‘They are indeed much easier to tame and control as compared to other members of the family,’— Bernard Sim laughs, talking about our favorite pets. Sim is that very photographer who captured a couple surrounded by curious otters: cute animals wanted to see how the British man proposes to his girlfriend. Bernard is one of the most famous masters in Singapore. Today we are talking to the winner of the Sony Animal Portrait competition about the pet-related genre.
Bernard, tell us about your pets please. How often do you make photos with them?
I do not have any pets. Having a pet is a big commitment and I am not ready yet due to my work, but I hope to adopt a dog in the future when I am ready.
How did you fare during the lockdown? If I’m not mistaken, there have been many restrictions in daily life. How have you been handling the situation?
The lockdown was a pain, I couldn’t shoot, there was no income. However, I did make use of my time during the lockdown. I did my best to learn new things: I watched some instructional videos which I had bought a long time ago. I also did some online marketing so that people would learn more about my business. I went to different dog-related Facebook groups and offered making digital watercolors of their dogs just to make people happy.Then, I practiced my Photoshop skills by making some silly-looking photos of myself.
There were funny stories about how in some countries only dog owners were allowed to leave the house for a walk, so people began renting neighbourhood dogs to be able to go out. Was it the same in Singapore?
We don’t have that here. Singapore is too small. If they really want to get out of the house, they can just go to the supermarket to buy groceries - and that’s just what many people did. But generally, people here are very cooperative and law abiding.
What are your favorite dog breeds to take photos of?
I love to take photos of dogs that have big eyes such as a French Bulldog and a Pug. These two breeds’ faces look really comical.
You have become the finalist of Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021 with your photo of the smiling Pomeranian . Could you tell us more about the backstage of the process? And congratulations, by the way!
While I want to take credit for the smiling dog, I can’t do that as you can’t make them do that on command. Some dogs tend to blink a lot and some don’t even move much. Dogs that tend to move more will also blink more. This will actually depend on your luck. If you take more photos, you will have a higher chance to get some bloopers which can come out funny at times.
On your page you give some important advice on taking pictures of dogs at home. You suggest putting peanut butter on the dog’s face, letting the dog wear sunglasses, bathing the dog, placing a book in front of the pet, and making a party with some toys and treats. I like this advice a lot, it sounds fun and it really seems to work. Maybe you have some new secrets to share for our audience?
My favorite would be having them catch their treats. When you throw some treats at them and they react, you can get some very cute facial expressions. Of course you’d need to train them to catch treats first.
Bernard, could you tell us about your favorite model?
I have two favorite dogs. The first is @themiyagram and the other is @rainbow_puggies . Miya is a Pomsky that can do many tricks as her pawrents spent a lot of time training her. Rain is a pug that is simply cute. He has this sad and cute face that you’d want to cuddle.
What about your favorite type of photo shoot?
I love doing studio shots. Especially, when I am able to do treats-catching shots. You won’t get to see such cute facial expression during your regular photo shoot.
What inspires you? Paintings? If so which painters have influenced you the most?
I’m not an art person, I like cute and comical stuff. Sometimes, I look at current world affairs and try to apply them to dogs in a comical way.
Could you please give some advice to people who want to start pet photography? What can be challenging for them?
Getting proper gear is important. Many people think that getting a high end phone will let them achieve good photos. No matter how many pixels a camera from a high end phone gives you, the sensor is still very small as compared to a proper camera. The bokeh from a phone camera is not real, so the effect doesn’t look that great.
To take photos of pets, you’d also need to understand their character, posture and those telltale signs - such as the movements of a dog’s tail. For example, when a dog stands with the back hunched, it can mean that the dog is tense, and this will not make a good photo.
Use treats to bribe them. Treats and toys are often good motivators to get them to do what you want. A very important thing that everyone should take a note of is to, NEVER offer your own treats to your client’s dogs. You never know what they might be allergic to. I always ask my clients to bring their own treats.’