The Magazine of a Northern Ireland Photographer

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Pandemic Pups


Peter’s dog Teddy was already lively. Cockapoo’s are known to be a bit lively, but after lockdown we started to notice some disturbing behaviour.

After a few rather startled Amazon delivery drivers, Peter’s wife had had enough and called on the expertise of Robin Bates. Robin called out to the house, and it was simply the best investment! Robin pointed out some things its owners were doing wrong, and after a few fairly easy fixes, Teddy is much more relaxed and easier to handle.

Teddy – like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth!

One common issue post – lockdown are separation issues.
We asked Robin what the signs are of a dog who has become attached to their owners during lockdown.

“A lot of dogs are not coping well being left at home suddenly after weeks of having the owner around.” Explained Robin. “There are some common signs to look out for:

  • Are they following you around more?
  • Do they wake up every time you move.
  • Do they start pacing or get anxious when you prepare to leave?
  • When you leave, do they go to the toilet, vocalise or be destructive?”

“If you have separation problems seek a good behaviourist and they will help you work on a separation protocol.”

We’d wholeheartedly recommend Robin , who is keen to help and has many years of expertise. He offers 121 consultation and also runs classes.

Robin with his furry family.

To start with Robin suggested a few ideas that may help eliminate stress:

  • When you are there encourage scent games, reward-based training and play.
  • Make sure they have a safe place to sleep, this is a place where they will sleep at night.
  • Before leaving make sure they have a walk, been toileted and maybe some food can help.

You can book Robin at

5 Blogs to Follow

Tara ( our sales and marketing guru) shares her favourite 5 blogs and instagrams. As photographers, we look for inspiration that can be brought into the studio and blogs are a great place to start!

1. Steve McCurry

The photographer of the famous ‘Afghan Girl’ with the mesmerising green eyes puts out collections of images with poetic verse.

His use of exaggerated colour and wide open spaces have inspired many a portrait shoot. But also McCurry provides tranquil content such as his series on ‘Trees are Sentinels’ and ‘Breathing Life’.

Photo: Steve McCurry

2. Felix Kunze

German born, English bred, resident of New York, this photographer is a master of lighting and we love how his group photographs.

Photo: Felix Kunze

3. Anne Leibovitz

No blog here, but an instagram worth a look at!
The portrait photographer of our generation. Beautiful portraits of individuals from their hand positioning, where their gaze is and making use of props. All of these inspire us as photographers as well as being in awe of meeting all these celebrities!

Photo: Annie Leibovitz

4. Seth Casteel

Another instagram – The best medicine is laughter and this photographers blog is fantastic. I purchased his book on Underwater Dogs while travelling through America of which sits in the studio reception and provides others will a good giggle.

Photo: Seth Casteel

5. Kelly Brown

To say Kelly Brown is a Newborn photographer is slightly underrating how amazing this lady is. All the way from Australia, Kelly is the lead newborn baby photographer in the world!

If you want to learn Newborn; posing, wrapping, lighting and session flow, Kelly Brown is the woman!

Photos: Kelly Brown

6. And one from Peter…

Peter: When I was starting photography this was the blog that most influenced me. Not updated as much as it used to me – but still worth a visit.

Photo: David Nightingale

The Power of the Printed Image

Every now and then someone asks me why I like to sell printed images. “Why not just sell digital files”, they say, pointing out that there’s probably more profit to be made in digital files.

Yet my desire for printed images is unwavering. I absolutely love seeing wall-art leaving our studio. To think that pieces of our work are hanging in hundreds (maybe thousands) of homes across Northern Ireland brings a smile to my face.

To think of the number of conversations that have started with a cuppa tea in one hand, standing around a framed picture on the wall.

Phone picture one customer sent of their wall-art.

Recently I had one such occasion. At a close family funeral, folks at the wake gathered around images I had taken of the family. Comments like “aren’t those fantastic”, “so lovely to have”, “wow look at those” where common. Memories captured forever.

Yet not all occasions are so sad. Many of our images produce smiles and laughter. A child with a priceless expression or a dog misbehaving – all funny moments captured forever.

Phone picture one customer sent me of their newborn! Sitting on the piano. We don’t recommend this incase it smacks you on the nose hitting those high chords 🙂

One of the things I love most is when a customer sends me a picture of their new piece of wall-art on the wall. Thanks to everyone who sent in images for this post – keep them coming!

Another phone picture – the stairs are actually a really popular place to hang photographs!

We recently invested in a new fine-art printer for the studio. Fine art paper is probably twice as expensive as normal photographic paper – but it’s worth it! The paper is textured, has a beautiful feel in your hand. It’s also archival grade and has a wonderful quality and feel.

Phone picture a customer sent us of their block print.

