Photography, Travel, What to expect

Pet photography style

Style.  What exactly is it?  And why would I care when it comes to pet photography style is probably what you’re asking yourself right now.  Stay with me, I think I’ll be able to answer both of those questions.

As a photographer I am always learning.  Whether it’s a new editing skill, experimenting with studio lights, or even different genres of photography.  I love taking courses and workshops, meeting up with other people who share the same passions.  And the pet photography niche is no different, though it may be the friendliest group of photographers that I’ve ever met. 

A dark brown shepherd dog laying on a mossy forest floor

It’s also no secret that I’m obsessed with traveling.  My dream job is to work with amazing pets and their people around the world.  So when I found a pet photography specific workshop called StyleLab in Tasmania, Australia, that was accepting a limited number of photographers I knew I had to apply.  (Full disclosure, I was a little nervous about going to Tasmania because have you seen how big the spiders are there?  But I decided to apply anyway, that is how dedicated I am!)

A happy Australian Shepherd dog in front of a bright blue lake in Tasmania, Australia

What really appealed to me about this particular workshop was that it focused on the style aspect of photography.  So what is style?  It’s a representation of your unique vision of the world, a consistent feeling.  When it’s done correctly someone might see an image and instantly know who the photographer was. 

And the reason it’s important to have a pet photography style is so that a client knows exactly what they’re going to get.  If you want images that are natural and light and bright but your photographer loves a dark and moody edit someone is not going to be happy!

Close up portrait of a backlit multicolored Australian Shepherd with blue eyes

So my husband and I flew halfway around the world to meet up with an amazing group of pet photographers (instructors Charlotte Reeves, Craig Bullock, and Alicja Zmyslowska) and I had four intense days of classroom, photoshoots, experimentation, and feedback.  I was in heaven!!!  And did I mention that it was in Tasmania???  

Looking at the portfolio of images I had submitted the style descriptions the group came up with were whimsical, clean, natural, photojournalistic, and happy

Close up of a small shetland sheepdog sitting next to a row of lavender flowers

Breaking these down- to me whimsical is playful and fun but I think it’s also about capturing those personality quirks that make our pets so unique.  That tongue hanging out of the side of the mouth?  The crossed paws?  The play bow before your dog launches into a game?  A bright bowtie?  I love capturing those details.

The rear end of a labradoodle mid jump in a field of lavender

Clean and natural definitely speak to the lighting and clear backgrounds that I love.  Spending so many years in landscape and travel photography helped hone my ability to see how the light hits a subject.  And I’m obsessed with making sure the background plays a supporting role to your pet (yes, that means that I may ask you to move some furniture at a home session).   I also spend a lot of time editing final images to make sure any little distractions are removed. 

A woman plays tug of war with two australian shepherds in a forest

I think photojournalistic is another way to say unposed and relaxed.  Again, it’s letting your pet set the flow of the session so they can be themselves.  Don’t be surprised if I follow your pet around for at least the first part of our portrait session.  I’ll throw in some guidance and use all my tricks to get their attention, but it’s all about them.  Authentic would probably be another word that would apply, even though it’s completely overused these days.

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standing in reeds next to a lake

Happy goes hand in hand with photojournalism in this case.  Because we’ve done our homework and understand what situation your pet is going to do best in, and because I have lots of both patience and treats the goal is to make sure that everyone is having a good time. And that includes you, no stress!  That happiness is going to come through in your images.  

A labradoodle with flopping ears runs toward the camera through a row of lavender plants at sunset

This is why you come to me as a specialized pet photographer.  Subtle body, ear, tail, and eye position indicates when a pet is uncomfortable.  If you don’t understand the body language your images might feel off, because that’s what the pet was telling you in various ways.

A sheltie dog peers between lavender plants in a field of lavender in Tasmania, Australia

During the workshop we also had the chance to explore our style a little bit and challenge ourselves.  I was a little surprised at the results.  I definitely found a few new themes that I want to explore further, like silhouettes and more dramatic lighting including some off camera flash.  I don’t think my style will change significantly but it’s always evolving and being refined.

So what kind of pet photography style appeals to you?  If you like the more formal, everything must be perfect and your pet must be at attention the whole time then  I’m probably not the right photographer for you.  Actually I’m sure I’m not the right person for you.  But if you like whimsy, fun, and want to celebrate what makes your pet unique then let’s chat!

Silhouette of a dog jumping in the air at sunset

In the end was flying halfway around the world to experiment and define my pet photography style worth it?  Hell yes.  Just getting to know the other photographers alone made it worth the trip.  And thankfully I didn’t see any of the monster spiders or venomous snakes.

But I think I’m also much more aware of my style and how to communicate that to my future clients as well.  My portfolio is a representation of that style.  There should be no surprises, you should know exactly the kind of images you’ll get with me.  

And if for any reason there is a disconnect or you aren’t happy with your images my portrait sessions come with a full money back guarantee.  So don’t wait, get on the schedule now.

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Jennifer McCallum

Jennifer is the owner and photographer of Pawdacious Portraits. As a professional pet photographer based in Michigan she specializes in working with pets and pet parents. Having fostered over a hundred dogs and cats she understands their behavior and can work with the whole range of personalities - from super shy to crazy friendly. You will love your custom artwork, guaranteed. All breeds and pets welcome (except spiders, sorry but yikes!). When Jennifer isn't photographing pets in Michigan she is usually planning a pet portrait session somewhere else in the world, drinking a glass of wine, or walking her own pack of dogs.