Archive for November 9th, 2010

Pet Photography Q and A with Andrew Darlow

Andrew Darlow, pro photographer and author of the book:
Pet Photography 101: Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your
Dog or Cat (Focal Press) has kindly agreed to answer some
of our readers' questions on the subject of pet photography.

Pet Photography Q & A (Questions by Shuttermom readers and Shuttermom
University members, Answers by Andrew Darlow)

Hello! First, I'd like to thank Cindy Bracken and everyone who asked
a question for me to answer for this article-that makes my job much
easier! I've been photographing and making prints of people and their
pets for over 10 years, and over that time period, I've learned a lot
about what works and what doesn't work. Of course, I'll be sharing my
own opinions, and what has worked for me may not always work for you.
So without further ado, let's get the treat ball rolling…

Q: How do I get my pet photography business going?

A: Pet Photography, like other forms of portrait photography, can be
handled in many ways. I'm going to assume that you have the technical
part down, and you want to focus on the business side of things.
Definitely start with the great resources inside of ShutterMom University
(but I'm guessing you know that!). One way to quickly start getting
assignments is to begin by contacting pet-related businesses.
Groomers are at the top of my list. One idea is to work with
a groomer to set aside a specific day in which you do a photo session
for no sitting fee (or a low sitting fee), but if the client likes
one or more of the photos (which you should show to them on a nice laptop
or other screen), they can be offered a few specific packages. One
approach is to make the packages available only if they order that day
(or a discount/special offer can be offered). Of course, they can order
more later, but I think that taking the order right after the photo shoot
is the best approach.  It's also important to have at least one example
of everything you are planning to offer.

Other good pet-related businesses are Vets, dog and cat daycare/boarding
facilities, training facilities/obedience schools and and stores who sell
pet-related products. 

After the photo shoot, you can put the photos up on a site that helps
photographers display and sell their prints and other products, but it's
even better to meet with people in person if possible at your studio or
their home (with a projector and screen or large screen monitor/TV).
I use Zenfolio for online proofing/sales, and I'm very happy with it
overall. You can see a non-password protected gallery on my Zenfolio
site here:

Q: I love photographing pets. What about outfits? Should I supply them?
I would like to keep costs down.

A: I don't think you should supply any outfits for the pets. I would,
however, recommend that you ask the pets' owners to bring a few outfits.
I would also ask them to keep their clothing choices in mind if they
want to be photographed together with their pet. They don't have to
match their pet(s), but they should compliment each other.
Accessories are a different story, and very useful. I would have
some pet-safe sunglasses, a few different types of hats, and pet-safe
items that fit in with the season, depending on the time of year.
A plastic cupid's arrow is a good example for Valentine's Day, and
bunny ears are a perennial favorite for either Easter or Halloween.
I would keep backgrounds and tables (ideal for small dogs) simple.
Brown muslin backdrops are good, as are beige, black, red and purple
silk-like, wrinkle free fabrics-check fabric stores for these.
See my Zenfolio sample gallery linked above for some examples.

Q: I always have trouble with white dogs and cats. In the home studio,
there's no problem, but at the location pet store we do shoots (with
the overhead flourescent lights), they just don't come out the same.

A: I would re-create the light you use in the home studio instead of
relying on the store's lighting. As long as you set your aperture to
about f/8 and shoot at 1/125 sec. at about 200-400ASA, you should be able
to make the flash do all the work (essentially negating the effect of
the store's lighting). There are many good portable flash units and
portable power options as well. The other advice I'd give is not to
photograph white dogs and cats on a white surface. Instead choose just
about anything else. Having some falloff from one side (not lighting
them straight on) can also help give their fur more detail, and the
photos will just look more natural (similar to daylight streaming in
from a window).

Q: What is a good getting started price to charge? 

A: I don't have a good answer for this, because there are so many
variables. You can see what others in your area are charging to get
some idea of the market, but pricing is really about what you need to
charge to stay in business and keep moving forward in both slow times a
and busy times. Also consider your taxes, overhead, insurance, etc.

Q: What are some tricks to use to get pets attention? 

A: I recently wrote a whole article on this topic, so I think it's
best to just link to it:

Q: How do you keep from getting green glow eyes?

A: The best way is not to use on-camera flash, and if you do use flash,
keep it at least about a foot away from the lens. To remove
red-eye/green-eye, there are a few options. You can
generally use the same tools as those used for human red-eye.
Another option is to use "Replace Color" in Photoshop CS4 or CS5.
Just target the green and change its color to something more appropriate.

BIO- Andrew Darlow

Andrew Darlow is photographer, writer and digital imaging consultant.
He is editor of, an online imaging blog/magazine.
His photography and technical articles have been featured in numerous
magazines and websites, including Photo District News, PDN Gear
Guide, Popular Photography, Rangefinder, Professional Photographer,
Studio Photography and iMagazine (Japan).

Over the past 15 years, he has taught thousands how to improve their
photography, workflow and digital print output at conferences, industry
events, and educational institutions, including the PDN PhotoPlus Expo,
PhotoImaging & Design Expo, the Arles Photo Festival (Arles, France),
the School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, and the International
Center of Photography ICP) in New York.

His book, 301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques: An Essential Printing Resource
for Photographers, (Course Technology PTR) was chosen as the winner in the
"Photography: Instructional/How-To" category of The National Best Books
2008 Awards, sponsored by USA Book News. Free excerpts and the table of
contents are available for download on the book's companion site at

His newest book, Pet Photography 101: Tips for Taking Better Photos of
Your Dog or Cat (Focal Press) covers tips and techniques for photographing
people and their pets. Excerpts and more info can be found at

Follow him on Twitter:
or Facebook:
November 2010
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