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Pet Photography: Why It Matters Part II – Alternatives to a Professional Pet Photographer

Welcome back to Part II of the Why Pet Photography Matters series! You can read Part I here. This post we’ll be looking at the alternatives to hiring a professional pet photographer and what that means for your final result.

The first alternative is (drum roll….) taking the photos yourself! Yes, it’s that simple and something you were already doing. Everyone has tons of photos of their dog on their phones. For every occasion and time of day. Outdoors, inside, playing around, being serious – people are obsessed with their pets nowadays.

So how do you go about taking photos yourself? Well you can either do it using your cell phone or using a camera like the professionals use.

Using Your Cell Phone for Pet Photography

How you do this is simple – simply take your phone out, turn on the camera feature, and begin shooting! It’s that easy, right? Well, maybe there’s some things you have yet to consider. Let’s discuss that further below.

First of all, let’s talk benefits.

  • Using your cell phone is cheap because you likely already own one. You don’t need to invest in professional gear or a new camera.

  • You likely have your phone on you most times of the day and can take photos anywhere at anytime.

  • As technology gets better and more advanced, the cameras in cell phones also get better with higher resolution and quality

  • Your phone likely comes with special features like face tracking, panoramic pictures, or adding stickers, funny faces, or facial recognition to your photos

As a result, you can take plenty of photos quickly, without much investment or planning on your part. This can be great for everyday photos and those silly moments you have only seconds to capture as you go throughout your day. However, there are also drawbacks to using your phone for your pet photos.

Now let’s talk about those drawbacks.

  • Cell phone cameras can have issues performing in different lighting situations, like in low light

  • Cell phone cameras do not allow you to control things like shutter speed, aperture, or ISO (in most cases). This means less control over the photos you take.

  • Most people do not understand how to compose their photos to get the best photo they can

  • Cell phone cameras are usually lower resolution than their more professional counterparts and therefore are generally lower quality and not good for printing photos

  • Cell phone cameras usually save their images as JPG or PNG files, meaning less editing capabilities are available than their RAW file counterparts

  • Cell phone cameras usually have a fixed focal length, meaning you are limited in how much you can zoom in your photo and retain a quality image. You also cannot take very far or very close images with the same quality as a lens on a DSLR camera.

Thus, although phone photography is cheap and quick, like fast food, it’s low on quality. And although many people can educate themselves to take better phone pictures – most won’t. So now let’s discuss the next step up from phone photography – using a “real” camera like a DSLR.

Using a “Real” Camera for Pet Photography

There are many different types of cameras out there – everything from point-and-shoot to mirrorless to DSLR cameras. For the sake of this article, I am discussing using a DSLR camera to take your photos.

So let’s say you invest a couple hundred dollars into a DSLR camera and start taking on photography as a hobby. Not only is that a good choice (hey, I made a business out of it!), but now you begin to understanding the difference between a DSLR and your smart phone’s camera.

So what are the benefits?

  • You can control shutter speed, ISO, and aperture settings, meaning more control over your photos

  • With shutter speed, you can take photos much more quickly (or slowly) than their phone counterpart

  • With ISO/Aperture, you can shoot better in low-light or special lighting conditions

  • Save pictures as RAW files for further editing in programs like Photoshop

  • Invest in different types of lenses for different types of photography, meaning control over the focal length and shooting distances of your photos

  • You usually have higher quality, print worthy photos

  • Blur out the background to get that nice finished look in portraits

  • Capture special lighting, speed, or cinematic effects that a phone camera would struggle to capture

Overall, you have much more control over the pictures you take and have a greater degree of creative freedom with a DSLR camera than with your cell phone.

However, there is also downsides to using a DSLR that should be considered.

  • The initial investment can be high

  • Camera equipment is expensive and needs to be maintained – especially lenses, which is where the bulk of the cost comes from

  • There is a definite learning curve to using manual modes on a DSLR

  • Learning how to properly expose and frame your photos takes time and education, especially in different lighting situations or using certain effects

  • Learning to use Photoshop, Lightroom, or any other editing software takes time, education, money, and is an additional skillset required on top of the actual photography

So then there is a big learning curve and a high investment of time, energy, and money into learning how to properly use a DSLR camera and to develop your own shooting style. “Therefore”, you might ponder, “why don’t I just hire someone who already has put in the investment to do the work for me? It’s a win-win situation! They get to use what they learned for money and I don’t have to invest in expensive equipment or spend time learning all these new things.”

Well, you might be right. But there-in lies a danger you might not have thought of – the “shoot-and-burn” photographer.

Option 2: The “Shoot-and-Burn” Pet Photographer

If that first option left you leaning towards hiring someone, you may be tempted to hire a “shoot-and-burn” photographer.

This type of photographer is pretty common for people who have just started monetizing their photography hobby. They enjoy taking photos in their free time and decided to start getting paid for it. So, they charge $50 an hour for a photo session and will photograph whatever you want during that time – pets, weddings, portraits, etc.

Now there are definitely some benefits to doing this.

  • These type of photographers usually charge low rates for their time (usually $50-$60 an hour)

  • They will take photos of whatever you want during that time

  • You get the benefit of them using their time, energy, knowledge, and equipment to take the photos for you

So basically, they are cheap and quick option for people wanting to hire a photographer. But like Cheetos to your health, quick and cheap isn’t always the best option. Let’s look at some of the drawbacks.

  • These type of photographers are usually focused on making money and therefore will provide you a bunch of photos for a cheap price. But these photos will not necessarily be high quality and in most cases, they will not be edited or customized in any way.

  • These type of photographers usually are only focused on the day of the photoshoot and therefore they fail to provide a wonderful client experience from the time of booking all the way through to the pictures being handed over

  • They usually don’t have connections to professional printing labs and may not provide printing or wall art options

  • They are usually not specialized and try to take photos of everything from weddings to pets to student portraits. Because of this, they don’t know what works best for certain clients and in certain situations and it leaves them being just like every other amateur photographer out there

  • They usually don’t have their own style developed yet so they struggle to make their photos stand out from the crowd

Therefore, when hiring this type of photographer, you basically just have someone taking the photos for you and that is all. There is no customization, personalization, style or character to their photos and they fail to provide the same quality customer experience as a more professional photographer. They also are usually lacking in printing options and know-how and can usually achieve the same quality of photos as if you have learned how to use a DSLR on your own.

Finally, What Do You Use Your Pet Photos For?

The final thing to consider is what you are using these photos for. If you just want to save up a plethora of pet photography on your phone, then maybe using your cell phone works great for you. But if you’re like most people and posting only to social media, you may be missing out. We will discuss this in depth in Part III.

Hopefully this article has been helpful to you in understanding the alternatives to hiring a professional pet photographer. For the best experience and the best pet photography, however, I recommend a professional – something we will discuss at the end of this series.

Please join me next time in Part III where we discuss social media vs wall art – and why wall art wins!

CJ Ashmore

Owner, Pawfect Photo Moments LLC


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