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Pup Photography

1732 Views 13 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  strannik
So I just decided I'd unload. I'm 16, I want to be a pet photographer (soonish), and I thought why not drop some pictures here? I'd love advice or comments :)
Dog Water dog Sky Plant Mammal
Dog Carnivore Dog breed Grass Whiskers

Well, there you go! Let me know what you think, and if you happen to be a pet photographer - as a hobby or a business -please, I'd love to chat with you!

P.S. Even if you aren't a pet photographer, I could still use advice ;)


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The Fenzi Dog Sports Academy has some great classes specifically for dog photography. This is the instructor's info and list of upcoming classes. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - Amy Johnson
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Okay, this is just from a dog lover. Let's assume you become a dog photographer and are then in the business of taking dog photos and selling them. For the part of your market that is the dog owner, I'll say:

Your very first photo does nothing for me. I call photos like that "whisker shots" and while some may like them, for me they distort the animal, and not only don't I like them, I can take photos like that myself.

The next one is great. If that were my puppy I'd be a customer.

Black and white, uhn uhn. I guess it's artsy, but it's not my thing.

The next one is just outstanding. I'd stand in line for a picture like that of one of my dogs, but then I was in horses and am in dogs a sucker for a pretty head, and that's one, showcased really beautifully.

The next one isn't IMO a dog photo. It's a photo of a ball, dog isn't distinct, and it's black and white to boot, so does nothing for me. I'd think your market would be more a sports magazine there.

The next one is kind of the same - it's more a landscape photo than a dog photo. It's attractive, but if the dog in the photo was mine, I wouldn't be interested in buying it or having it.

The last three I think would all appeal to the owners of those particular dogs. They're attractive and feature the dogs well in good poses. Even the black and white one:).

The attachment? I guess it would depend on the owner of the house and dog. I like prettier backgrounds.

So for me, if you had a booth at a dog show and were displaying some of your work in hopes of getting people to stop by and sign up for you to photograph their dogs, the photos you could display that would lure me to stop and look, maybe talk to you and consider having my own dogs photographed, would be the second and fourth you posted definitely and the last three in the line maybe.
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Well, "art" is usually pretty subjective. As they say .. beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, I think there are basic rules that render photos either aesthetically pleasing -- or not. I'll give my opinion here about what is pleasing to MY eye, along with some constructive criticism regarding composition.

Photo #1. .. I agree with storyist. But oftentimes, camera angle can make a world of difference. Instead of the typical head-high camera position looking down at the dog, try lowering the camera so that it is looking slightly up at the dog, or perhaps only very slightly down. Adjusting for less angulation might improve this type of picture.

#2. .. Nice. Although cropping out about 10% (?) of the entire left side of the pic might bring better balance. I would aim for equal 'weight' of the straw-coloured background, regardless of where the dog itself ends up being positioned. As is, there seems to be too much weight to the left, especially with that tree line coming in from the left side as well. Centering the dog's head, for example, with his body off to the right, usually creates an odd looking picture.

#3. .. I'm ok with the black & white, but including the dog's legs and feet in the shot would greatly improve the interest. Also, collars and tags very much distract the eye to those items. Remove them if possible for the sake of cleanliness. I do like the pitch-black background here.

#4. .. Beautiful !! Not much to be critical of there.

#5. .. I like the b&w, I like that the camera focus is on the ball and the dog itself is out of focus. And I love the artistic nature of the shot. While it isn't a dog picture per se, it tells a great story. IMO, with that particular focus / non-focus, it's truly a matter of art imitating life. ie: the dog's focus is on the ball, the same as the camera is. Only criticism here is that the dog's entire body (front feet) should also be included in the frame. And maybe crop a very small amount off of the right side of the pic.

#6. .. See the tree that stands alone on the horizon with a bit of a V shape to the trunk? .. I would crop it just to the right of that tree, for balance. I would also remove the dog's leash and collar (if possible) prior to the shot, in order to keep the details clean. I find the leash itself to be quite a negative impact to an otherwise free and wide-open feeling.

