“A Dog’s Life” ~ Popular Photography interviews pet photographer Gary Parker on Dog Photography

HOT DIGGITY DOG!!!!  Gary Parker and CatDogPhotography.com are featured in a nice spread in the February 2015 issue of Popular Photography magazine!  Check out the magazine or to see it online CLICK HERE.

Popular Photography has to be the first photography magazine I ever picked up once given a camera, so it struck me as nostalgic and very cool to be asked if I’d like to be featured for my pet photography, a photographic niche I never dreamed of pursuing and, in fact, never pursued.  I was, of course, humbled and flattered, so we agreed a story would be done at some point.  A couple of months ago the senior editor called and asked for the specific photographs you see in the online feature.

This Basset hound pup had ears like airplane wings taxiing for takeoff as I ran backwards with a Canon 1D Mark IV and 16-35mm/f2.8, hoping for a sharp image. Risk is mandatory.

One of the more common questions I get is, how did I get into pet photography.  My entry into pet photography came as the surprise result of a national ad we’d published in a prestigious publication (Blackbook) early in our transition from staff photojournalism to freelance.  I’m a versatile photographer by intent, so that ad included a variety of photographs meant to discover which niche of my work most appealed at the national level.Once the very nice book of photographer’s ads arrived at every ad agency in America, I received a call from the agency for Iams-Eukanuba, with the art buyer exclaiming, “We love your dog photography!

Huh???  I had to think quickly … uh … what dog photography?

I blurted “Thank you!” while quickly grabbing my own ad, only to realize the dog photograph she meant was a photograph of my 2-year-old son with a golden retriever puppy I’d always thought of as a kid photograph. Yet, this big agency saw it as a dog pic.  (below)

I considered this a “kid” picture; Iams-Eukanuba considered it a “dog” photograph. This image – created with a Nikkor 500mm/f8 mirror lens on Fujichrome film – kicked off my life as a pet photographer.


Whatever!   OK by me!  I scrambled to pull together more dog and cat pics to cover a portfolio, and in a couple of weeks shot my first major ad campaigns for both Iams-Eukanuba and for Pfizer Animal Health for a major national advertising agency.

I was now a major-level pet photographer, having never really shot a paid dog or cat gig at the local level.  Then Purina Cat Chow called and they were a biggie! They LOVED my cat photographs —  er, that is, the cat photographs I’d quickly loaded onto my site after getting hired to shoot dogs, pics made for fun during my years as a photojournalist.

We ended up doing several large-production ad campaigns for Cat Chow and other Purina brands on the heels of those first shoots then various advertising and local shoots have continued, all stemming from the “kid pic” I’d tossed into that first ad.

Things like this don’t just happen, most times, but how, after a career of all kinds of serious photography, did I end up becoming known for shooting cats and dogs?  To process that, I had to ride my mountain bike up a really steep mountain to generate some Zen-sweat, and consider how it had happened.

On the mountaintop it hit me:  On all those hundreds/thousands of shoots in photojournalism and for feature magazines, I never encountered a dog or cat I didn’t naturally photograph or include in the human’s picture, just for fun.  Just because … I’ve always just been drawn to cats and dogs as a photographic pursuit —  yet I thought of myself, and was, a photojournalist who liked to include pets. I wasn’t a pet photographer.

At least, not until a kid pic made me a pet photographer.



That tough chug up that steep mountain to consider how a dues-paid photojournalist ended up a pet photographer opened my eyes to the fact that I’d always been a photojournalist unwittingly shooting what I love shooting — infinitely interesting cats and dogs.

Tips at large:  Shoot what you love — never copy — react to the pet, follow your own vision, ignore jerks but pay attention to good input, learn the craft of pet photography from pros, when possible, and learn to react like a photojournalist in any situation.  Most importantly, shoot what you love is the key phrase for any aspiring or professional photographer.  Learn to shoot what you love as well as anyone, but let your own visual personality guide you.  Shoot what YOU love — edit with your gut.

When in doubt or to dial things in your pet photography skills,  Gary does one-on-one consultation, mentoring, portfolio development and occasional workshops.   gary@garyparker.com