Pet Photography: Capturing Your Most Loyal Furry Friend
Pet lovers across the globe will tell you that their pet is just as much a part of the family as any other member. That’s why a slew of them enjoy professional portraits of their furry loved ones. We spoke with three pet photographers who aim to do just that, as well as aiding the overpopulation crisis to help get animals adopted. “Good photography can often help shelter pets get adopted much faster,” says Nashville-based pet photographer Amiee Stubbs. A stock photographer, portrait photographer, and sports photographer share their tips, tricks and love for man’s best friend, which includes any type of animal.
I began by photographing families, but I found myself having much more fun when their pets were in front of the camera. Animals are much easier to work with than people. They’re not as uptight, and they never ask me to Photoshop their waist or make their boobs bigger.
How did you break into the field?
I volunteered my services to animal rescue organizations by providing them with complimentary images for use in adoption ads. I quickly found that giving back to the community and helping to save lives was very fulfilling and rewarding. I wanted to find a way to turn my philanthropic efforts into an actual paycheck, so I decided to start licensing my images of adoptable animals as stock photography.
Who are your main clients?
As an animal stock photographer, most of my clients are advertising agencies and pet product companies that license professional animal images for marketing and packaging purposes.
For private clients, most people find me through my website. I also receive many referrals through the rescue groups and at local boutiques that I work closely with.
I solely photograph indoors under studio lighting and mainly on a seamless white vinyl backdrop. The vinyl material is easy to clean up, and the pets seem to be more comfortable walking on it than they do the paper backdrops. To get the pet’s attention, I use a DaisyGrip that holds a squeaky toy or bone above my camera. I also have an app on my phone called Dog Teaser that has different sounds. I find that when dogs tune in to a new sound, they usually close their mouths and tilt their heads, which is a great pose for photos.
What is the most challenging part about shooting pets?
By far, the biggest challenge is the people that come alone with them. That is another reason why I like working with homeless animals—they don’t have stressed-out stage parents hanging over them with unrealistic expectations and short tempers. I have been known to kick animal owners out of my studio to rid the place of negative energy. When an animal is getting yelled at and pulled in all directions by the collar, their unhappiness with the situation shows up in their photos.
Where do your stock photos go?
The photographs I take of homeless animals are used to help promote their adoption through various outlets such as the rescue group’s website, social media and pet adoption websites. There are literally millions of homeless animals that are being promoted for adoption all over the world at any given moment. A professional photo stands out from the sea of poorly exposed and composed images on adoption websites. This helps bring attention to the photographed animal and to show off their unique features and personality.
Photographers and artists worldwide can do their part to help end the animal overpopulation crisis by volunteering their services in their own area. The Hearts Speak organization can help get them started. Visit http://www.heartsspeak.org for more info.
I grew up with dogs, cats, parakeets and aquariums, so I've always been around animals. My husband and I got our first dog in 2006, a Jack Russell Terrier we named Halpert. She instantly became my favorite subject. Over time, we added more dogs to our family and eventually got involved in animal rescue. With a love for both animals and photography, pet photography was a natural fit.
Who are your main clients?
Most of my pet sessions are booked by people who love their pets and want professional photos to create memories that will last forever. I also spend a great deal of time volunteering for various rescue groups and animal shelters. Good photography can often help shelter pets get adopted much faster. I am also fortunate to be a photography partner for The PEDIGREE Foundation, and I've done some pet photography projects for Mars Petcare as well.
During a pet session, I always have bag filled with treats, leashes, toys, paw wipes, water, and of course, waste bags.
Do you shoot indoors or outdoors?
I do have my own photography studio, but the majority of the pet sessions I do are outdoors. I challenge myself to come up with new ideas, even in locations I’ve used many times before. I want each pet’s photo to be unique, and I try to capture what it is their guardians love most about them.
I think they’re about the same for me, but I have a great deal of experience with animal behavior. I crawl around on the ground a lot, so I get pretty dirty when I’m photographing pets, but people generally require a lot more editing.
What is your best-selling pet product?
Print sales are first, followed closely by canvas.
What is the wildest animal you’ve ever shot?
In addition to my pet photography business, I work as the official photographer and photography teacher for the Nashville Zoo. I’ve been in cages with leopards, and I’ve had a giraffe lick my camera lens. Even with all of that excitement, I think I’m still happiest when I’m photographing someone’s pet.
What is your favorite part about pet photography?
I love meeting clients who love their pets as much as I love mine. It’s a privilege to capture images of their animal companions that I know they will always cherish, long after their loyal friends have gone.
I started out years ago photographing endangered plants for my graduate degree. That was in the ‘70s!
As a pet sports photographer, which events do you shoot?
Flyball and agility are the dog sports I photograph, with a little disc thrown in.
Getting good eye contact. most of the sports venues are dark and illuminated with artificial light. Given that the dogs are running as fast as they can, it makes for lots of blurry images.
Do you do anything to promote pet adoption?
I've been taking pictures at Saving Grace Animals for Adoption in Wake Forest, North Carolina, a few times a month for the past year. It is a wonderful rescue that pulls from shelters and places hundreds of dogs each year. Several photographers pitch in, and I'm happy to be one of them.
What is your best-selling pet product?
My best selling products are small-sized prints and web-res downloads for social media. I print larger sizes, mat and/or frame some of them, and display them when I shoot at a competition to show people what is possible. I think most people automatically think of smaller sizes and don't realize how cool a larger framed print can look. I've also been doing composite prints of dogs in action, and some people are asking for those.
Do pets like being photographed?
Sometimes a pet will be camera shy; that big dark eyeball staring at them can be imposing. It's the ones fresh from the shelters who can be frightened and won't make eye contact. It’s sad knowing that they are so frightened.
I love seeing the bond and teamwork between sports dogs and their handlers. And it's so cool seeing these dogs in action and freezing a slice of it. It's something the handler doesn't get to see because they can't be in two places at once—I love the owners' reactions to seeing their sports dogs doing what they love to do.
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