From wedding albums to the very latest contemporary wall-art, I can’t wait to see what amazing creations our customers come up with!

Phone Picture of a big family group!

Baby Face Launches!

After years of attending many training seminars, how to light complex conditions, the latest and greatest equipment – it amazes me that the most successful things we have done in the studio are really simple! Who’d have thought putting families in a white box would work so well!

And so with Baby Face we’ve really gone back to our roots. Stunning portraiture, beautiful light and no distractions. Square and monochrome – this is contemporary and minimalist. Once you strip back the distractions, you focus on only one thing – the expression. Kids at this age have so many expressions – they can go through 5 different moods every minute! From laughter to curiosity, surprise to confusion, contemplation to contentment, then tears and back to laughter!



Simplicity  – the quality or condition of being plain or uncomplicated in form or design.




About a month ago we ran a Babyface pre-launch for about 10 families. It was great to see how warmly the concept was received. There were lots of happy tears and laughter in the viewing room. Mums in particular commented how easy the session was – these mini-sessions are 20-30mins long and they loved not having to worry about what the wee one was wearing.


We have found that Baby Face is perfect for ages 1-4yrs.





Baby Face is now available, Tuesday – Friday. To celebrate this wonderful new style of portraiture, we are running an introductory offer! For just £10, your little one can enjoy one of our Babyface Portrait Sessions which includes complimentary low-resolution download. You can book here!

Why is this blog is called The Happy Hedgehog?

Since relaunching the blog last week, I’ve been asked a few times ‘Why the blazes did you call it ‘The Happy Hedgehog?’.

Let me explain.

Before I was a photographer I worked for British Telecom. I loved the job, sure it had it’s stresses and strains but overall, it was a well paid job with a good bunch of people trying their best to make things better for their customers.

Anyway, I had this rather eccentric boss. Micheal enjoyed too much wine, a bit of craic and a deep chat about just about anything. He used the ‘F’ word in most sentences. Micheal possessed a skill I don’t have – strategic thinking. My mind works at an operational level – this is the problem, here’s the solution – this is how we get there. Micheal’s mind worked at a higher level – more broad brush strokes and blue sky. It was generally my job to translate the blue sky into the grey shades of reality.

ANYWAY, Micheal introduced me to a concept called ‘The Hedgehog’ by a guy who I think was called Jim Collins. So what would you rather be – a fox or a hedgehog? Foxes are cunning creatures, a wee bit sneaky – hedgehogs are slower creatures kinda plodding along.

There is a greek parable that states:

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

According to mind

In the parable, the fox uses a variety of strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, with a nose full of spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly: defend itself.

Philosopher Isaiah Berlin took this parable and applied it to the modern world in his 1953 essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” Berlin divided people into two groups: foxes and hedgehogs.

In his essay, he argued that foxes are sleek and shrewd animals that pursue many goals and interests at the same time. Because of this wide variety of interests and strategies, their thinking is scattered and unfocused, and they are limited in what they can achieve in the long run.

Hedgehogs, however, are slow and steady, and people often overlook them because they’re quiet and unassuming. But, unlike the fox, they are able to simplify the world and focus on one overarching vision. It’s this principle that guides everything they do, and helps them succeed against all odds.


So basically, Jim Collins reckoned that organisations and individuals were likely to succeed if they found their one big thing. The one thing they are deeply passionate about. The one thing that they are better at than anyone else. The one thing that brings enough money in to succeed.


And the sweets spot of these 3 things is called the hedgehog (the orange bit in the diagram below)

So as I applied this waffly business strategy to me, it caused me to ask a few questions. What am I good at? What am I passionate about? What do I want to be doing in 10years time? How much money do I really need to survive and be happy?


And the answer to all of these questions – the hedgehog – was photography. Thats what I was good at, thats what I was passionate about. Sure I had a decent job at BT, but was I really passionate about it? The next promotion would mean a company car and private health insurance – but did I really want the stress?


And so I left. Walked out. No package, no pay off, no ‘new start financial package’ as they called it  – just out on my own.


A few months after I quit, the deepest recession we have seen in years kicked in. The news rang of stock market crashes, property depressions and bankruptcies.

And through all the times of wondering where the next pay check was coming from, dreaming of owning a studio, dreaming of winning awards, sleeplessness nights over how the tax was getting paid – well I didn’t let it stress me too much. At the end of the day…

I had found my hedgehog and nothing or no-one was going to stop me.



circle diagram is copyright 2001 Jim Collins from the book ‘Good to Great’

Planning your honeymoon?

At Peter Thomas Photography we LOVE a good holiday. We always love to hear of our wedding couple’s honeymoon plans – even if they often make us a little jealous!

The planning of your honeymoon is one aspect of your wedding that you can look forward to once the big day is over.  With caterers,photographers, groomsmen, flower delivery and music, the honeymoon can be the cherry on top of any stress.

