A day in the life of a pet photographer
A passion for photography can easily branch into a career that includes working with animals. The popularity of pet photography is on the rise as people increasingly value the role of their pets in their family. For photographer Shannon Sweet man, this led to an initiative called ‘Dog Meets Girl’, with the aim of helping dogs in need. Not only is Shannon’s photography service top notch, but she donates a percentage of her earnings toward animal welfare. Animal talk chatted to her about being a pet photographer
How do I go about becoming a pet photographer? What qualifications do I need?
My belief is first and foremost that one must have a passion for photography, tonnes of patience and a huge love for animals. You’ll have to be okay with having bruised knees from working on the ground all day! Then pick up your camera and start taking photos of your pet. Find your own unique style, run with it and enjoy it. If you can study photography that’s wonderful, but if you don’t have that opportunity, don’t let it stop you. I’ve never studied photography; I learn as I go. Ask questions and observe photographers around you to grow, but never compare your style to others’. There shouldn’t be rules when it comes to being creative. It’s important though to invest money in your camera equipment. Dogs move really fast and you always want to capture the detail on a dog’s face and show the texture of his coat. So investing in a fast camera and sharp lens is key.
→ An adorable pooch modelling for the photographer
What does a typical day in the job look like? What are the tasks that keep you busy in pet photography?
There is quite a lot involved as a photographer in general. From conceptualizing ideas to marketing, shooting and editing. You can’t do one without the other. It’s hard work, but so worth it. When you are up at midnight still editing, looking at a furry face for hours makes it worthwhile. I always catch myself smiling at my screen. Out of all the above, the editing takes up most of my time.
What are your average working hours in pet photography?
You set your own hours really. The more you put in, the more you get out. When you have your own business your life is basically one big working hour. But on average I’d say about 10 to 12 hours a day.
What qualities do you need to be great at this job?
Besides camera knowledge, you have to have patience and a genuine love and understanding of dogs. You cannot do this if you’ve never owned a dog or rarely spend time with them or are quite ‘fond’ of them – that’s not enough. In my opinion, knowing how to communicate with a dog verbally and through body language is what will make you a successful dog photographer. I am intensely observant of how they feel from the moment I meet my pooch-model. I will notice in their eyes, ears and tail how they are feeling and I take it from there. You have to respect a dog while photographing him. You’ve got to remember that you chose to get them photographed. They have no idea what all the fuss is about and that can make them feel very uncomfortable. So giving them space and earning their trust is a priority in my books. Work on their time, not yours.
What is the best part of the job?
So many things! My favorite is being with the dogs. On the floor with them, getting tonnes of pooch kisses, and being covered in dog fur and slobber. Have you ever not laughed and felt incredible joy while being given love by a beautiful dog? It’s the best! And of course when you get ‘that shot’ of the dog that makes your heart want to burst with excitement! The photographer in me always wants the very best image I can capture, bringing out their unique personalities. When you achieve that your heart is full!
What is the most challenging part of the job?
Working with dogs who are terrified. As a photographer you want that image, you need that image. You will do anything to get that one shot that you know you can get. But seeing a dog so scared and just not wanting to be a part of a shoot, and then having me direct him and his mom directing him (which I prefer not to happen) and giving him treats all at once just to get at least one shot is just too overwhelming for the dog and I start feeling selfish. When that happens I apologies to the owner and cancel their shoot. I have to put the dog’s needs first. It’s not fair on them otherwise. So that would be the biggest challenge for me. Thankfully that rarely happens!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
The reason I started this project was to share openly the way I believe dogs should live and be treated. Gone are the days when dogs are purely bred and bought to protect your house while being confined in a small space outside. They have emotions like you and I. They need companionship and it is our duty to give them that. Their lives are short and they deserve to be treated the same as a family member. If your lifestyle won’t allow for such treatment, then one should rather not have a dog.
You can follow Facebook Page
36 Awesome pet photography’s