Friday, August 30, 2013

How photos can save lives: interview with pet photographer Jenny Parker

Jenny Parker poses with her dog Malibu.
I met pet photographer and animal lover Jenny Parker during a fund-raising Halloween (well, Howl-o-ween to be precise) photo shoot for Hunter Animal Rescue. As for most people, Jenny had been making plans with her life when life got in the way. She and her partner, together with their eight year old Boxer Bailey, were about to embark on a trip around Australia. But just before their planned departure Bailey tore a cruciate ligament, and suffered rare, major complications which robbed him of his quality of life (you can read a bit more on Jenny's website, here). Bailey was their baby, and losing him was devastating. Jenny and her partner finally did embark on their trip, long after they had planned, and she discovered photography.

She has studios in both Newcastle (Wallsend) and Balmain (Sydney), and believes in the importance of celebrating our pets. "They are with us for such a short time and they bring us so much joy and love," she says.

You can view her work on www.shootyapooch.com, or checkout Jenny's Facebook page to see what she is working on and who is looking for a forever home.

When Phil and I met Jenny I was struck by her gentle manner - and the way she interacted with Phil, like he was a worthy soul in his own right. When we met at the same annual fundraiser a year later she recognised him in a crowd. 

How could you not fall in love with Amie?
What (or who?) inspired you to get into pet photography?

I picked up a camera in 2010 whilst travelling Australia with the goal of being able to take great landscape shots. It was during an extended stay on the Gold Coast that I took part in some classes to learn how to take better photos and as part of some of my assignments I started photographing dogs at the local off leash beach which I enjoyed tremendously. I had no idea there was such a thing as a 'Pet Photographer' until I went along to an event at a local pet store and met K9 Photography. I knew then and there what my future held and as they say .... the rest is history. 

Everyone has a phone camera these days. Why do people seek out a pet photographer?

Contrary to popular belief, its not an expensive camera that creates great photos. Pet photography is about patience, taking time to connect with an animal, learning and how to get the best out of them and of course having an insane love for all animals...and of course an artistic eye for detail and knowledge of the technical side.

I love this portrait of Misha. Incidentally, exposing a white dog correctly is no mean feat - so often my photos of all-white dogs are overexposed or blown out. The lighting in this shot is beautiful.
What's the key to taking a good pet portrait? 

You will hear me say it over and over but patience is one of the main elements to capturing a great photo of a pet. Understanding lighting and how to make it work for you is also important. Every photographer is different and there are several ways to take a good portrait. My style is simple, clean and elegant. I put my focus on engaging the model as best as I can so that you can really feel an element of connecting with their soul when you look at their image.

How do you deal with challenging or less cooperative subjects?

Patience, patience, patience. I never ever rush a model or push them to do anything that they are uncomfortable with, its all about taking the time to find out what makes them tick, what they respond and working out what will or won't work. We always get there in the end so it's about relaxing and enjoying the whole process.

Have you photographed any species other than dog or cat?

I have photographed bunnies, birds, goats, horses and a snake but I would LOVE the opportunity to photograph Australian wildlife in my studio

You support Hunter Animal Rescue. How did this come about?

I was a fan of HAR on FB prior to moving to Newcastle and at the beginning of 2011 when they put a call out for a volunteer photographer for their annual HAR Pet Picnic Day which just happened to be on the day after we relocated here, I nominated myself. I signed up that day to become a volunteer and continued to offer my services in photographing foster dogs/cats to help them look their best on their website profiles. It was the best thing I ever done, not only did I get to practise my craft but to date I have photographed almost 300 rescues and hopefully played a big part in them finding their Forever Homes.

[Ed: You can visit Hunter Animal Rescue at www.hunteranimalrescue.com.au/]  

This is a gorgeous photo of Bailey.
You've said before that professional photos help increase adoption success. Why do you think this is?

Most animals in rescue are not puppies and are not the standard 'pretty' designer breed dogs. This doesn't make them any less special but sadly there are so many of them and their faces can blend one into another when you are perusing a website looking to adopt. By taking the time to make each one feel comfortable and aiming to engage them with the camera you can show the heart, soul and personality of each one to its very best advantage. I always try my best to get what I call 'the money shot' that adorable head tilt that makes your heart melt.

Jenny and her partner just welcomed a new puppy into their lives. We're looking forward to catching up with her in mid-September.

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