3 big things to look for when choosing a dog photographer
~ August 15, 2022 ~
Finding a dog photographer can be an overwhelming process when you don’t know what to look for, so I want to help by giving you 3 big things to look for when choosing a dog photographer.
I want to share this information because a lot of folks are new to dog photography or just don’t know a lot about it. Like any other service-based business, people might equate “professional” as being “good,” but that isn’t always the case. For example – when you get a haircut, it’s not going to be the same wherever you go. A haircut at Great Clips or Supercuts is professional, but not always the best, while a cut from a full-service luxury salon like Paul Mitchell is both professional and consistently good.
(Note – I know there’s an argument to be had about cost and such, which we’ll get to later; but for now, let’s just use this to serve as an example of differences in quality).
All this to say: make sure you’re looking out for the right things when you’re gauging who you want to capture the best photos of your pup!
This is a long (but very worth it) post. If you want, skip to the TL;DR section.
3 big things to look for when choosing a dog photographer
How they edit
In a general sense, I think it’s fair to say that most people are not great at capturing and editing photos. It’s easy for most people to say things like “OMG, I love this so much!” when they see any reasonably good photo because they couldn’t have created it themselves. A subjective opinion like that is totally fair and even deserved, and I’m not here to knock it at all. People like what they like.
But what I want to do is give you some things to look at and consider objectively as you’re checking out portfolios of photographers.
- Lighting: The overall lighting and mood should be balanced in a photo. Is it too light or dark? Does a dog look like it’s too bright compared to its background (ie – is the flash too bright and makes the dog look out of place)? Or is the background too bright and drowns out the details of the dog?
- Position and Cropping: How does a dog look in the photo? Are its ears or paws cut off at the edges? Is the dog centered in the photo (or specifically placed on one side)? Or is the position of the dog off so it’s not the main subject of the photo?
- Editing: This is one of the more “make or break” qualifiers for a photographer. Leashes are a big one here – is it left in the photo? Are there distracting elements in the photo like stray hairs or a random grass blade? If the photo is a “composite,” do the combined photo elements make sense together, or do they look like someone haphazardly threw something together? Photographers have their own editing styles, but make sure it’s not a “bad” style.
- Color: This is one of the better indicators of a balanced photo and is also where a lot of a photographer’s style can shine. Are the colors washed out/flat? Does the photo seem dull and gray? Is there color casting on the fur (like a green glow on the underside of a white dog)? Do the colors seem overly saturated or muted? Does the photo have more of a warm yellow tone (I’m sure you see this often, it’s the current trend in photography), or is it cool and blue-tinted? Are the whites white, or do they look gray? This is likely the biggest thing to consider!
- Composition: You want to look at the overall photo and what all elements are in it. Are there any distracting elements in the background, like a fence, people, or building? Is the horizon level or trees vertical? Is the photograph looking down at the dog or is it at eye level?
Though I listed all of these things to look out for, there is something to be said about stylistic choices by the photographer. I, for example, love bright and colorful photos, so my “color” choice from the above list might be a little more hyper-realistic than what a typical photo is; overly saturated, one might say. Everything I do with a photo is 100% intentional – everything from my camera settings to my positioning while taking photos, to the way in which the photo will be displayed. I’m not taking pictures – I’m creating art.
There is also something to be said about your personal taste. I shoot my specific style because that’s what I like. However, just because I like something doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else will like it too. Beyond the personal taste, though, are basic photographic principles to follow in order to create the best photo possible, so make sure the photos you’re looking at are more than just “cute pictures!”
Like most things you purchase – you get what you pay for.
There is a wide range of services available by photographers, and you can sometimes tell where a photographer is on the range based on what they charge for their services.
A lot of beginning photographers start at a low rate as a way to gain customers and build their portfolios. On the flip side, a lot of veteran photographers charge more since they have a set process, better-honed skills, and already have the name recognition or an established customer base.
You might see what a photographer charges, but what you really need to focus on is what you get for what you pay – the value you receive.
You might look at what a photographer provides as part of their fee and think you’re getting a lot in return, but are you really? Or you may look at another photographer and think you’re not getting a lot in return, but there’s more to it than you know.
As an example, some photographers will charge a flat fee and deliver 10 digital images (or even an entire photoshoot collection), which sounds like a fantastic deal up-front. But what you receive in quantity doesn’t necessarily translate to quality. Many of those photographers will only do a quick edit to photos in the form of adding a warm photo filter as a way to quickly turn over their photos – so not a lot of time is spent on the quality of their individual finished products. Leashes, rogue hairs, and even people and buildings are typically left in the background of these photos. Some people might not mind, but is that what you want to be looking at several years later when you’re enjoying your photos?
Another thing to consider is what you get for the session itself. Some photographers will only offer a select few locations for where a session can be held, or restrict the distance to travel for a session (unless they are holding a session at their own studio, which has its own inherent limitations). If you’re only receiving a limited number of options of locations, are you really getting the most from your session?
Timing for a session is another limiting factor for what you get out of a session. Some photographers will schedule the date and time, but charge an additional fee if you reschedule. They might also limit your session to a set length without any wiggle room for more time because of a booked schedule. If you are ever in a position where you need to reschedule for something that comes up or have your session delayed because of bad weather or a personal emergency, it might come at a cost.
