I’m Brooke Arnold, a pet photographer and animal enthusiast living in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
While the biggest inspiration for my work is the six adorably naked and enthusiastically photogenic Sphynx cats that so generously allow me to share their home, becoming a photographer wasn’t a huge surprise to my family.
Growing up, Dad always had a camera strapped around his neck and I was convinced Mom wore darkroom developer and stop bath where most moms wore perfume. Artistic expression was in my soul and would claw its way out, somehow.
I dabbled in drawing and painting, and studied graphic design extensively in school, but every evening curled up on the sofa with a cat perched on a shoulder, another gazing at me from across the room, and one playfully batting a hair-tie down the hall, I knew I had to find a way to capture those moments, to help others to really see the sentient beings that tell us so much without ever uttering a single word.
While the ins-and-outs of f-stops, ISO’s, and exposure times admittedly freaked me out a little at the beginning of my self-taught journey, a lot of determination, a plethora of books, courses and tutorials, and no shortage of (usually) patient subjects offered the perfect opportunity to hone in and achieve my dream.
Over the years, my style has evolved from posed pet portraits to include both candid personality shots and elaborate handmade costumes with fun sets. Although I adore any and all animal photos, my favorites are taken in my home studio, where I can work at any hour, without constraints of time and sunlight.
I’m also a member of HeARTs Speak, a collective of artists using a variety of mediums to capture the true personalities of shelter animals and rescues in hopes of helping them find forever homes. While my craft does help to pay the bills, the most valuable photographs I’ve ever taken were the ones that inspired someone to adopt.
To capture an animal’s personality – or even just to have them remain somewhat within the viewfinder – I do have a few tricks up my sleeves (treats or toys, depending on who I’m photographing) and equipment that allows me to shoot quickly, often with one hand on the camera and another dangling a lure overhead.
Here’s a look at what’s in my camera bag and studio:
Camera: I’ve been a Canon lover since I had my first point-and-shoot film camera, so it was natural for me to choose the same brand when I took the leap into “real” photography. I chose the 6D because, at the time, it was the perfect balance between budget and the features I wanted — and it’s never let me down.
Lenses: I shoot the vast majority of my work with the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8. I love how the ultra-wide angle lens adds an extra element of whimsy to these already silly animals, giving them a wide-eyed bobble-head look. I also love using it to shoot the Milky Way (see guide).
I regularly shoot with a Canon 24-104mm f/4 when I want more serious shots in the studio.
For fun outside the studio, I’m in love with the Canon 85mm f/1.2 for its gorgeous bokeh and impeccable color; I use the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro for those can’t-miss details and for pocket pets, reptiles, or product photography; and the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 is almost always strapped to my camera if I’m traveling and want to capture landscapes and wildlife.
Studio: For studio lighting, I use two Paul C. Buff Alien Bees AB800’s and one AB400 with a variety of different light modifiers depending on the situation.
Usually, I shoot the cats with a softbox because it leaves the prettiest catchlights in their eyes. Flash is triggered with a CyberSync transmitter.
I mostly use Savage seamless backdrop paper and props and costumes are often homemade or custom made.
Everything else: I have quite a collection of camera bags — a couple of Ariel bags by Connie & Co., a Peak Design Everyday Backpack, and I couldn’t handle the camera and heavy lenses without the help of a Peak Design Clutch Hand Strap in studio and a Peak Design Slide strap and MeFoto RoadTrip tripod when traveling.
And, of course, a few things you will always find in a pet photographer’s bag — things that taste good, things that rattle & squeak, and things that cats and dogs want to chase!