#7. .. Once again, I think cropping would really improve the overall look of this picture. Roughly about 20% off the left side should do it. I like the angles of the waterline, the top of the tree line, and also like the somewhat distorted reflection of the dog in the water.

#8. .. From an artistic perspective, THIS one is my favourite by far. Balance is perfect. Subject matter is perfect. Colour scheme is perfect. It tells a wonderful story of two apparent siblings, each with vastly different motives, and different individual focus points. Simply WONDERFUL !!

#9. .. Nice. Although I do find the rope toy and diagonal twig slightly distracting. Otherwise, balance / composition / detail / expression etc are all good.

Attachment. .. I dunno, There seems to be something missing in the composition. I love the dog wrapped up in a blanket keeping warm, with a relaxed and comforted expression in his eyes. But for me, there's something lacking in the choice of background. 'Cold green' siding just doesn't set this one off.

So anyway, there you have it. My UNPROFESSIONAL opinion. Hope it helps.

Keep up the good work, and best wishes for all of your future photographic endeavours.
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@petpeeve & @storyist -

Thank you both for your advice, I really appreciate it. Yes, I do aim for more of the artistic perspective sometimes, which was the goal with numbers 5 & 6; I was trying to show a variety of...well, of the aspects of a dog's life, I guess.

I have a lot of headshots, portraits, and images focused in on the subject/dog, but I only put in a few to show different angles and ideas, if that makes sense :)
The first image - her name is Bambi and she is the most high-energy dog I've ever met. The only way to get her to hold still is to wave a toy above her head, and if you are down on her level she'll try to knock you over lol. So the reason I attached that picture is because of the color scheme - I feel like it really brought out her beautiful brown eyes and the fall leaves around her. Here's another one of her I got, do you feel like this is better?
Plant Dog Tree Dog breed Carnivore

The attachment image actually wasn't supposed to be in there, but it somehow got posted along with everything else. I'm new here, and still trying to figure things out :)

@petpeeve, I've heard a lot about rule of thirds in an image, and that's what I was trying to go by, by leaving extra space in some of the images. My photography teacher always threw a fit if we centered our subjects 😂
But what you were saying (like in the landscape image) about stuff distracting you - the leash and harness, for example - is definitely something I need to work on, so thank you for pointing that out.

Anyhow, I appreciate the tips and criticism, I think it helps to know what to improve and how other people besides myself view my images. And now I'm seeing things I never noticed!
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I was a professional photographer for several years.

While you "want" to photograph dogs what I see here are snap shots, not money shots. To make a living at photography every shot has to be a money shot. Every. Shot. There are no common "I could get that with my cell phone" shots.

The BEST way to learn is two fold. First you need an academic education in photography. This means high school and college. Next you need to work for a successful photographer learning the trade. Most of that work is humans and most of it is weddings and events. You would be very lucky to land a gig with a successful animal photographer.

Photography has become "common" due to cell phones and digital software. Almost anyone can take an "average" photo and "wow" it in photo editing software. This does not mean a person cannot become very good or even great. It means to take it from a hobby you do for friends and family for free to a paying career is a long stride. It means you have to make every shot one that takes the viewer's breath away. Every. Shot.

Back when I made money in photography I shot film. The technical skills in shooting film were not common skills. It took years to be good. It meant medium format equipment as well as 35mm. It meant knowing camera and film and lighting. It meant experience in the chemical dark room developing film and printing. There was no "fixing it in photoshop." You could push or pull.. you could edit (Ansel Adams did!) but it took years to learn these skills.

There was no taking 800 frames and choosing the best 100 because every shot cost money and time to produce through the lab and the process of development. You had to have 97-100 "money shots" out of every 100 clicks of the shutter. This made professional photography a skill people paid quite well for because few could readily duplicate it.

Today that need still exists but those needing it are much fewer (digital capture and digital editing software is pretty mainstream) and those providing that skill and getting paid for it are exceptional. Essentially both customers and professionals are fewer in number.

I wish you every bit of luck and well wishes as you pursue your passion in photography. Perhaps one day we will all be looking at some photo and say, "we remember this post on Dog Forums...."
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The second image of Bambi (with stick in mouth coming towards) is a snap shot. Sorry to say. The background kills it. Never forget the background. Most shots cannot be done in a back yard.