A last possible consideration about cost is your overall experience. Some photographers might only provide a limited number of options for things like locations, times, and products, which won’t always provide the best experience. They might only give you a short window to make decisions about selecting images, only keep your images available for view for a short time, or don’t provide additional services like personal delivery and hanging up your photos in your home. A worthy photographer will understand that life happens and will go above and beyond to serve your needs (and not just sell to you and move on).
To give you some context to compare against, I’ll let you know what Adventure Pup Photography does about all of the items above.
As a 4th-year photographer, I’m somewhere between a beginning photographer and an established veteran. I started out providing 5 digital images for $100 and have since increased prices while growing my (quality) product selection. What I offer is a hell of a deal, especially considering all of the time and effort put into each session and each photo.
I provide value to my dog parent friends by giving a unique experience and putting together packages that provide what’s requested the most – a photo print and digital images, plus spending credit that can be used for additional products. Each photo I finish goes through a rigorous editing process, so at least 1 hour is spent on each single finished image. One hour! Some images take a little more time because of additional editing considerations, but I fully believe that each finished photo should be something you don’t just look at and move on – it should all be awe-inspiring and tell a story in itself.
When you talk about Price, you also have to talk about what you get from it. Here’s what to look out for with your overall experience.
Quality of Service
The last part of the Price discussion deserves its own breakdown because there are a lot of hidden items to look for here.
Photography is a service just as much as it is a product, and this is what helps some photographers stand out among others. People generally don’t think about it, but photographers are creative people more than they are business people. That means they created their business to create beautiful photos, but may not fully grasp what goes into running a business itself.
Because of that, they might have limitations on what they offer. Everything from pricing, what you get, communications along the way, and your final products are affected by what they are willing to commit to their business. Some photographers want to focus on their craft and view their final output (finished photos) as all you get, but you would be missing a better service experience as a customer if that’s all your experience was. The one-way transaction might work for some people, but why settle for that?
With that, let me provide some context as to how I approach the experience to show how important you are in the process too.
I’ll start out by saying it took me a couple of years to begin figuring out how to provide quality service. I’ll also say I’m continually learning how to provide a better experience for you while still producing the beautiful photos you come to expect from Adventure Pup Photography.
One of the things I learned was about customizing the service itself.
Each of my sessions is fully customized and goes through a process for me to learn about you and your dog – that way I can make the most of our session instead of forcing something that won’t work. If there is something specific you want from your photos, like a background view or a pose, I will deliver just that. That also means I don’t restrict my shooting locations to remain close to home. I keep dates flexible because sometimes the weather spoils our special day. And overall, I set the session up for success by making sure you and your dog are set up for success. If that means we need to find a low-traffic location because your dog is reactive, a flat space because you or your dog might have limited mobility, or even climb a 14er to capture your goal photo – I’ll make it happen.
All that to say – I understand that every dog, parent, and session requires different things.
The Adventure Pup experience also ensures you aren’t making rushed decisions when selecting final photos, and you will have the opportunity to see them at a later time if you wanted to order more. Sometimes there are hard decisions on which photos are your favorite and which ones you want to print, and sometimes you’re grieving and need a little time. Whatever the reason, you aren’t forced to select photos quickly. Less stress = better experience.
Each of the products I offer is a high-quality product. These aren’t cheap prints that help me make money – they are personally-tested quality items that look and feel high-end because they are high-end. My goal is for you to have photos that will last you a lifetime and always look fantastic. You’ll never regret getting prints of the pup you love so much, especially when everything about the prints are perfect.
I also personally deliver all of my printed images when possible and offer mounting services. I would much rather see the dogs and the smiles in person as opposed to seeing them on video or getting a text after shipping it to them.
So from start to finish, I’m doing all I can to make sure you enjoy your experience with the hope you become a raving fan of Adventure Pup Photography.
As long and comprehensive as that was, I hope you gained some valuable insight to help you choose a dog photographer.
In the end, I know that personal tastes and styles will prevail. Most people like a certain look and find a photographer to shoot it. But sometimes people are open to ideas and really want the best experience for themselves and their dog. If you look out for the things above, you’re well on your way to finding a photographer to capture your pup in a way you want!
As for me, I want people to love the Adventure Pup editing style and want to receive the full Adventure Pup experience.
I hope you come to see for yourself what I’m all about! If you’re still with me at this point, how about a reward? If you book a session with me and reference this blog post, I’ll give you a free 11×14 canvas print to go with your package.
And if you aren’t doing so already, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram so you can see all of the custom and quality work I’ve provided for people and their pups, as well as work I’ll be doing for others in the future!
TL; DR Section
Make sure you’re looking out for the right things when you’re gauging who you want to capture the best photos of your pup:
- Editing – lighting, position, color, composition, and editing are all things to look out for
- Price – all photographers price differently – and you usually get what you pay for
- Quality of service – it’s not just what products you get, but what you get out of the experience
The Adventure Pup experience makes sure you get the best of all worlds! Check out the Packages & Pricing page to see how you can get the best photos for you and your adventure pup!
3 big things to look for when choosing a dog photographer ~ August 15, 2022…
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