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Top Pet Photographers

Here is a round up of some of the top pet photographers we have here on ePHOTOzine.

| Photographer


Top Pet Photographers: Coleslaw lucky
'Lucky' by Coleslaw

How did you get into pet photography?
Well, I love dogs. In fact, I am mad about dogs. So, it was only natural that when I got my first dog, Lucky, a Westie, I started to photograph him when he was 3 months old. And it continued from there.

Talk us through how you set up and capture your shots.
That would depend on whether it is indoor or outdoor.

For an indoor shoot, I have a set of studio lighting in the kitchen. I would use a softbox on one side as the main light and an umbrella on the other side as the fill. I put the dogs on the dining table, and start shooting. Of course, a bit of bribery like treats would go down very well.

As for an outdoor shoot, I would normally let the dogs run free in front of me (of course, somewhere away from the road). Then, I will get down on the ground, focus, and shout for the dogs to run back to me. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. They don't always listen to me... OK, they don't normally listen to me!

What draws you to pet photography?
Again, purely because of my love for dogs. I just can't get enough of them. It is very easy to relate to the photos of dogs. It just brings me happiness. I just can't help but keep doing the 'aww' or 'ahh'.


Top Pet Photographers: Pippa and Freddy
'Pippa and Freddy' by John_Wannop

How did you get into pet photography?
It was when I got Pippa my Springer Spaniel 4 years ago, all of a sudden I had my own 4 legged model who was very happy to run around for the camera epically when there was a treat or two in the offering.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I don’t tend to do portraits of my two dogs as I prefer to take pictures of them running around and having fun and the fact that they never sit still long enough to get a good shot!

When I go out with my dogs I usually have an idea as to the kind of shot I would like to get. This normally involves one or both of them running directly towards me through various landscapes but my favourite location has got to be the beach which the dogs love. The only problem is there can be too many distractions especially of the flying variety. My favuorite time is just after sunrise in winter when the lighting can be fantastic and you can have the place to yourself.

I generally shoot wide open because I like the shallow depth of filed it produces with a longer lens. I set the camera to Shutter priority dial in 500th to 1000th shutter speed and stick the ISO on auto! For the last seven years I have been using Canon equipment. Over the last few years I was using a Canon 1D Mk IIII and a 5D MkII and these would be used with a Canon 70-200mm or a 500mm lens.

As to getting them to run towards me, all I can say is dog biscuits and plenty of them!

What draws you to pet photography?
Firstly I love all animals so whether it's taking a picture of an Otter on the Isle of Mull in Scotland or taking pictures of dogs on my local beach in North Wales, I just love to be out in the open. The one thing I especially like about pet photography is when someone asks me to take pictures of their dogs as seeing the reaction on their faces when I give them a print or two makes it all worthwhile.


Top Pet Photographers: My Boy by Sue Turner
'My Boy' by SueTurner

How did you get into pet photography?
The main reason I got into pet photography is that I love cats and have always admired Rachael Hale’s work. Every year I would always have her cat calendar and diary and really wanted to try and create some of her amazing shots with my own cats. When I got my first digital SLR, I realised it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Anyone who owns a cat will agree that cats are their own person and do not respond to calling their name so that you can take a picture! More often than not they will just turn around, close their eyes and go back to sleep!

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
If I wanted to get a particular shot I found I would set up a scene, usually away from my cats preying eyes as they are so nosey! I found a studio light gave the best fur and eye detail and you could avoid the "flash eye" which can spoil so many photos when you use a flash gun. I made sure the lighting was right, put the blanket and/or props I wanted in the shot, then I would let them in.

By this time they were itching to get in the room to see what I had been doing – the window of opportunity was very short lived, as they have a very short concentration span. A bit of waving a squeaky cat toy, close to the lens so that they look at the lens usually works. Hiding a couple of their favourite cat treats in amongst the blanket would also keep their interest going for a few minutes more and that was it really - hard work, but so much fun and very satisfying if you got the shot you had in mind. If not, there was always tomorrow.

What draws you to pet photography?
The challenge really draws me to pet photography. You need a lot of patience. It's very satisfying when you get "that picture" and you think it was worth all the time and trouble. So every year I still get a Rachael Hale calendar but I also have my own one as well.


