I think leash removeal in dog photography is something most people probably think we photographers don't have to do. Just look through my website. There isn't a leash to be seen... until this post. For most people looking at photos on my website, they probably think I'm photographing perfectly behaved, well-trained dogs that are all off-leash. I am not but I can understand why someone would think that.
Recently I've had a couple of conversations that made me realize I need to talk more about this subject so people are aware that most of the dogs I photograph are in fact on leashes.
I am very familiar with leash removal. As a dog photographer you kind of have to be. A couple of weeks ago, I was photographing a friend's dog. During the photo session, she had ahold of her dog's leash. When I showed her the edited photos, she made the comment "I can't believe you got rid of his leash." Her dog actually had his harness on too. In the photos below, like magic I made it disappear. I cropped the photo a bit too. The photo on the left is the exact same photo on the right with the leash and harness removed.
Here is another recent intereaction that helped to prompt this post. I have a dog walking client named Winston. Winston is ALL terrier and cannot be trusted off leash. He's a great dog and a lot of fun to walk he just has a major obsession with squirrels, other dogs and just about anything that moves. He has no recall when off leash so needles-to-say, he is never off leash unless he is in an enclosed or fenced area. His mom contacted me about scheduling a photo sesison and even though I assured her I would remove the leash when I edited the photos, she was still in disbelief when she saw them. She couldn't believe her dog could be captured so beautifully while he was on leash.
That got me to thinking that I would imagine a lot of people have a hard time envisioning that the dogs I photograph are in fact leashed up. I thought I'd post a few before and after photos so you could see for yourself.
This next set of photos is Winston. Prior to our session starting, I give the handler (in this case Winston's mom) a couple of tips. Hold the leash up and away from the dog. Try to stand away from the dog (this is harder with some dogs than others.) In this particular photo, ideally the leash wouldn't have been stretched across Winston's tail. Reconstructing his tail required some work. It's not always possible to hold the leash exactly right or if the leash is held exactly right, the dog isn't looking the right way. Dogs move. That's one reason that makes dog photography really hard. Challenging and fun but hard.
Sometimes I even have to remove the handler from the photo. Below is Molly the doodle I photographed in Denver Colorado. We were on top of a rock formation and her dad had ahold of her leash. She is all puppy and there was no way she could be off leash. (As a side note, most public areas require dogs to be leashed anyway so even the perfectly behaved / trained ones have to be leashed!) In this photo, I had to remove the leash and her dad. Reconstructing the hill where Molly's dad was standing also took quite a bit of time to fix.
Leash removal is just one of many editing skills required by photographers. This type of work can take hours. The photo session might last 60-90 minutes. Many times, most of the work required by the photographer starts after the session with the editing. The editing can take hours so there is a lot of 'after the session work' that goes into preparing a gallery of photos for the dog owners to see. I am lucky. I love both part of the process: the photography session and the editing. I am so fortunate to have found something I love doing so much. #dreambig