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Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide to Modern Pet Photography Paperback – September 11, 2012

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Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide to Modern Pet Photography + Photographing Dogs: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers + Dog Photography For Dummies
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Editorial Reviews Review

5 Pet Photography Tips from Beautiful Beasties

1. Have fun with it!

Make it a game. Be upbeat. Bring out the toys, participate in an activity your pet finds fun. For cats this may be a game involving tinfoil balls or a feather toy, for dogs this may be a squeaky toy. For horses, rodents and other pets, this is whatever puts them in the best mood--whatever their 'favorite' thing is.

2. Get on their level

Scoot, crouch, bend, scuffle, lay, twist, roll- whatever you need to to do get down and create photographs on the pet's level. Wear dirty clothes. No pet photographer ever worse expensive jeans and sneakers to a photo shoot.

Animals experience the world on a different plane than we do, and being able to create photographs captured on their level makes them more emotional, more engaging, and more connected, to the person that views the images.

3. Pay your model

You wouldn't expect a human model to work for you without payment right? So why should you expect an animal to work without getting paid? Figure out what's the most appreciate item for payment. A toy, a treat, an old rag, a carrot- whatever it takes to keep them engaged and motivated.

4. Pay attention to backgrounds

Nothing can ruin a perfectly good photo better than ugly, cluttered backgrounds. Nobody needs to see that old garden hose, or your dirty sock on the floor, in an otherwise beautiful photo of Rupert the cat.

Spend a few minutes before your photo session eyeballing the scene behind the animal. A few quick pickups of distracting 'junk' can mean you never having to say "Oh man, I wish that ____ wasn't in the photo" again, or spending unnecessary time in Photoshop or Lightroom. (Unless of course the offending object is something like a house or someone else's car, in which case--just move the animal).

5. Focus on expressions

Forget technical skill. Any pet owner will respond to an expressive, 'aww-inducing,' 'laugh-inspiring' photo over a technically perfect yet emotionally lacking photo any day of the week.

Capture a pet in the moment where it is expressing the essence of its personality, showing you it's true colors (whatever those may happen to be!), and the owner of the pet will forgive all manner of exposure, composition and other issues. All they really want is to say "You got him, you really got him!".

If you hear "squeals", "oohs," or "ohhhs" coming from the pet's owner upon seeing your images, you know you've done something right.

Featured Photos from the Book:

Taz Playing
I was laying on the floor on my belly playing with Taz the kitty, swishing his toy back and forth with my left hand, as my right hand controlled the camera. He didn't seem to mind me sticking my lens in his face, as long as we kept playing.
Technical information: 1/640 second at f/2.8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM lens
View larger
Fergie Flies
I had fleeting light here in which to capture Fergie launching herself into the air to catch a frisbee on the Pacific Coast in Washington. I metered off the sky and opened up my aperture to f/2.8 so I could make sure I had a fast enough shutter speed in the dying light to capture the action.
Technical information: 1/1250 second at f/2.8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, 20mm f/2.8 lens
View larger
Skylark Flowers
When I spotted the flowers at the nearby flower stall, I just knew I needed to have Skylark the puppy surrounded by them. Luckily she was an easygoing, mellow little girl who happily let me place her wherever I pleased. Here she looks out inquisitively at people and children passing by pointing and making "awwww" sounds at her.
Technical information: 1/60 second at f/5.0, ISO 125, evaluative metering, 20mm f/2.8 lens
View larger

From the Author

Ever since I first trained my camera at a dog and cat in 1999 I've been hooked. Aside from one black and white film photography class I took in high school when I was 17, I had very little experience with a camera. But photographing pets opened up a whole new creative world for me. I found the process exciting, stimulating, incredibly fun and even addicting.

Never would I have dreamed that I would turn a fun little hobby into a successful business and make a full time living doing something that I adore. When I started there were very few resources for the professional pet photographer, or even the amateur pet photographer really.

Sure there were tons of resources for wedding, family and landscape photographers, and lots of small gift books filled with cute photos of cats and dogs, but no comprehensive guides that showed you the who, what, when where and how of pet photography. It was a long hard road of DIY, setting up and growing the business, and learning how to best photograph pets. I would have given anything for a workshop, a class, or a comprehensive guide on modern pet photography such as this. 

Over the years of running my business I found myself wanting to give back to other photographers, to help them avoid the challenges I have faced with my business. I have wanted to share my ideas, my discoveries, my creativity, my knowledge and experience. And now I can in this book- Beautiful Beasties- a Creative Guide to Modern Pet Photography. 