Top Pet Photographers: Handsome by DannoM
'Handsome' by DannoM

How did you get into pet photography?
When I was given my first DSLR I was instantly looking for subjects to photograph. Having a strong interest in the natural world since being a young boy I was instantly drawn to this type of photography. At first, pets were a lot easier to get close to than the local wildlife so I concentrated on them, I have photographed other subjects but always ended up being drawn back to pets. Soon I was getting known in my local area and what started as a hobby became a part time business for me.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
When taking photographs of pets I have a strong preference for the natural environment. In particular dogs I feel look best outside rather than in a studio environment. First off I would spend some time getting to know the animal and making them feel secure and confident in my presence. This allows me to capture their true spirit. Once I feel confident they have accepted me I will slowly get the camera out and shoot from a distance with a longer lens. Then as the shoot goes on I will start getting closer using a wide angle lens. The majority of the time the owner gives me a free reign on the type of shots I take, which allows me total creative freedom. I am always looking at the environment we are in and in particular the background. The colour of the animal must be considered so it really stands out from the background. I always try and get down to their level which usually involves lying on my stomach getting muddy! Dogs can usually be bribed into a certain position or to run along a certain path, whereas a cat is the opposite you follow them and they dictate where they will be photographed.

What draws you to pet photography?
I love to try and capture their character and personality. Pets are a member of the family so taking photographs for an owner is always a pleasure. Capturing the bond between animal and owner makes for some beautiful images. With dogs I love to capture images showing them having fun, water shots are my favourite and always popular with owners. Every animal teaches you something new and no two shoots are the same which helps keep me on my toes.


Top Pet Photographers: Mesmer-eyes!
'Mesmer-eyes!' by Polly470

How did you get into domestic/ captive animal photography?
I am a sculptor in the film business, and about 4 years ago had a sort of 'crisis of faith' in what I was doing - I have been doing it a long time! So I decided to buy a Digital SLR camera and see if I could revitalise my enthusiasm for something. After a year of blaming the camera something clicked, and I started to see that I could actually create what I saw in my mind.

Talk us through how you set up and create a shot.
I always take my pictures outside in natural light, I can't actually lay claim to setting up a shot! It is totally dependent on the mood of the animal, the surrounding environment and the weather. The most important thing to me is to get that little look or that tiny expression that goes towards capturing the essence of the animal and the mood of the moment, around which I can create the environment.

What draws you to this type of photography?
I suppose I have two reasons for liking domestic / captive animals. The first one is simple - I love the smell of Bovine in the morning!

Secondly I want to give captive animals such as animals residing in our wildlife parks a new freedom in the eyes of the observer - hopefully a promise of things to come in the not to distant future, which would be to eliminate the bars of the Arks they currently reside in and relocate them, or more likely their progeny, in a safe environment suitable for future generations.

A small portion of any sales of my prints goes towards animal conservation. I am very passionate about that!

I honestly don't have a favourite animal to photograph - each one is a challenge, and each one brings something new to work on and learn from and I also don't have a favourite time of day early morning, dusk - bring it on!

I have not yet photographed a Texas Longhorn though, and that is high on my list, together with a Brahmin Bull. I do have to confess I find pigs hard to photograph!


Top Pet Photographers: Mr Glum by Angi Nelson
'Mr Glum' by Angi_Nelson

How did you get into pet photography?
I have kept frogs and reptiles as pets for around 10 years now, so when I was given a DSLR for Christmas 4 years ago, my pets were one of the first things I photographed. I wanted to share the wonder of these amazing creatures with the world.

I was working as editor for Reptile Care magazine at the time, and if we were short on images then I would take photographs of the creatures in my partner's reptile shops to help. I also took images for the shop so they could advertise the animals for sale. I tend to photograph pets more than wildlife as I have M.E which can often limit my physical activity levels, so photographing from home works well for me.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I have numerous different set ups that I use for the various creatures, so setting up all depends on the species, its behaviour, what sort of prop it will be comfortable sitting on and whether I want a naturalistic set up or not. I do prefer a more natural looking set, although images using plain black backdrops often give impact and sell well. Sometimes I will use studio lights, especially if it's a larger reptile such as an adult Green tree python or adult Panther chameleon, but for my favourite subjects, the frogs, I mainly use a large light tent, with between 1 and 4 speedlights depending on the look I am trying to achieve. The light tent is useful for small species that move around a lot, it prevents fast animals like Tokay geckos from escaping across the room in seconds and prevents frogs from injuring themselves if they decide to jump, this way they have a soft landing and cannot jump across the room.

I set everything up and test the lighting before getting the frog out, which means less time for them out of their vivarium. I often shoot tethered to a laptop to help ensure I get it right in camera. It is so important to learn the behaviour of each individual species to avoid stress for them. Some creatures will only be happy climbing around on plants whilst others will totally freak out if you don’t give them something sturdy to sit on. There are some creatures you need to work very slowly with so they don’t get stressed and others that you need to capture fast as they will leap or slither all over non stop.

There are techniques I use for the faster species, but it's hard work on your own, it usually works best if you can have one person monitoring the animal whilst one takes photographs. Many of my images of snakes striking were taken with me working alone, pre-focusing the camera set up on a tripod, using an aperture of around f/18, and holding a remote trigger in one hand whilst offering the snake my fingers to bite (moving it very quickly!) and trying to press the shutter at the right moment! Not ideal I know and not something I would recommend unless you know what you are doing with snakes.

