“My first special story was one that touched my heart deeply. It is a lovely story of a girl and her dog who was her best friend. This story illustrates the impact dogs have on our lives and the importance photos have in serving as a reminder and cherished memoirs of our pets.”
We’ve been talking and learning a lot from photographers who capture emotions from humans or the cinematic expressions of nature and landscape, so this Feature we’re giving the spotlight to our furry four-legged friends! And who better to lead us through their vast world of emotions, expressions and memories than Erin King – the acclaimed and award winning pet photographer!
Hello Erin, how did you get started in photography?
Photography started out as a subject I took in High School as I was more attracted to the arts based subjects. At school, I started out on an old second hand manual Minolta camera (which I have kept to this day) and was initially attracted to landscapes and macro imagery specifically with nature. I started out shooting on black and white film and was developing and printing it myself in the darkroom. I could easily spend all my time in that darkroom! I loved the smell of the chemicals and the creativity of seeing the images come to life.
One of my first projects was a photographic study of seashells that was used as my portfolio and application to get into Design School.
What is it about photographing pets/animals that intrigues you?
I simply love animals and happily consider myself to be a crazy dog lady! They are very relatable to us in having such unique personalities; feeling such varied emotions and having colorful memories. The deep connections we develop with them are intriguing!
Through the years, I’ve come to see animals and the relationship they offer to go beyond just being companions and more like family. This is why I believe pet photography is so very important. In the short time we have with them, we develop a very close bond – a bond that we need to remember and cherish forever.
What have been some challenges you have faced in photographing pets (& people at the same time)?
In photographing pets you need A LOT of patience. Every shoot is a new challenge, you have to understand that the shoot isn’t always going to go as planned and you just have to be flexible in working around the personality, mood and energy level of the dog. You never know how they are going to act and what you will get out of them! Some dogs are well trained and will respond to commands or positive re-enforcement and some just aren’t. So you really have to be able to just go with the flow and adapt to each dog and each shoot.
It can be challenging working with dogs that need to remain on-lead and this is quite common due to safety concerns but it does require a lot more post production work. Also if they aren’t on-lead, you always need to consider what happens when we run into other dogs or unknown people. A lot of careful consideration takes place with the location and safety of the environment we work in. One thing I never had to consider before I moved to Australia is to be on the look out for snakes!
Photographing the pet with their owner is probably the easiest shot to capture as it is the environment the pet is most comfortable and natural in. I love to capture the cuddly, snuggly and meaningful images where the pet and owner are interacting together. However, the biggest challenge in this would be people’s expressions. Often when people interact with their pet, it can be very animated with large eyes and open mouths, so we always have to be aware of exaggerated facial expressions. Truth be told, it can take a high level of enthusiasm (or craziness) to get a dog’s attention, only sometimes I find owners react to this also. I often have to remind them not to react to me, but instead to be in the moment with their dog and pretend I’m not there.
Is there a particular subject, moment or place that is on your “dream list” to photograph?
Oh I feel like I have so many…I am actually really drawn to ruins or old abandoned and unused buildings or structures. I love grit, brick and graffiti, broken windows, buildings being overgrown by grass and vines. You know that line where the environment has taken everything back from a now unused or damaged structure? That’s what I love. This type of environment really inspires me and I would love to be able to take dogs into abandoned buildings to photograph. However, it also comes with a certain element of risk and can be potentially law breaking.
I also really love to travel and I draw inspiration from seeing and experiencing new locations. Photographing dogs in some of my most loved travel destinations is a definite dream wish list for me. To be able to photograph dogs amongst the white walkways and stucco buildings in Santorini, or the maze of cobblestone laneways and canals in Venice, this would be a dream for sure. The light over there is just magical!
It’s also always been a long time dream to photograph native wildlife in Africa and Antarctica. I hope one day to do a photo expedition trip to these locations. It’s definitely on the bucket list! Oh and swimming pigs in the Bahamas, I mean, hello, OMG swimming pigs!
Were there any ‘crazy’ things you have done to achieve a shot?
There’s not really anything specific I can recall, apart from sneaking into abandoned buildings, however I am pretty much up to trying anything (or most things) if it means I can get an amazing photo from it! Anything goes from climbing fences, ignoring signs and trespassing, jumping in water, hanging out of helicopters, climbing trees and just all round generally risking your life all in aid of that perfect photo!
What advice/experiences would you share with fellow photographers who are interested yet hesitant of venturing into a different aspect of photography?
I think the key is experimentation and trying out different things. If there’s someone’s work that you admire or follow, reach out to them – ask questions, try working, assisting or shadowing other photographers. I’ve worked with a number of photographers while establishing myself and developing my own photography and in doing so I learnt so much.
Throughout that time it also meant I tried all kinds of different photography, eventually landing on weddings. However, I found with weddings that, while the money is good, my heart really wasn’t in it. I now know that working with pets/animals is where I need to be. I now shoot a small select number of weddings, although these tend to be for animal loving couples or couples who want to have their dogs involved on their wedding day, so these really are my ideal clients and means my heart is back in this.
I also think that once you develop a unique style, this will flow through into any genre of photography you undertake.
Is there one story that you can share that made you realize the impact of photos in your line of photography?
If it’s one thing within pet photography it would be that the time we have with our pets is very short and precious. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon to get the news that the dog or pet you photographed has passed away, or that photos are now needed because the pet is terminally ill. Because we have such a short but very meaningful time with our pets, this is what makes these photos so very special and important, and what makes this job very emotional.
My first special story was one that touched my heart deeply. It is a lovely story of a girl and her dog who was her best friend. This story illustrates the impact dogs have on our lives and the importance photos have in serving as a reminder and cherished memoirs of our pets.
Lauren, who was only 21 at the time, has had her Labrador, Bindii since she was a puppy. In Bindii’s old age, she could no longer walk because she lost the function of her back legs to arthritis and Lauren was the only person who was dedicated to her full-time care.
I was really inspired by Lauren’s passion in ensuring Bindii’s quality of life in her old age and taking on the full responsibility of her care, dedicating all her time to care for Bindii even as a priority over her social life and study.
Lauren’s father made a wagon for Bindii so that Bindii and Lauren could go out on walks. Lauren would conscientiously ensure that Bindii always had the correct medication, bedding and even nappies (seeing as she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t take herself to the toilet). These two had an amazingly close relationship and I really admired Lauren for trying to keep Bindii healthy, comfortable, stimulated and most importantly happy for the remaining time she had left.
(Lauren & Bindii // Bindii on the wagon Lauren’s father made.)
Lauren keeps Bindii’s photos displayed in her bedroom over her bed, something that makes me realize how privileged I am to be involved in these deeply meaningful relationships.
Erin can be contacted at:
All images here are copyrighted and belong to Erin King.