Who was not charmed yet by Nuelle Flipse's gorgeous dog portraits. Nobody remains indifferent to her work. She started photography when she got her first dog. Nowadays, her photography is completely focussed on dogs. She developed incredible skills by taking plenty of time whit the dogs who are in front of her camera to know their personality and their individual character. She explores the human aspects recognizable in each of them, what makes us feel so close to them. The results are fabulous, her portraits are unique, funny and irresistible. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
My name is Nuelle Flipse, I was born in 1971, live in the Netherlands and I specialize in dog photography. In my previous job as a coach and supervisor I felt I was missing “a piece of the whole puzzle” of happiness. I didn’t really consider myself a creative person but still; I did miss creativity in my life. When I started photographing my dog something happened. I finally found what I was looking for: Photography!!
I started to take some classes to learn about my camera, about light and the basics of Photoshop. After this I spent every day reading, watching tutorials and study photography. I just couldn’t stop. It felt like I had to make up for the years I didn’t explore my creativity. Then after two years I quit my regular job and started my small business (FotoMelle fotografie) as a dog photographer. I have finally found my source of creativity and taking photos of all the beautiful dogs I discovered makes me incredible happy!
How have your history and life experiences affected your photography?
For me personally the most important aspects of life are the small things life has to offer. They make life so interesting and so fascinating. Therefore I like to call them the bigger things. I have always been someone who looked at the details first before looking at the bigger picture. This might not always be the best way because at times you can miss the bigger picture but I can’t help doing so. And that’s also the way I look at my photography. That’s what I see when I pick up my camera: the smaller things in the whole picture, the details.
When I have a dog in front of my camera I notice the small signs. The sparkle in the eyes, some small signs of body language that tell me all about the mood, the tip of the tail moving, a sniff of the cute wet nose, the ears turning towards the sounds of my camera, a sneeze or yawn coming. I look at the dog, I look at the owner and I try to read the story between them. It’s all in the little things they share. I love to look at those little signs of the close bond between the dog and his or her owner.
Another fact that has really affected the way my photography skills developed is my way of learning. I cannot make any sense of numbers. Basically what this means is that I’m number dyslexic. Not handy in life but in particular not at all handy when you are a photographer! So, I’m a self-educated photographer. Everything I have learned, I did by exploring and trying numerous times until I understood and liked what I saw. I started to learn everything about studio photography and from there I went to outdoor photography. That meant in the studio working with no technical light meters and so on because the numbers don’t make sense to me. Outdoor photography was a whole new challenge. It meant I had to start learning to work with natural light. Again exploring the camera settings by testing and testing because I couldn’t translate the number combination of the famous triangle; shutter speed, ISO and aperture on the camera display into practice. Which was very frustrating on the dog-racing track when I was trying to get crisp sharp images of dogs running towards me at a very fast speed!
I learn by heart and most of the settings in varied situations I memorized until I finally understood them. Now, my camera and its settings are my best friend!
This experience in life taught me I had to find my own way of approaching those learning obstacles. I can accomplish the same as any other, it just made me walk a different path. I think this has affected my photography in a way because it made me very persistent in reaching the goals I set for myself. I strive to do the best with every photo I take.
Which are your most important experiences that have influenced your art?
I find myself to be an observer. I really enjoy watching things go by from a certain distance. Not only to observe animals and daily life but also the beauty of nature. When I take hikes with my dog I also like to observe. I sit down and listen to the sounds of nature. I watch the color of the trees change during the seasons and I listen when the leaves move when a breeze touches them. I watch the deer eat or move their ears towards the sound I make by sitting there with my dog.
All of this gives me a calmness from which new ideas start to grow for the next photo I’d like to make. Also, when observing I notice the smaller details of things, which gives me new ideas.
In my photographs I like to tell a small story. The story lies hidden in the details. For example, the specific character of the dog. Mostly reflected by body language and through the glance of the eyes. As they say; the eyes are the mirror of the soul. That’s what I like to express. The details I see while observing reflected in a photo.
What first attracted you to photography?
In my childhood I took my first photo when I was 4 years old. A photo of my father posing in front of the family car. A funny picture which I still have and look at from time to time! When I was growing up I always owned small cheap compact cameras but never developed the rolls of film, I guess I just liked taking the shots. I was drawn to the details of things and the idea to freeze time for just that second I touched the shutter.
My photography started to be serious 5 years ago when I got my first dog. A black and white Whippet which is a small guidedog. Her name is Zoë. She is a working dog and she loves to help me out with stuff she believes is helpful but most of all she loves to run. When she was 1 year old I took her to the race-track just for fun. To let her do what she loves: run as fast as she can!
All photos I took of her running that day were out of focus or I only managed to get a shot of just the tip of her tail. I could not stand this and bought myself a DSLR camera the next day to get better photos. There and then my passion for dog photography started. Of course the fast dogs on the track were way too difficult to start with but for me this was a motivation to start learning.
So basically, my dog, my muse as I always say, is the one who first attracted me to dog photography.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
First of all I don’t like too many rules when I make photos. It’s important to know them but I believe in taking photos with your heart and soul and not with a notebook full of technical rules. Of course there are some specific photo rules to obey by but too many rules paralyze my creativity. I like to think in terms of what is possible and less in what is not acceptable.
