Frequently asked questions
Answers to commonly asked questions from photographers and enthusiasts I receive via email and through my Facebook page. If you’d like to learn more about pet photography, please visit my dedicated Learn Pet Photography website – in addition to private sessions and commercial work, I also teach pet photography through one-on-one mentoring sessions (shooting and editing), e-books and video tutorials.
Q. How did you learn pet photography?
I developed an interest in photography at high school and completed a short course in black and white film photography in 1998. I loved it so much, I put aside my dream of becoming a vet and instead went on to complete a Diploma of Photography, a two year TAFE college course in Toowoomba, Queensland. I then studied web (multimedia) and graphic design, and eventually ended up pursuing a career as a designer which I worked as for the next 5 years.
I continued taking photos with early digital cameras and film SLRs for my own enjoyment, then purchased my first digital SLR (a Canon EOS 350D) in 2006. In 2007, to help me get back into the swing of photography and improve my skills, I completed a 365 photo-a-day project which was the best thing I could have done. Picking up the camera on a daily basis and striving to see the world in a new way each day was just what I needed.
Q. How did you get into pet photography?
In early 2007 I met, fell head-over-heels in love with, and brought home a fawn Great Dane named Kaya. To document the first year of Kaya’s life I decided to start a blog and post images and stories about her life, told from her perspective.
The blog proved to be quite popular and I really enjoyed taking photos of Kaya and her doggy friends, so researched the idea of getting back into photography as a profession and specialising in dogs. I started out doing shoots for my friends’ dogs to build up a portfolio of work. I created a website to display my work, had some business cards printed up and attended events to get my name out there. It’s been a long journey but well worth the effort!
Q. How would you describe your ‘style’?
I like to try and keep images looking natural and timeless, so steer clear of applying effects and trendy editing. I go for vibrant (but not oversaturated) colour, beautiful lighting and make sure the subject is crisp, clear and separate from the background. I place emphasis on three main components – light, location and expression – striving to include all three in every image I take.
Q. What kind of camera and lenses do you use?
I shoot with a Canon 1D-x body. Lenses include the Canon 35mm f1.4L, Canon 24-70 f2.8L II, Canon 100mm f2.8L Macro, Canon 135mm f2L and Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS II. The 70-200 is my go-to lens for action, but also for portraits when I need to hang back a little or shoot in a cluttered environment. The 24-70 is a great all-rounder, allowing more flexibility with focal length, but still with a shallow depth of field. The 35mm is my favourite lens for working up close with dogs and also indoors with cats and kittens. The 100mm and 135mm are great for portrait style shots or working in low light.
To see what is in my camera bag please check out my ShotKit.
Q. Which exposure and autofocus modes do you shoot on?
I like to get exposure perfect in camera so shoot in full manual exposure mode (M) about 99.9% of the time. In highly variable lighting conditions I sometimes shoot in aperture priority (AV) mode.
I use AI Servo full time with the back button focusing method. This allows me to focus and recompose as if I was shooting in One Shot focus mode, but also to quickly track a moving subject if required. I often quickly move the focus points around, rather than focusing and recomposing.
Q. Do you use artificial light or flash in any of your on-location shoots?
I use no artificial lighting or reflectors.
Q. How do you edit your photos?
I use Adobe Lightroom CC to download, sort and finalise selected images from a session, and also apply basic adjustments such as cropping, white balance, highlight and shadow recovery, exposure, clarity, contrast and vibrance.
I then export the final images as PSD files to Photoshop CS6 and edit each shot individually, often using some time-saving custom actions I’ve created for further sharpening, colour and contrast. I’ll also do any pixel level editing such as the removal of leashes, background objects etc.
The final edited PSD files are then imported back into Lightroom where they sit ready for batch processing, depending on their eventual destination.
Interested in learning more?
You’re in luck! I’ve been teaching pet photography since 2013 and have a whole website dedicated to the various teaching services and resources I offer, called Learn Pet Photography. See you there!