Working in the Studio with Animals – Unique Portraits by Singenu

Working in the Studio with Animals – Unique Portraits by Singenu

Each week we’ll feature one photographer from the PhotoShelter community, and share his or her story behind the shots that caught our eye.

  • Photographer: Singenu – Patrice Beriault
  • Specialty: Animal portraiture, commercial
  • Current Location: Montreal, Canada
  • Clients: McDonald’s, Time, Reader’s Digest, Pfizer
  • PhotoShelter Website:

The Story

As a child, photographer Patrice Beriault spent his summers on farms, camping with animals surrounding him at all times: bare-back horse riding during the summer nights through tall grass and taking his sleeping bag to stay out under the stars with the horses. Patrice grew to understand animals’ innate behaviors.

It wasn’t until years later when Patrice began photographing his three dogs (two Great Danes and a Malamute) in his spare time between commercial and portrait clients. A friend, and fellow animal-photographer suggested he begin showing his animal work to ad agencies.

Photo by Singenu / Patrice Beriault

From the beginning Patrice knew that he didn’t just want to shoot family portraits with their pets. “I had to do something different that would separate me from the crowd of wildlife photographers and advertising photographers,” he says. “Today there are so many photographers in a specialty that you have to find a way to distinguish yourself with a visual signature of art.”

Determined to create a different type of animal portraiture, Patrice combined his commercial and portrait expertise with his experience with wildlife, and also created a new brand for this particular line of work. “Part of redefining myself was to alter my brand name. Singenu (my artistic nom de plume) was born!” Singenu is a play on words from Le Singe Nu (The Naked Ape), a book by Desmond Morris, that examines humans as a species and compares them to other animals.

Photo by Singenu / Patrice Beriault

Although Patrice has experience both in the studio and out in the field, working with animals in either location brings unique challenges. “Understanding that the animal will act differently if it is in a studio or in nature is important,” says Patrice. “It’s also important to be aware that whenever something changes around your subject, it may alter its behavior. It’s all about being able to try to anticipate situations and limit the unexpected. The key-word here is try,” he jokes.

Working with Montreal Police Cavalry horses (pictured above) taught Patrice a valuable lesson: “In situations like these, it is essential to understand that you must adapt to the animal and its limitations. Not the other way around,” he explains.

Photo by Singenu / Patrice Beriault

Working closely with the animal’s handler or owner before every photo shoot is important to Patrice’s workflow. “The animal handler is the link between the animal and the photographer. He saves us time and knows exactly what to do and what not to do, or when to do it, or not to do it.”

Photo by Singenu / Patrice Beriault

In terms of camera and lighting gear, Patrice approaches each shoot differently. “I’ll adapt my equipment to the project. I work with my Phase One or Nikon, and for lights either my Broncolor or Profoto. I imagine the image, see the light, and adapt the equipment to the result I am looking for. What is essential however, is to prepare and test before.” Patrice will use as little as two flashes and up to seven on some shoots.

Lighting set up Patrice uses when photographing reptiles

Patrice claims he has no particular favorite animal to photograph, but what he loves is the ability to find a way to communicate with each animal he photographs – to be able to get in touch. For Patrice, when that happens it’s what’s really special.

Patrice and his dog Jericho

Patrice is currently working with the Montreal SPCA and the DentsuBos agency on the project Adoption House, a campaign to show people how wonderful and diverse refuge animals really are. “You’ll not only find cats and dogs, but wildlife, farm animals, as well as exotic animals.” According to Patrice, casting was simple: he wanted to photograph them all.

What caught our eye

Patrice’s work carries a sense of vibrant color and life that pops against his signature stark white background. His unique way of photographing animals makes it apparent that Patrice brought many talents to the table before perfecting his ability to take an accurate portrait of these quirky and beautiful creatures.

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Marketing associate at PhotoShelter

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