We love to shoot our pets…through the lens…but at times we do not get that perfect shot. Not to worry…there are professional pet photographers to get that wonderful pawtrait. Here’s more on an Indian and a Scotland-based pet photographer. Meet Surya Dinkar of Pet Portraits, Chennai and Paul Walker of Paws Pet Photography, Scotland…two animal lovers at heart, who have taken pet photography as a profession.
Surya Dinkar – It’s not just my love for animals, it’s my respect for creatures
The beginning: “I used to click photographs of my pets and the animals I rescue and foster for memories. When my dog Mojo died last year, I was in deep shock, it was an unfortunate accident and it took me a while to get over it. Soon I realised I had great pictures of him. I was aware of pet photography and I saw a need for really good pet photographers. That’s when I started Pet Portraits about a year ago,” tells Surya.
“It’s not just my love for animals, it’s my respect for creatures who stay ever so true to their nature and character. It’s just an absolute delight being able to capture those expressions and moments. I shoot all sorts of pets – cats, dogs, rabbits, fish, birds and horses,” she adds.
The upside and flip sides: “Personally photographing animals and children is such a pleasure. Animals can’t fake it. Unlike models… they don’t care how their pictures turn out and never ask me to show them the camera LCD as soon as I click; they never complain that they look fat,” laughs Surya.
“The equipments and props are much different. I carry two cameras, it’s hard to change lenses with all the dust and hair floating around. The equipments kept minimal, can’t have too many wires placed carelessly. The background setup is done with much care,” she adds.
“In pet photography, the subjects, unless highly trained, do not co-operate, so we have to wait for the right moment and the right expression to get the right picture, for which very high amount of patience is required. Most pets get agitated in unfamiliar surroundings and somehow feel uncomfortable when we try to make them stay at a particular place or try to get them to make a certain expression. So the ‘knack’ of capturing the right expression with the right background is what comes with experience. For example, a dog jumping into water… you get only one chance, after that he will take hours to dry before a retake. There is also a small risk element involved. Sometimes pets can get confused and can panic and may even snap at the photographer,” explains Surya.
Unique pet photography techniques: “I get down to their level… hardest part of the job. It’s literally rolling on the floor just like them, be it on the sand and floor of the studio or home. Every pet is unique so my technique varies, some need a lot of distractions like toys, treats and sounds and some pets just want to be left in their own space to get the expression that the pet parent likes,” tells Surya.
“Besides, I spend a lot of time with the pets before the shoot, to understand them and get them comfortable with my presence. It’s about energies, when me and the pet are in tune, it all goes just so well in harmony. I try avoiding talking too much because our pets are very smart, they understand what we are saying and they trick us and try get out of the spotlight with any opportunity possible during indoor shoots. It can be physically challenging at times. It can be more of a challenge working with the pet parent ‘trying to help’ than working with the animal alone. The pet parent can unknowingly be a distraction to the pet and compromise the best shots. It’s a life-long learning process, just like any other art form,” says Surya.
Indoor vs outdoor: “I have a mobile studio, fully equipped. Either way I shoot at the pet’s house indoor and outdoor or in a place where the pet is comfortable, his favourite beach or park or even his own swimming pool. ‘‘Indoor shoots work perfectly well with the smaller toy breeds and you can play with many different accessories and toys, while outdoor has its own beauty and I can play with the angles and perspectives. Personally I prefer using natural light for my subjects, it brings out the best in them,” mentions Surya.
“For most of us, our pets are family… sometimes the most spoilt member of the family. We are lucky to have found the companion of our lifetime, sadly we outlive them so never hesitate to capture those precious expressions and memories before you part ways,” concludes Surya.
Paul Walker – Photographing animals since childhood
The beginning: Paul Walker’s love of photographing animals started as a young child. “My passion for pets started in my childhood when I was the proud pet parent of a range of animals from dogs and cats to rabbits, guinea pigs and even a duck!” tells Paul. Now he and his wife Kathryn are pet parents of a Standard Schnauzer called Millie.
Unique pet photography techniques: The backgrounds that Paul chooses are vitally important to complementing the pet who is being photographed. “Equally important is the quality and direction of light on the subject,” he adds.
“When photographing a new pet, it is essential to find out all about his characteristics, motivations and behaviour so that the photo session can be carried out safely,” tells Paul.
Challenging shoot: There have been so many memorable moments in Paul’s pet photography career. “However, my time in Qatar was probably the most challenging when faced with photographing pets in the melting sun rays with vast desert backgrounds,” he quips in.
The awards: Paul has won ‘Scottish Master Pet Photographer of the Year Award’ for five years in a row and overall ‘Scottish Master Photographer of the Year’ in 2009.
(Paul Walker runs Paws Pet Photography in Scotland; www.pawspetphotography.co.uk).