“The best pet photographer does not exist”
There are simply too many different aspects to photography making the idea of “good“ unique to everyone. Simply put, “Good” is in the eye of the beholder.
Aspects as simple as the location of a shoot to as complex as depth of field and shutter speed change everything about the end results. Preference on this vary wildly. When my photos where being judged at the APPAs in 2018 I had the same photo judged as a gold worthy image by one judge and not even award worthy by another!
‘The best pet photographer is your favourite artist’
As a professional pet photography studio, we deal with these conversations with people on a daily basis and have landed on this list of this things to consider prior to choosing the photographer who will best immortalise your best friend.
Your Best Friend.
The first thing to consider before choosing a pet photographer is your best friend (your pet(s)). Going into the process with a good understanding of why you would want to do something like this will ensure a smooth enjoyable experience for you and your best friend. For example if you’ve just had some heartbreaking news, you will need to be looking for an experience which will be accommodating to the unique needs of your situation. Whereas if your best friend has a personality that you just have to capture then you would want to look for someone who is able to bring out that personality to ensure you get the shots you want.
A common start to a pet photography experiences is the consultation session. This is a way to ensure that you are hiring the right photographer(s) for you and your best friend. It gives you a chance to talk about what you want to get out of the session all with the added bonus of giving your best friend time to familiarise themselves with the photographer and the new environment.
We believe that this step is crucial to getting the best results. Don’t be afraid of booking in a consultation if you are not 100% sure. Use this session as a chance to feel out the situation and choose from there. It would be very uncommon for a photographer to require a guarantee from you prior to booking a consultation so go talk to some people, it's actually pretty fun!
Experience with Animals/Photographing Animals
‘You will always lose your patience before your photographer’
In line with our last point, it is important to be comfortable that your photographer will treat your best friend with care while still maintaining the ability to get the shots you want. Being photographed is a strange experience for pets so having someone with the know how (and patience!) makes for not only an easier session but returns better results. Hiring the person who did your beautiful wedding photo’s to capture your precious pooch is generally not going to yield you the results you are after simply because pets are not what they specialise in.
A specialist pet photographer should have years of experience working with animals or at a minimum have done a simple dog training and behaviour course. They should understand dog psychology and be able to read their body language in order to keep them relaxed and having a good time. We recommend staying with your best friend throughout a session however your intervention should only minimally be required. If your photographer is reliant on you handling your dog, it is a sign that they may not be comfortable working with animals.
Studio vs Natural
Another thing to consider when choosing your photographer is their style of work. Look at their website and their social media platforms and see what they have done for other clients. For example there is no point in contacting a studio based photographer who does stylised sessions if your ideal photo is of your dog frolicking on the beach.
The main benefits of outdoor/nature photography is the freedom. Your photographer has a lot more to work with when it comes to shooting outdoors. The options you have in regards to location can leave you with absolutely breathtaking results as the environment becomes a part of the story your artwork tells. You can use a location to add context, contrast or detail to your best friends story.
While outdoor pet photography can result in beautiful results there are some common pitfalls. Photography in the real world means your photographer has to be well equipped to deal with whatever their location throws at them. This can mean that the perfect shot takes a lot of time to get just right depending on a lot of uncontrollable factors (sunlight, background traffic, distracting environments etc.). Potentially these elements may result in the shot being simply not possible. You will need to take time of day and weather into consideration when booking the session and be prepared for the chance of a reschedule. Shooting in public spaces can also lead to issues with distractions for you best friend, potentially leading to a more stressful experience.
The main benefits of studio photography is the absolute control over the environment. In a studio your photographer has complete control over the lighting and composition of each shot. You also do not require your dog to be on a lead, you do not need to work around daylight hours, you can’t get rained out...etc. Having this control means the only thing stopping you from getting that perfect shot is your best friends reaction to the experience.
While this means it is a lot easier to work in a studio, it does come with some pitfalls. A photographer working in a studio is limited to the background, most commonly single colour backdrops. You may also find a studios prices to be slightly higher than an exclusively outdoor photographer. This can be due to the overheads involved with owning/renting a studio space.
As mentioned before, you’re best friends reaction to the experience will play a vital role. Whilst uncommon, it can also be a weird environment for some animals. This means that your best friend might not be suited to a studio environment. In our years of studio shooting, we have only had one dog be overly stressed out in the studio (whilst we didn’t get much we still had enough to make mum and dad more than happy!)
Digital vs Print vs Artwork.
After the photos have been taken and edited it comes down to you to choose your favourites... but what are you going to do with them?
‘Before booking a pet photography session, know why you want the photos in the first place!’
Most photographers will offer a variety of different products ranging from digital print packages to fancy wall art and everything in between.
Have a rough idea of what you want to do with your photos and find a photographer who can give you what you want! For example: If you want a wall art collection, make sure that this is something your photographer offers! Or if all you want is digitals, make sure your photographer offers a digital package etc.
Budget (cost vs quality)
Once you have in your mind what you want and how to want to do it, it's time to figure out what it's all going to cost. Like all industries, pet photography ranges from super cheap to super expensive. Whilst most photographers will offer a variety of options to suit all budgets it's important to have an understanding of what you’re comfortable with. Based on the points we’ve discussed above, find the best photographer for you and ask “ballpark, what’s this all going to cost me?”. Its common for businesses to offer a walkthrough of their products and services for you to have a good understanding of your options. This can be done through brochures, online galleries or in person. Often people will use their consultation appointments to discuss this part and begin thinking about what fits into their budget.
We find it is common for people to assume that this is a luxury service that they could not afford however once seeing our products and the level of care that goes into each piece they are not only comfortable with the price but are pleasantly surprised!
Oh! …. And!..
Keep your eyes open for a deal! Every pet photography company will be running specials from time to time (some more frequently than others). It's always a good idea to take advantage of a good deal when you see one! That being said, always keep in mind the points we’ve mentioned above. A good deal does not mean a good product!
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