Monday, August 31, 2015

Tips for Amateur Pet Photographers ~ from Karen Weiler of Posh Pets

Once upon a time, I owned a good camera.  I set that camera on the roof of my car after a wedding. While I no longer remember the bride's name, I do recall the crunching sound as I drove off.   
I couldn’t justify replacing the camera, and didn’t really miss it, except for this:  two cats passed through my life practically undocumented.  They were both unusually gorgeous . . . and I can’t even prove it!  

Further, I have only half a dozen good shots of Riggs when he was a puppy--something I regretted when it came time to publish Golden Boy.  He may have been a handful, but that pup was adorable! 

About a year ago, I got a new iPhone and started taking pictures.  At first I was embarrassed by my terrible camera skills but eventually my sense of humor prevailed.  So what if I don’t have “an eye”?  I enjoy myself and more important, I have lots of photo memories of my pets. 

One day I may be able to justify investing in a new camera.  When I do, I’ll consult with Karen Weiler of Post Pets Photography because she has plenty of
Posh Riggs
advice for camera-challenged people like me.  I’ve visited the Posh Pets website
several times in the past couple of years and made a point of meeting Karen at the SwissRidge Doodle Romp recently.  As in the past, she'd donated a photography session for an auction to raise funds for SwissRidge Dogs for Kids; the proceeds will go to Autism Dog Services.  

Check out the Posh Pets blog on the SwissRidge romp. 

But first, read Karen’s interview below, including the tips she’s kindly offered for amateur photographers who aspire to more.

Over to you, Karen . . .

1.    Tell us about Posh Pets Photography.

Photography has always fascinated me. For as long as I can remember, I would pour over photographs and wonder how photographers were able to create such beautiful work. My early snapshots were woefully lacking.  Even as a child, I could see something was not right.

As a young adult, I was always the one with my trusty Canon Rebel (film). I dragged that camera around to any and all outings with my friends.  There were some images I was proud of, but not enough, and eventually, I left photography, concluding it was just some mystery I couldn’t crack.

Then came the digital age, with its associated benefit: immediate feedback. The ability to instantly see what your image looked like encouraged me up to try my hand at photography again. I clearly remember the day I bought my first DSLR.  After that I quickly saw improvement.

Originally, I thought that I would like to photograph weddings.  One day, I found myself at my friend’s house as she was getting ready on her wedding day. I spied her mother’s dog who was looking for attention. I took four photographs of the dog, and that is when it hit me: this is what I want to do. I knew that photographing an animal would bring me far more joy than any other subject in the world, and I set out to make it happen.

2.    What are some of your most memorable moments as a pet photographer?

I like to attend pet-related events in the city, and if photography is allowed, I will often bring my camera so that I can blog about it later. I have a Canon DSLR and professional lenses that are easily recognizable by the fact that they are white in colour. More than once I’ve been ushered into “press” areas because event staff assume I represent a media outlet. It’s great for getting awesome images!

3.    What tips can you give the amateur pet photographer, who may often be using a phone to capture a moment with a pet?

Three simple ideas to improve your imagery:

Find the light: Beautiful light is the difference between a snapshot and a portrait. The human eye will always be drawn to the brightest part of your photograph, so initially at least, that means the light should be on your pet. Look for “soft” light that falls on your pet’s face. And focus on the animal’s eyes.

Simplify your background: Try for simple, clean backgrounds. If you want to photograph your pet in your home, it really pays to neaten the room up a little. The subject of your image is most likely your pet, so be sure that the viewer’s eyes are able to focus on the pet and not be distracted any clutter. If you are outside, you cannot very well move a tree or a fence, so you have to move yourself or your pet.

Get Perspective: Try getting down to the level of your pet. Too many images I see are taken between the eye and chest level of an average human. Get down low – it’ll give a fresh new perspective to your images!

These are just guidelines. There will be times when you are simply capturing a memory and you have no time to change the light, background or perspective. In that case, take the shot! The moment is worth capturing.