Because I can’t make any sense of numbers I do have to explore everything myself before it can work. Most of the time I discovered that the book or tutorial was right of course, but sometimes I find my own specific way of photographing by breaking a rule or advice and creating my own way of approach.
My overall vision is; always stay close to yourself. I believe you make the best photos when you take photos not just with your camera but also with your whole heart…
Why are you so drawn by dog portrait photography?
I think it’s the attraction to dogs! I like to work with animals. Especially with dogs. What you see is what you get. They are pure. When they don’t like something, they will express this. Each time a dog feels comfortable to get his/her photo taken by me, I feel thankful. Then, when the owner sees the photo of their dog taken by me and they are happy and surprised: There’s no better feeling in the world!
Some dogs are not that comfortable and sometimes it takes a while to win their trust. When they give me this moment of trust I’m very grateful and I know I just had a really special moment! I love taking photos of dogs!
Dogs tell their story by the way they look into the world. I like to capture that look and bring a piece of their soul and character back into my photos. That’s why I’m so drawn by dog photography!
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
They are both very important. I don’t want to take a technical perfect photo of a dog when there’s no story to read in the photo. In every photo I love to create a story. The mood is very important. This starts at the very moment I meet the dog. The first eye contact, the body language of the dog, the history of the dog and the character of the dog. All those things I try to capture in one photo. And when I do, I do the best I can to make the photo technically perfect as well. I always strive to bring both aspects together the best I can. But most important I would say, is the mood/story.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
I love dogs! I observe and make a new friendship at the same time. I’m always wondering what goes on inside their heads. I try to understand and capture that feeling. It happens all the time that the dog I want to photograph ends up sitting on my lap. Or, after every shot I take, the dog knows I did so and comes running to sit with me again. I love this and this makes every shoot so precious to me. To interact with my models and they actually feel comfortable. Every dog is different, like we are, and I try to give them a happy moment. When they are happy, I’m happy!
What gear do you take with you and what software do you use to process your images?
I use Canon cameras and lenses. The ones I use most and are my favorites, are the 6D and the 7Dii. My favorite lens would be the 70-200 2.8. For my studio work I use Elinchrom and for post processing I use Photoshop.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I always make a small list/drawing of shots I would like to take from the dog. Ideas of what I want the photo to look like I already have in my head. Based on the character, color, breed and age I always start thinking ahead. So, when I meet the dog and totally forget what I wanted to do because I find myself overwhelmed with the cuteness of the dog, I always have my list to take a quick look at.
I always work with RAW images. After the shoot I import them on my computer and then I take a look at them to mark my best shots. Later on, I make the selection and import them into Photoshop for the final adjustments.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in pet Photography and how do you get started?
Never rush! I mean this in every way. Never rush the owner, never rush the dog and never rush yourself. Another very important advice is, stay close to yourself and your own style. Make sure you master this as well as your photographic skills before you move to the next level. Never think you know it all because you don’t. There’s always more to learn. Getting better at photography means to practice a lot and learn as much as you can.
Make sure you are driven by your passion for dog photography and try to put this in every photo you make. And most of all; never forget to enjoy every moment of it!
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
There are so many great photographers… To learn about photography it helps to look at many photos from different artists. It helps to find your own way and to build your own style. It also helped me to see all the possibilities within photography I didn’t even know existed.
Here on 1X a whole new world of photography opened before my eyes. So many fantastic photos, the highest level of quality in sharpness, creativity and diversity in photographic categories. It dazzled me with enthusiasm!
One of my favorite photographers whose work I love and who inspired me to get better every day is Tim Flach. I can spend hours looking at his photos.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I always have the feeling I just started and there is so much more to learn. Which is true, I learn something new every day. I want to keep on making photos that are appreciated and recognized for my own specific dog photography style. Maybe one day I will make a prize-winning photo. I truly hope so but most of all I hope to keep enjoying making photos of many more dogs and make all the owners happy with a special photo of their best friend in life!
I would also like to learn more about creative work. Whenever I have some spare time (which is very little) I find myself brainstorming about creative work. Right now I’m working on some ideas and from there I’d like to learn and explore new opportunities.
Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
Every time I take a photo I think; this is my favorite! It’s so hard to pick one…
But I can describe one I really like and which makes me smile every time I look at it.
This is my dog Zoë. My muse. I had this idea some time before I actually took it. Of course my dog had a whole other idea of what to do but together we made this photo and I just love it.
I managed to put some elements of fun into it, some cuteness, a little story and the emotion to bring it all together. I was so proud of my dog! Getting to sit in front this table, looking at the pasta and the small piece of Italian sausage on top of it. Her paws next to the bowl and patient waiting to get rewarded for the photo by eating it!
This photo is sold many times now and every time it does, it makes me very grateful and proud.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
Two years ago, in 2014, was the first time I heard about 1x. Immediately I was amazed by the superb quality and diversity of the photos! I feel very proud to be part of 1x with the published photos of my dogs.
I never found a website before with such a high quality of photos in combination with so much diversity and so many amazing photographers. 1x offers a stunning gallery of the best selected photos. Because it is a photo site with professional curators it gives me a huge amount of motivation when a photo is published. That’s what I love about 1x.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Yvette Depaepe so very much for this interview!