Just because I take images indoors a lot, for the animals safety, doesn’t mean I cant be creative. I often set up a mini pond on a baking tray, complete with pebbles, moss and water sprayed leaves in the background for a nice bokeh. I am always trying to think of original ways to photograph the animals and have even used fairy lights and iridescent sparkly paper as backdrops to get a unique appearance.

What draws you to pet photography?
Reptile and amphibian photography unexpectedly became a niche area for me when I was spotted by a media agency resulting in my frog images being published in national newspapers, and I ended up coming runner up in Pet photographer of the year with the SWPP in January 2012. I am frequently approached by photography clubs and zoos to give talks with images. Even Canon employed my services because of my frog photography.

Not many people specialise in this and have access to the creatures that I do, so I try to use it to my advantage, offering workshops and selling images. But I do love other types of photography, especially creative portraiture and landscapes. I am constantly looking for ways to improve in my favourite genre and have I am currently awaiting the results on my entry panel for an Associateship in pet photography after gaining a licentiate last year, so keep an eye on my profile here for news on whether I pass or not!


Top Pet Photographers: Stalking 2
'Stalking 2' by Philip_P

How did you get into pet photography?
I suppose without realising it I have always been keen on animals and wildlife. Growing up we always had family cats around and I was often taken to zoos. Other members of my family are keen bird watchers and I’ve tagged along on walks and visit to hides.

I’ve always been a keen photographer but only took it up as a serious hobby since the digital cameras came along. It was then I tried a few workshops on Birds of Prey, Big Cats and British Mammals which I found fascinating. After visiting the Wildlife Heritage Foundation I asked about volunteering which I did for a couple of years, it was hard work but the opportunity gave me far better access and much more time with the cats.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I took a lion shots late on a summer afternoon. Then with a bit of help from Photoshop I darkened the background a bit more. My obsession with wildlife grew and I wanted better shots so I attended more courses, seminars, exhibition and workshops to improve my photography.

Having 4 cats around the house gave me the chance to photograph them; a very good friend got a puppy which again gave me more opportunities. Most people probably think pet photography is an easy subject, but it can be quite challenging. One experience I had was taking some images of a friend’s two Dobermans in a garden which wasn't particularly big! One of the dogs was very friendly but would just run around, very fast and hardly ever gave me eye contact. The other one hid every time I pointed the camera at him! Strange because it was a mean looking dog but very camera shy.

Animals are always unpredictable even when asleep. I’ve often seen one of my cats in a good pose and in good light which is so important, so I’ll grab my camera but before I’m ready they will awake giving me the: "what are you up to" look.

What draws you to pet photography?
For me, you need to be an animal lover so you can put them at ease while trying to take photographs. Animals are a great judge of character and will sense if you are not comfortable around them. I like to play with them by using a toy to interact but it’s difficult to get a shot with a good diffused background, good light and the right pose. I think all owners want shots of their pets and I had considered using my experience and turning it into a part time business but never really had the confidence to follow it through. At the end of the day, I’m a big animal lover full stop.


Top Pet Photographers: Back In Black
'Back In Black' by MartinWait

How did you get into pet photography?
I first started photographing pets after getting my dog, Max, which was around the time I took photography up as a serious hobby. As he grew so did my photography and my pictures of him became much better. When the pictures started to get noticed then inevitably family and friends with dogs asked me to do portraits, then there was a knock on effect from that.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I have no real plan for setting up a pet shoot. Often I would arrive at the home, always having my camera in hand, say a quick hello to the dog then discuss the kind of shots the owner would like. Normally while talking the dog would wonder off doing its own thing and I would get some candid shots if the home is well lit. After that we would go on a normal walking route for the dog and I would just shoot away. If the dog is well trained then that would open up the chances of much better portraits in the home and in the outdoors.

What draws you to pet photography?
I'm not specifically drawn to pet photography as I like to take and create images of all kinds, but I do enjoy taking pictures of animals as they keep you on your toes and it's a fantastic feeling getting a great picture of an animal in its own environment, and the cherry on the cake is when the owner loves it too.

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avacreates Avatar
avacreates 12 448 1 United Kingdom
13 Dec 2012 1:44AM
Spectacular images - inspirational - thank you ephotozine and the artists chosen to inspire us
Niknut Avatar
Niknut Plus
13 3.7k 82 United Kingdom
13 Dec 2012 4:42PM
Great selection, from a talented & clearly dedicated bunch......a pleasure to view
all their work !!!!!!
Lelah Avatar
Lelah 10 1 United Kingdom
18 Dec 2012 10:51PM
Great shots from some talented photographers, a joy to view them

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