Wildlife Animal Photographer VS Domestic Animal Photographer

Each Animal Photographer is Unique for Specific Commercial Jobs

When advertising agencies or pet brand companies need an animal photographer it is often perceived that any animal photographer will be ideal to promote their product. However, not all animal photographers are one and the same.

It is important to consider the purpose of the shoot. For instance, an animal photographer who specializes in dogs and cats is quite different than an animal photographer whose main focus is wild animals. Photographers who specialize in domestic animals are experts in creating the perfect results that are mainly within controlled settings, either indoor or outdoor. On the contrary, professional wild animal photographers have extensive knowledge of what it takes to photograph undomesticated animals in their uncontrolled, natural environment.

Golden Retriever posing on a Jax & Bones dog bed during a commercial photoshoot.

Golden Retriever posing on a Jax & Bones dog bed during a commercial photoshoot.

Each type of photography requires its own unique type of skills, preparation and supplies, as well as environment. Each photographer has the knowledge of the various species they work with, from behavioral characteristics to the body language. When making the decision of the type of animal photographer needed, is important to understand the differences between the two. 

A domestic animal photographer photographs dogs and cats in both outdoor and indoor settings.  The studio allows for a predictable environment which is beneficial to the animal. There are less surprises and distractions in this type of setting, which is in contrast to shooting outdoors. When doing an outdoor photo shoot, it is important that the photographer has extensive knowledge of working with the natural light of the sun in addition to any needed artificial lighting. Knowing how to effectively deal with distractions which the animal may have, in addition to unpredictable weather conditions is also necessary. A professional and skilled domestic animal photographer is experienced in taking ideal photos in both settings. Skills that a domestic animal photographer must have include:

  • Dog and cat handling skills
  • Creativity in getting that “perfect” pose, coaxing a shy animal
  • Knowledge of domestic animal psychology
  • Superior and accurate shooting and editing abilities
  • Extensive knowledge of all complex camera equipment
  • Excellent communication and interaction skills, with people as well as animals
  • Patience

Another area that sets this type of animal photographer apart from photographer of wild animals is preparation and supplies. Naturally, domestic animal photographers do not need nearly the quantity or types of supplies that a wild animal photographer needs; however, the animal photographer does have specific equipment needed for work in the studio. Equipment that is needed includes:

  • High quality indoor and outdoor camera
  • A variety of lenses
  • Lighting equipment
  • Dog and cat treats
  • Toys with squeakers to keep their attention
  • Kneepads (to save the knees when kneeling for long periods of time)
  • Cleaning kit for clearing the camera of fur and drool
Leopard hissing at the camera.

Leopard hissing at the camera.

A photographer of wild animals is very familiar with outdoor scenarios. They are very knowledgeable of the natural environment of each type of undomesticated animal they photograph. In addition to understanding the various types of environments, a wildlife photographer has a variety of skills that make them successful in their photographic sessions run as smoothly as possible. These skills include:

  • Endurance in order to maintain the strength needed to carry a variety of gear as well as manage within challenging situations and unpredictable environments.

  • Mental focus to be prepared for the length of time for traveling, being in isolation, handling potentially dangerous situations, to remain calm, and to maintain patience for long intervals of time in order to catch a perfectly-timed shot.

  • In terms of preparation and supplies, wildlife photographers have a wide variety of gear, and this also depends on the type of animals they will be photographing, as well as the environment in which they will be in. Common preparation and supplies wild animal photographers utilize are:

  • An extensive array of clothing that is suitable for many types of outdoor conditions.

  • An exceptionally high-quality camera with complex equipment, such as powerful zoom lenses, mighty macro lenses, a wide variety of quality flashes, and a lightweight tripod, along with a multidimensional camera case.

  • Remote photography gadgets, such as a drone, BeetleCam, and motion-sensored triggers.

  • A tele-converter and a GoPro, both for capturing versatile and risky photographs.

Wildlife photographer photographing sea lions in the Antarctic .  Photo courtesy of Atlantic Productions. 

Wildlife photographer photographing sea lions in the Antarctic.
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Productions. 

Once you have decided upon the type of photographer to hire, be sure to look at a few portfolios to help you choose the right person for the job. Great photographs can reveal an extensive narrative just through their composition. Additionally, through clever use of colour and lighting, photographers can suggest a mood that provokes a response in the viewer. Since visual perception is linked to emotion in such a powerful way, be sure the potential photographer’s pictures invoke a sense of emotion. Also, the photographs should tell engaging stories relating to the potential client’s experiences.

Choosing the ideal animal photographer, based on the animals which need photographed, is very important in getting the results you desire. Understanding the specialty areas and the specific duties of each animal photographer can make the hiring process an easier one. Once you find the ideal photographer for you and the animals, the experience will be one of true delight.