4.    If an owner with modest skills wanted to improve, what would you recommend? 

If you want to start taking more professional looking images, eventually you will want to buy a camera. Almost every camera on the market today is an amazing piece of technology and its features are beyond the average consumer. I encourage you to go into your local camera store and try these cameras out. Some will feel awkward in your hands; others will feel natural. Pick one that feels good! And then, read the manual. Learn what all of those buttons and menus do. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment; you really cannot “break” your camera by pushing a button.

There are lots of free resources for those who would like to learn photography. Google almost any subject and there will be an article or a video on it.  Creative Live ( offers tons of courses that you can watch for free when they are recording live. Your local library will have myriad of books on photography.

If you are looking to invest in courses, you can find basic ones at your local college. Many photographers, myself included, offer one-on-one mentoring sessions for those who need personalized, hands-on instruction. And for those who would like to combine vacation and learning, there are multi-day workshops in exotic locales around the world.

Very Posh Monty

5.     What’s your best overall advice to pet owners about photography?

The sad truth is that we will most likely outlive our pets. That is why I think it is so important to get images of your furry faces, at all stages of their lives. Those are the memories we hold onto, long after they’re gone.

As a professional photographer, I believe it is vitally important to have physical prints of your images. Not only because you can hang them on your walls to enjoy, or because there is something exquisitely beautiful about tangible art, but also because they last. Hard drives fail, computers die, and too many images are lost because someone did not have a backup. Every single one of my clients purchases physical images of their pets, and they frequently shed tears of happiness the first time they see them.

Professional photography is an investment in time and resources. But when it all comes together—the light is gorgeous, the dog is groomed, the humans look good and the setting has meaning for the family—it is all worth it. 
  • Karen Weiler of Posh Pets Photography is a contemporary fine art pet photographer who specializes in custom portrait sessions for discerning dogs and cats along with the people they share their lives with. You can connect with her at: web:; IG: @dogphotographer Twitter: @PoshPetsPhoto
Please follow the Animal Magnetism blog if you'd like to receive updates as they're posted. If interested in being interviewed, contact  And if you haven't read Golden Boy: How to raise a dog all wrong and end up all right, what are you waiting for?!


  1. Love your photos Karen and your advice. I think I have documented with "okay" photos every stage of Pedro's life (and every once in a while, a great photo does come out!) and I have been lucky to be able to invest in a couple of family photo sessions with professional photographers where the star has definitely been him. I know I will cherish the memories. I recently got my DSLR and Pedro is my favourite subject... I shall keep practicing with your advice in mind!

    1. Hi Alessandra! So glad that the blog is useful for you. I'm so happy that you have these cherished memories with Pedro :)

  2. Love your photos of Pedro, Alessandra! I have a ways to go to catch up.

  3. Thank You Karen for such wonderful advice.. I know you are right about getting on their level because those photos are always my favorite. I Love seeing al, the colors in their fur and their expressive faces. Your work is wonderful! Wish you lived near me.

    1. Hi Laurie! Thank you so much for kind words - I really do love getting on the ground with the furry faces. Perhaps one day we can meet up and I can meet your furry face.

    2. I plan on being at the SwissRidge romp next year with 2 of my fluffs, I hope you are there too!

    3. That would be wonderful! I would love to meet you :)

  4. I'm hoping Santa might bring me a good camera this year, Laurie, and I can get some mentoring from Karen. Would still love to preserve my two for posterity. Maybe at Coyote Park :)

  5. Karen, can I ask what qualifies as "soft" light? I was still working under the assumption that any light is good light - especially with my black dog.

    1. Hard light creates distinct shadows. The softer the light, the less visible the shadows become. Take a picture on a bright, sunny day when the sun is high in the sky. You'll see dark, very hard lined shadows. Take the same picture on a cloudy day. The shadows will be much less. That is essentially the easiest way to visualize it.

    2. Ah, I get it! Now to implement all these tips. Thanks again, Karen!

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