaving Cornwall.

Development

We talked about the importance of setting and location, and how we could introduce elements of Cornwall's beautiful seaside and famous buildings. Would it be possible, for example, to set the portrait against a backdrop of the iconic St Michael's Mount in Marazion?

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Logistics & Challenges

The weather forecast did not look good. Rain and high winds were coming in from the west - the aftermath of Storm Barra which hit the UK in December 2021. Nevertheless we planned a location shoot on the beach at Marazion for the early afternoon to take advantage of a lull in the rains and the pre-sunset lighting conditions. We also tried some warm up shots in the morning nearer their home on the beach at Lelant - mainly to see how their dog was going to behave and react to being posed.

Posing

Even the most camera-friendly of dogs will find it difficult to give their full attention. And this can sometimes apply to the human as well! For example, if we want both the dog and its owner to face the camera, this can take a number of attempts: the temptation is for the person to look at the dog while giving instructions, and for the dog to look back at the person to see what they want! Sometimes having another person stand behind the camera can also help, particularly if they are holding the dog's favourite toy.

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Weather Conditions

Windy conditions - as in this case - usually means lots of stray hair and billowing clothing. So taking a number of shots as a precaution is going to be inevitable. Bringing along treats and drinks to the shoot is also a great idea - for dogs and humans - particularly if adverse weather means more time on location. Also, particularly in the winter months, the sun can be quite low and produce some stark shadows, so it is important to work out how this can be blended into the finished portrait. 

Image Processing

Apart from applying basic 'post production' corrections - to ensure the best possible image exposure and composition and to remove unwanted artefacts, such as the white tent in the background - we also discussed what kind of 'look and feel' the portrait should have. For example, should we go for an autumnal appearance by bringing out the browns and oranges, and would this fit with how they want to present the portrait, as a wall hanging for instance?

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Finished Product

You can view all of the portraits here in the Gallery.