Pet Photography During Quarantine: Staying Creative
April 6, 2020
For the last three weeks I’ve essentially been sequestered in my home like everyone else in San Francisco and most of the US. Except for walking my dog every morning and venturing to the local produce market once a week I spend all my time inside. I do think a lot about pet photography during quarantine. However, much of that thinking has been about how to run a pet photography business in one of the world’s costliest cities when nobody — including me — can work.
Until last week I honestly didn’t shoot any new work at all. That’s unheard of for me. Typically, if I go more than seven days without using a camera my eyes start to vibrate and I get really anxious — insert your comments on OCD here. To be blunt, for the first time in a while my heart wasn’t in it. To be a good photographer I need to focus and ironically that focus wasn’t there. I’m not alone. I lot of other shooters I spoke with felt the same and many of us were too busy trying to navigate the new world as people, much less photographers.
Work with What You Got
Then about two weeks into the shelter-in-place order I woke up wanting to shoot again. Instead of wondering if there would be pet photography during quarantine I wondered how. That I could work with. With San Francisco’s stay-at-home order in force outdoor photography in a public space is a non-starter for now. Same goes for a session at someone else’s home much less getting close to their dogs and cats since nobody is certain yet about all the ways COVID-19 spreads. That leaves my two dogs, a cat, my wife and a very, very small San Francisco home.
My Dog Photography Models
Since I was feeling a little rusty I’ve started off slow and worked mainly with the dogs. Bizzy is our senior citizen at 14 and spends a lot of time sleeping. He also hit his photography modeling quota a couple of years ago and doesn’t really love it when I bring the camera out. It’s ok, I get it, everyone needs to retire at some point but that doesn’t mean I pass up the opportunity when he takes a nap in the perfect spot in our backyard.
Leeloo is our most recent addition to the family. She’s a chiweenie (chihuahua-dachshund mix) we rescued in late November last year and named after the main character in The Fifth Element. Leeloo or LRD (Little Red Dog) as we call her is a bit of an imp and wild child. She’s also by necessity my main model since she’s a) trainable and b) seems to like the job.
I started off with a mix of one-light action shots and a simple studio set-up in my office. So far, so good. I think her impish personality shows off well in photographs.
My rescue cat, Jimmy Chew, is a long-time subject but sessions with him are limited to his level of enthusiasm and interest in shrimp treats. Ironically, the best light for for lifestyle images is in the kitchen where he’s not really supposed to be so please don’t let my wife see any of these.
James — as we call him when he’s causing problems — also made an appearance while I was photographing Leeloo in the makeshift studio and ended up being quite engaged and playful. I wish there was more room so I could get full-body shots of him but baby steps first.