We caught up with top Travel Counsellor, Bruce Cairns, to ask him what couples love to do for their honeymoon, tips about booking it and help for those unsure of where to go.

What are popular destinations for honeymooners?

Many honeymooners like combining an active holiday with a relaxing few days. Popular this year has been fly-drives in California then staying at a beach, self-drive in South Africa combined with Mauritius, cruising is always popular as is the beautiful islands of the Maldives.


Where did you go for your honeymoon?

We went on Far East cruise, visiting Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Singapore, Vietnam and China. It was my wife’s first cruise and gave her a real love of cruising. It is a great way to see some amazing destinations but only having to unpack once!


If a couple didn’t know where they wanted to honeymoon, what questions would you ask?

I spend time chatting about what they want to do, less about the destination and more about how they want to spend their time. Often they want completely different things from each other for their honeymoon and we have to look for compromises before we even chat about destinations. The more that they can tell me about their wants and needs the better I can tailor their perfect honeymoon.

The road in Asia leads to many a magical place…

What exactly is a travel counsellor?

A Travel Counsellor is like a travel agent but better. We put our customer at the heart of everything we do, rather than just selling a travel product. We always look to add value to everything we do and only work with carefully selected suppliers who also place the customer at the top of their list.


How would it differ from a couple going into a travel agent or doing it all themselves? 

Many travel agents are now targeted to sell particular products, whether they are ideal for the customer or not. Also they are unable to offer the bespoke service that we offer as Travel Counsellors and being available for our clients outside normal business hours.

Doing it all themselves, most clients will research one or two holidays each year, I research more than that every day so I can save huge amounts of time by finding great solutions quickly. Also I have real concerns about the growth of online fraud which is becoming a huge problem. I always advise people never to send money to someone they have never met and who may be in a foreign country.

thermal baths heated by the local volcano
Hot Springs at 5* Resort

What else can you tell me about planning and going on a holiday?

Our time is the most precious thing we have, yet we waste it so often looking for that elusive deal.  I know of people who spend hours searching for the cheapest price which then has them waiting the longest times in airports to save a few pounds.  Remember to not always believe everything that you read online, I can see the same deals online that the public can, but they cannot see the special airfares, tour operators and DMCs who only work with travel professionals like me.


New Zealand
The beach of Abel Tasman


Happy 5th Birthday!

This month, Stacey Irvine celebrates 5 years at Peter Thomas Photography Studio. A rare feat in this day and age, as trends see employees change jobs on average every two years. 


To celebrate, we got to interview Stacey about her time at the studio to date and see some of her earlier work!

Happy Birthday Stacey! Where did it all start?

“Thanks! I was was studying a new Photography course at University of Ulster and working part time in retail. A colleague at the store recommended I apply for the position when she saw it online.”


Did you always want to be a portrait photographer?

“My family had actually been planning to live in Lanzarote when I left school after my GCSE’s. They had an unspent dream of running a bar somewhere hot. I had secured a place at an International School on the island to continue what would be the equivalent of A-Levels. With this coming up, I began scuba-diving lessons with my own dream of becoming a Scuba Dive Instructor.”


But all of that changed with the recession and our home in Lisburn couldn’t get sold. After September rolled in, my friends had already arranged to go back to school for A-Levels. I made a quick visit to my local College and signed up for a B-Tec National Diploma in Art & Design. I was given access to a camera and photography studio and began having fun photographing class mates. That’s when I fell in love.”

Can we see some of your early work?

Yes! I am still good friends with them!

Early work by Portrait Photographer, Stacey Irvine














So how have things changed over the 5 years at the studio?

My initial job at the Studio was as a Digital Artist, 3 days a week, editing Weddings of which there were about 50-60 a year.


The portrait side of the studio was only starting up, which Peter took care of. And about a year in, the volume began to increase. That’s when I began also taking portraits.

Was your first session a family or dogs?

We didn’t start photographing dogs until much later! In November 2015, we brought in my own dog, Harper, to experiment how it might work and what best lighting to use.


The first dog photographed at the award winning studio
Stacey’s gorgeous black labrador, Harper.

You are pretty famous among our customers as the baby and pet photographer – how did you come to specialise in that?

While I was working at Peter Thomas Photography only 3 days, I covered Maternity leave at a Newborn studio in Moira. That was way back in 2014. I absolutely loved it!

What was it like to win Newborn & Baby Photographer of the Year?

Newborn photography is hard work – but once you persevere and get THAT image, it’s worth it.

It was pretty awesome to win the award as I was specialising a lot I’m Newborns. It is so gratifying to be recognised in your own field.

Any funny stories from newborn portrait sessions?

