The pet paparazzi

The pet paparazzi

A photographer says you must connect with your fluffy friends to get the best images of them

Trying to capture the moment on camera when your canine pal is up to mischief, or playing at ease, is no easier than trying to photograph celebrities on holiday who will deliberately cover their tracks. The trick is to think and act like the paparazzi, says Cass Shing, who made taking pictures of pets her profession two years ago.

"You have to be always ready, act quickly and work undercover - remember no dog will rummage through your litter for snacks when you're watching them," she says. "Only then can you capture those natural instances of cuteness and silliness."

Born to parents with artistic talents, Shing was interested in the creative industries from a young age. She studied design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and then art direction at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in Britain.

Her camera has been her best companion ever since her time in London. It wasn't just a way to document her daily life, but also a hobby that could help her through sad times. And for a pet lover, what could be more enjoyable than photographing dogs?

Even though she didn't get her first dog - a Shiba Inu called Gumgut - until she was in her early 30s, pooches have always been her greatest love. She remembers asking her mother to take her to play with abandoned dogs at the SPCA at weekends when her friends would take thrill rides at Ocean Park.

"Dogs have their own thoughts, emotions and spirituality," Shing says. "They feel depressed if they are abandoned by owners. They are like human children. They need love and care."

Pets are very different to landscapes, food or human beings. Before Shing founded Love and Bond Photography, she had to read up on animal behaviour and visit pet parks to shoot animals and their owners.

Her greatest influence was her teacher Alain Yip Tsing-lam, a famous photographer who was later ordained as a Buddhist monk. During the two years Shing worked as his personal assistant, he showed her that a perfect shot needs more than just good lighting and image structure.

"The most touching pictures can only be captured by the photographer's true emotions," she says. "Photographers need to connect with their subjects and environment not through the lens, but with their heart."

Most family or pet portraits are taken at a studio against a white background or an elaborate set. But Shing likes to photograph her subjects where they are most comfortable, such as in the living room or in parks they frequent. "That's where you can capture their behaviour and expressions in a natural way. Nothing is posed."

On a new assignment, she will first get acquainted with her clients and their pets. She will observe their relationship and ask about the pet's personality, routine and habits. When they are ready for the camera, it's always helpful if you have toys and snacks handy.

Shing is fascinated by pensive pets. "I'm always curious what is on dogs' minds when they look out of the window into the distance, looking deep in thought."


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