I am so excited to share with you fine photographer. I hope I can help you along your road to creating modern and engaging pet photos. Read the book, follow the exercises, and remember to Have Fun! 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470932279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470932278
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Very informative book.
Helen A.
If you want to take great photos of pets or go into pet photography as a profession, buy this book!!!
L. Hamlett
I'd say this book is THE authority on the subject.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Nobles VINE VOICE on September 29, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of those niche books that is a must have if you are into pet photography either as a hobbyist or professional. The recent increase in the popularity of pet photography has produced a small but growing list of books dealing with the subject which is, admittedly, a rather specialized branch of photography. This is one of the better books issued so far on the subject and warrants the readers consideration.

The author is a self-taught pet photographer that obviously loves her work and is willing to share some hard learned lessons for those interested in the subject for business or pleasure. She is a down to earth writer that provides highly readable material and does so in that rare manner that makes the reader feel they are visiting one on one with the author in a very informal, friendly setting.

The book consists of twelve chapters, an index, copius photo's and is chock full of advice for any aspiring photographer of animals. While she spends most of her time on photographing dogs and cats the basic lessons and suggestions she offers will also help with photographing other animals as well. The chapters cover the subject from the history of pet photography thru lighting, equipment, compositions, animal behavior, and for the professional, becoming a professional pet photographer and business essentials. It is amazing just how much advice and material is covered in the 340 pages. I really liked the section in Chapter 8 dealing with the challenges inherent in photographing Black and White dogs. She calls it the Black Dog and White Dog problem and not only does she discuss the problem and reasons behind it, she also offers some interesting solutions.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Sedensky TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I first heard about this manual on pet photography, I expected things like a camera primer, pet taming techniques, and general advice about working with animals, moving objects and light conditions and such. What I did not expect was a detailed analysis of equipment, suggestions for working with different kinds of pets (and pet owners), how to operate a pet photography business, how to price your services, best practices for selling, advertising and supporting your services, and all the other nitty gritty details of becoming a professional pet photographer. That is to say, if you have never taken a picture of an animal, never used a camera, never owned your own business, never purchased a camera, never made money selling a marginal service like pet photography, this book will tell you all you need to know to do it.

As an experienced photographer who has taken more than a few pictures of his cats over the years, I didn't really appreciate how much there is to consider when taking pictures of animals professionally, from preparing treats and slobber rags, to making considerations for a sick or elderly pet. And as a businessman, while I vitally understand the concept of making money, I certainly had no idea about pricing, packaging, and marketing. And, again, as a photographer, I expected some amount of photography advice, but my assumption was that the author would assume a certain amount of capability on the part of whoever might buy this book. The author, however, makes no assumptions at all and includes detailed discussions of equipment, lenses, lighting, add-ons, editing software, how to use all those things together effectively, and even notes on film cameras and developing. (Who does that anymore?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Becky on September 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jamie did a wonderful job with this book ... WONDERFUL!! I have bought some books in the past, which were all fine books. But that's it, just 'fine'.
The info in this book is great! As soon as i started reading i thought i better get out a highlighter. And truthfully, i never highlight in ANY book. But i sure used it a lot in this book.
If you are a pet photographer, or thinking of becoming one, you just might want to pick this book up. You will not be disappointed!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Finamoon on January 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
Beautiful Beasties by Jamie Pflughoeft of Cowbelly pet photography is a fantastic book all about pet photography. It is a how to guide that goes over everything from equipment to use, photography basics, lighting, exposure, composition, challenges, developing, processing, editing, marketing and building a business, etc. This book mostly touches on photographing cats and dogs with a small blip about other pets.

My dog, Prince, is hard to capture on film or digital. I have found his neurotic behavior troublesome. Every time I get out my camera he knows that the red light or flash will illuminate stuff and create shadows. He loves to chase the light and shadows and it drives me and himself completely bonkers. He barks, whines and tries to scratch the floor or nip at the light. I have tried to stop him from doing this, but my husband and kids think it is funny and try to get him to engage in the behavior. My camera isn't the only thing he gets this way with. He also does this with flashlights, rainbow/sun catchers, sunbeams, laser pens, mirror balls, etc. I have yet to figure out a way to rid him of this habit.

I was excited to get this book to see if it had any specific tips for me and photographing him. In the chapter on behavior challenges it goes into neurotic behaviors very briefly. I was hoping for more in depth, but what this book did tell me was still helpful in my situation. It told me to get his energy out before the photo shoot so that maybe he would be more calm and relaxed. It also said to try to let the pet be themselves how ever silly, energetic, or neurotic they may be. If I let him be himself I could capture more of his personality.
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