I now carry a change of clothes in my car as I have been peed and poohed a few times! And not only by babies but pets as well!


Winning Pet Photographer of the Year!
















How are you celebrating your 5 years?

Peter is taking us all out for some crazy golf followed by a Taster Menu at James St South! I am sure images will follow!


If Stacey has photographed you and your family and you would like to leave her a message – please comment below.


A night to remember!

Have you ever had something happen to you which forces you to stop and pinch yourself?

I had one of those moments earlier this month. I was at a workshop organised by the

Professional Photographers Association of N.Ireland. I was particularly enthused about the workshop mainly because the speaker was a legendary photographer called Yervant. Yervant, who lives in Australia has won pretty much every major worldwide award you could think of. In photographer circles he’s super well known – think what Beckham is to football or Lewis Hamilton is to Formula One. He’s even got a range of wedding albums named after him!

Anyway, Yervant started his workshop and I was instantly engaged. His rather unique Australian / Ethopian accent and fab sense of humour meant that this workshop was entertaining and very educational.

I had also entered some awards in the PPANI annual event – and guess who was one of the main judges!

So that night I won Pet Photographer of the Year, Family Photographer of the Year and was a runners up in the Commercial Category. FANTASTIC! The next day there were a few bleary eyes at part two of the workshop. I’m not a great networker – so It was unlikely that I was ever going to dander up to Yervant and strike up a conversation. Next thing I knew, Yervant strolled over to me and started telling me how much he liked my work! WOW! Here was the ‘2010 Most Influential Wedding Photographer Of Our Time’ telling me he had enjoyed my work!

It was a day to remember – and a day to get an extra shelf on the awards wall. Thanks to you all for your support!


My experience at the Studio…


At the start of February, we hosted a work experience student at the Studio for 3 days. Giving Rachel, an aspiring photographer, access to photography sessions and studio equipment, editing of wedding albums and viewings for clients, we got to find out what she thought about it all. Here are her insights…

Hey there, so I’m Rachel Cowie and I came here to Peter Thomas Photography for a 3-day work experience. I honestly really enjoyed it! I learned a lot during my time here…


Now, at first like I’m anyone doing work experience, I was pretty nervous, but soon fell into the swing of things.


During my first day I participated in the editing of photographs and two photo shoots; one containing a blind Pomeranian dog and the other, a father and son photo shoot of two schnauzers, all of them adorable (and energetic!).


Coming to the end of the day I was set upon the task of sending review requests. This wasn’t exactly the highlight of the day for me but I was able to learn a load of computer short cuts which I will definitely be using for school and extra curricular work (Thanks for that!).


The day concluded watching a wedding album being created. This was pretty interesting. I got the opportunity to mull over whether to choose between grey writing on a white band across the bottom, or the white writing on the bottom right corner. We ended up going with the latter.


The second day wasn’t as busy with only two viewing/consultations to attend. I helped out with social media marketing getting out a series of posts for the week. That day, I got a pretty good insight into how a viewing of images is carried out, not having been to a consultation before.


During mid afternoon, I was sent to take a collection of images of a couple of photography albums. I was encouraged to experiment with the angles, lighting, and positioning of them. I found this really, pretty fun to do as it was enjoyable to fiddle about with the positioning, though not all the images I took were… satisfactory, but several were.

I was encouraged to experiment with angles (and) lighting…I found this really pretty fun


Personally I would like to grow as a photographer, as it is amazing when you capture something unexpected or interesting.


On my last day at the Portrait Studio, it was relatively busy with two photo shoots which I partook in. One of a young baby (cuteness overload!) the second shoot, a pair of rebellious miniature schnauzers all done up with a pair of bandanas – one for each of them.


Throughout my time here I learned a lot. From several pieces of lighting equipment, the use of music in photography (depending on what genre, it can relieve tension as a backing sound), the difference between natural and synthetic light and media marketing and scheduling.


From this experience, I would like to use my new skills and tips to produce a portfolio for both my photography and art and design to help me apply for a university and or a future job. (And the short-cuts for school and extra course work).



2017 PPANI Awards!

We had a great night at the Professional Photographers Association of Northern Ireland (PPANI) awards! The Gala dinner was held at the Galgorm on Sunday 5th March…




We were delighted to take home three shiny new awards:



2017 Contemporary Wedding Photographer of the Year

I’ve been wanting to win this one for a number of years so am totally over the moon!!




It was great to Stacey get her first awards:

2017 Pet Photographer of the Year

Pet photography has become a bit of a specialism for the studio – lovely to have it recognised!



2017 Newborn & Baby Photographer of the Year

So delighted to have our baby photography awarded. Stacey took this particular picture for some friends of mine, so it was lovely for this image to be awarded!



Runners up:

We were also runners up in the engagement, wedding reportage and pictorial categories.

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