Pet Photography 101

Photographing Pets by Lara Blair

Photographers tend to photograph that which is closest to them more often than anything else.  For me, that means photographing my dog.  My dog is such a good dog too.  She sits when I ask her to sit, stays when I tell her to stay, shake, and all the rest.  But I’ve not had the best of success in taking pictures of her.  Every once in a while, I got lucky in a shot or two, but something was missing.  After reading Lara Blair’s book from Amherst Media: Photographing Dogs: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers, I sort of head-smacked myself and said “Well, where was this book five years ago?!”

Maggie on the Bed - Looking Cute!

Maggie From AboveTilted Head

Are You Kidding Me?

She offers insights in her book that only an experienced pro can really give you.  For instance, as much as I love my dog and her trotting to me – I can’t tell you how often I’ve let her barge into me and my camera, thus resulting in my sending gear in for repairs from scratches, nicks, and re-alignments.  One would think I’d learn from mistakes, but until Lara said:

“I hold mine high above my head when a dog is running at me”

I just kept on missing the obvious!  Now I know better…just in time for my beloved pet to be the most docile and non-running pet in the world (sad to say, she is in her twilight years…every day I have left with her is precious!). Other great insights include shooting dogs from a lower angle (it makes them look larger than life, which is what owners want), anticipating session behavior (timid and aggressive dogs), and yes, handling the inevitable messiness to clean up from your studio!

Not only are her insights valuable, but her sample portfolio she includes to demonstrate various techniques, as well as insights on how and where to market yourself as a dog/pet photographer make this book an ideal resource for both the photographer turning to pet portraiture, as well as principles for setting up a pet-friendly studio.  If you’re looking to make an entry or transition into pet photography, this is definitely one to include.  My one nit for this book is that a substantial portion of the book is devoted to the business side.  Lara talks a lot about branding, what outlets to visit, setting up your business, and other aspects of a pet studio.  While these are very useful insights, these aren’t really specific to pet photography techniques.  The technique portion is really only about 1/3rd of the book.

Don’t get me wrong though – it’s a great read, and very easy to get through.  Often how-to books like this get either too wordy, or do not really have enough substance to them.  Lara provides both, but does have a good portion that is tangential to the main topic. It’s all good content though, so it’s a very minor nit. Thanks go out to the folks at Amherst Media for sending me the review copy too!  And that does mean that some lucky reader will be in the running to win this, along with several other prizes to close out 2012!

For a quick link to purchase though (if you can’t wait until year-end), hit the link below:

Photographing Pets by Lara Blair
Photographing Dogs: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers

Another book review is coming up later this week on human portraiture, so stay tuned!

Cleaning Your Sensor (revisited)


In the world of blogging, content is king, and while I love creating new content for the blog – sometimes the well does run dry.  I have tried to ensure that when I do post, it’s worthy of your time, but today, I am re-visiting a blog post that I wrote a while ago on cleaning your sensors.  It’s as useful today as it was originally, so in the interests of sharing the best bits of knowledge, here’s the original – reposted:

As with most things, your camera needs maintenance too – and I’ve waxed here periodically about establishing a maintenance schedule, cleaning schedules, and the whole schmear – but I’ve never addressed the specifics of cleaning that most important piece of equipment – the sensor in your camera.  As I dive in here, it bears mentioning that I am not advocating any one of these over another – just sort of laying the foundation on the various ways that are available:

1.  Having someone else do it – Most camera stores offer this service for around $50, so if the idea of getting anything near your sensor just gives you the heebie-jeebies, by all means, this option is a good one for the nervous Nelly.

2.  Air Blowers – These are rapidly becoming one of the more popular options as they are relatively cheap, easy, and don’t require messing around with chemicals.  You simply put your camera into the cleaning mode, insert tip of the air blower near the sensor and puff it a few times remove and you are done.  Some claim fantastic results with these while others say stubborn dust won’t come off from this method.  The advantage of this approach is that you never have to touch your sensor (technically the filter in front of the sensor) with anything!  The downside is that results may not get everything off.

Air Blower Method

Giottos Rocket Blower

3.  Sensor swipes – Certain swipes are made just for camera sensors that use hydrostatic charges to remove dust from your sensor.  It’s got an advantage in that it’s a dry cleaning approach so requires no chemicals.  I have heard of some who are reluctant to use this as foreign fibers and materials can get in the swipe which could scratch your sensor.


4.  Chemical cleaning – Pec Pads, Eclipse alcohol and sensor swipes all combine in this method to give the most thorough cleaning, virtually guaranteed to remove even the most stubborn dirt from your sensor.  The risk – doing it wrong can permanently damage your sensor and the cost of buy-in is a lot higher than other methods.  Once you buy-in though, the long term cost drops rapidly!


Since I only mentioned it briefly at the beginning, I should also clarify that the idea behind cleaning your sensor is actually a misnomer – all of these solutions are cleaning the filter in front of the sensor – the sensor technically never gets cleaned unless you use option 1 – sending it in for a cleaning.  All the camera vendors (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc.) offer this service, but the downside there is multi-faceted in that it’s usually more expensive, you have to go without your camera for a period of time, and there’s shipping involved!

What methods do you use?  I know some people that combine multiple approaches, while others simply just shake it out once and a while (heck, I read a story once of a guy that used his t-shirt! – not sure how valid it is, but you get the gist).  Sound off in the comments with your own cleaning products and approaches!