Animal shots often need 3-4 people. One to handle the animal. Two to get attention, ears up etc. One to take the photo.

I did yearling shots for a horse farm for the Saratoga Yearling sales. I also did the farm's photos for their website. This was several years ago.
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I don't have any constructive advise, but I think the pics are great. Best of luck pursuing this.
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I don't disagree with 3GSD4IPO, but before anyone curls into a depressed ball, I do want to point out that if you love something and want to do it, you can do something else for a living and pursue that heart's desire. I did that breeding, raising, training, and showing horses for over 20 years while also doing something else I didn't much care about for money necessary to support the horses I did care about.

You also can be a professional at your heart's desire and make less than a million bucks at it, as a second job, weekend job, etc. Again, in my case I'm supplementing my retirement income with writing income. The writing on its own wouldn't support me and my dogs, but as supplemental income it makes the difference between squeezing every penny to get by and living a pretty comfortable life.

So be of good cheer. If you can take that 4th picture at 16, you can find a way to realize your dream.
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Exactly what Storyist said. My post is about "this is reality" if you want to do this for money and do this all the time.

I did NOT do professional photography as a FT job (I did engineering FT in those days). The photographers I worked for DID do it FT as sole source of income.

My part time photography job (largely weddings and events but also horses) paid for four trips across the US. One trip was 4 weeks; others were 3 weeks. Those trips were to do fun landscape/situational photography.. driving cross country (THAT photography was purely hobby/fun work so $$$$ out and $000 in haha!). I learned how to expose night shots in the French Quarter in New Orleans (among other things). I shared my shots with the one pro I worked for and HE was impressed (this was a great day.. compliments were few and far between!).

All the great photographers I know/knew started just like you.. with a love and passion for recording life through photos. Most had FT day jobs while they pursued their passion.

When the day job started costing them money to go to (IOW's photography income was more) they left their day jobs and did photography FT.

Pursue your passion. Work really hard at it. Learn the view finder (meaning see EVERYTHING from subject to background to rule of thirds to lighting before pressing the shutter.. it's a slow process.. and getting FAST takes time... like did you see the exit sign before taking the photo of the Bride? Or the messy trashed table from dinner??).

Good luck! No one starts such a venture being great. Practice, time, studying, more practice, more time.. and did I say practice (but it doesn't FEEL like practice because you love doing it).. you will hone yourself to greatness.
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Another former film pro here, "classically" trained at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. When I stopped, it took many years before photography became fun again. The key was to stop worrying about what anyone else thinks because I never had to sell another photo. And I never did.

Brooks emphasized technical skill, illustration and formal studio portraiture. Photo journalism and fine art photography, at least when I was there, were not discussed or studied. I actually like the soccer ball photo a lot because, to me, it tells a story.

My daughter, who had one semester of photography in high school is, in my opinion, a better photographer than I am because she sees the image with her eye instead of trying to create it with the camera. Think of it as pre-production as opposed to post.

I'll finish with a story. I used to know a very talented artist who made his living as a shift worker in a local paper mill. I suspected he could actually make a living with his art and I asked him if he'd ever considered doing just that. His answer has stuck with me for 40 years. "Of course, but my job gives me the financial freedom and the benefits, including paid vacation, to do my art for my own enjoyment with no pressure to please anyone else - possibly at my own expense."
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I would love to see you progress!
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Honestly, I don't think you're likely to make a living solely on pet photography, at least not at first. If you do family, real estate, weddings, senior portraits, AND pets, however, of course. Remember, diversify. God forbid we go through a global pandemic or something and suddenly weddings are few and far between (many wedding photographers are now doing real estate photography to fill that hole in their income since people suddenly can't get enough of buying houses) I don't think many professional photographers do just one type of photography, and if they do they have to be truly exceptional.

In addition to practicing your art and learning all you can about photography, don't forget to pursue business courses in school to learn the less fun version of running your own photography business. You'll have to learn about doing your taxes, insurance, liability, contracts, etc. You'll also have to polish up on your professional people skills. That is a larger part of owning a photography business than you might expect!
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