This year's The Photography Show, hosted at Birmingham's NEC in the UK, has sadly been and gone, but what an event it was! I attended the show for the very first time, and was blown away by all the new gear on display and the hustle and bustle of industry experts demonstrating what they do best.
An exhibitor that really left an impression on me was That Photography Spot. Founded by multi-award-winning portrait photographer, Jessica McGovern, these photographers and their amazingly talented woofers stole the show (and our hearts) with their superb training and posing techniques to achieve the ideal photo.
Bryt the Spaniel and Alfie the Collie deserved to be awarded with Best in Show at The Photography Show this year, as these adorable dogs grabbed the attention of hundreds of attendees – drawing in several crowds daily with their fantastic posing and excellent behavior, credit of course to their expert trainer and photographer, Jessica McGovern.
That Photography Spot is an educational online resource and business created by Jess that's full of free and paid photography training courses, offering pet photography tips and advice to help you shoot like a pro, and with confidence.
The team at That Photography Spot comprises not only Jess, but a number of volunteers, and staff members, plus four dogs and even a horse, who all work together to create educational content with you in mind.
Bryt (pronounced as Bright) is a working Cocker Spaniel, and Alfie is the loveable Border Collie. Both dogs have been expertly trained by Jessica and her team to sit perfectly still and remain calm and focused on the camera for absolutely pawfect portraits.
Alfie was treated to several helpings of dog-friendly peanut butter during a licktastic photo session, while the lovely Bryt had the chance to run around after her tennis ball while finding the perfect position to pose on a log, sitting like a champ.
That Photography Spot runs an educational YouTube Channel, featuring over ten years of portrait and lifestyle photography experience from Jess, divided into easily digestible chunks.
The channel aims to share not only pet photography skills, but offers ideas, tips, and tricks that cover nearly all elements of portrait photography, including the editing stage that really takes an image into its final magical form.
We had the chance to have a quick chat with Jess while at the show, where she explained exactly how these amazing dogs began their initial photography training, and how associating different items with playtime and others for shoot time can be the best way to start your photo training journey with your pooch.
How do you go about training your dogs to be practical and suited for photography, and are they used to being around the camera?
"We start training our dogs almost the second they come home, so it's very early on, and I do a reasonably structured training program. With Bryt the spaniel, her whole puppy training to be able to do what she does today is all on our YouTube channel, where you can watch her training from when she was eight weeks old.
"Even with any older dogs, I'd still do the same steps, likewise with rescues, we have a rescue dog as well, and it's all the same things, so it's just conditioning them to really enjoy doing the right thing that we ask them to because its fun.
"In terms of them getting used to the camera, you'll see if you were to watch those videos, with [Bryt's] wait training to stay in place, we actually use the camera to cover my face, because it's a learned behavior to do that, and then you reward attention. So you end up with a dog that will just sit and look really cool for the camera all the time which is great and then they are rewarded."
So with what we just saw during your demo at The Photography Show, how do you get Bryt to use the ball as a focal point for where to place herself? Did that take a lot of time and training?
"Basically I try to train every single dog that we have to understand toy drive, and food drive, so they should be able to interchange between getting a snack and getting the ball. This means that when we're out and about, we can use either food or toys to reward the dog.
"And so quite quickly specific toys are only used for photography and only have great things happen with them, so when the dog sees that toy they get really excited by it and then the focus is really sharp and we can work with it."
"So all of my dogs know that if it's a tennis ball, it's photography and we're gonna have a great time and we need focus and calmness to create amazing work. If it's like a rope tug toy then it's a different activity. So it's very specific. But essentially you just make good things happen with that object.
"Tennis balls can be really difficult if the dog takes it and runs, so a lot of dogs will snatch it and then guard to a certain extent, so often it's best to start with using a tug toy or something like that so that you're on the end of the toy and they can't take off with it."
The content that is currently available on That Photography Spot's YouTube channel, as well as its sister website, has been created to help photographers embark (get it) on the right track and enhance their professional workflows and business strategy to create a more profitable pet and animal portrait photography businesses.
Videos and courses are delivered on schedule, with the best value, to help you grow your photography business. The team also runs dog agility and training sessions, plus various other dog-specific courses. Be sure to follow that tog spot on Instagram for access to free educational and entertaining reels.
A big thanks to Jess and the team over at That Photography Spot for speaking with us, and what a great experience it was to see the magic in action!
For more information or to enroll in an online training course with Jess and the rest of the team at That Photography Spot, be sure to head over to the official website, and don't forget to check it out on TikTok and on Instagram.
The Photography Show returns to the NEC in Birmingham, England, on March 16-19 2024. For more information, visit the show website.
• You may also want to take a look at the best pet cameras, as well as these 10 pet photography tips, and learn how to shoot action shots of running dogs. While you're here, check out our review of the new Furbo dog camera.