My name is Elke Vogelsang, I’m a professional photographer specializing in pet portraiture. My husband and I live in Germany with three Spanish rescue dogs, which are my constant source of laughter and inspiration.
In 2009 I discovered photography as a creative outlet to a very stressful time due to several sick family members. Two years later I turned my passion into a profession because I was hooked and wanted to spend as much time as possible being creative. I haven’t looked back since.
My pictures are published in magazines and newspapers worldwide. My dogs, who are keen and eager models, have also gained a little bit of international fame. Frankly, they couldn’t care less but they love to pose for my camera and I don’t get tired trying to show the beauty and quirky side of dogs.
I always have a camera with me. Years ago I shot with Canon, but since I was tired of carrying the heavy DSLR equipment with me I decided I needed to get a more lightweight and smaller camera to have with me all the time.
I went for a Fujifilm X20 and I just love the retro design of the Fujifilm X series. Of course, the Fujifilm X20 is a compact camera and in no way a substitute for my professional equipment, it was just meant to be my ‘pocket’ camera for when I walk the dogs or on journeys.
I believe that the more restricted you are with your equipment the more creative you get in trying to overcome the restrictions and get decent pictures. I just love experimenting with this tiny camera.
Before I got the Fujifilm X20 I hardly ever shot in the wide-angle range. Sometimes you are stuck in established patterns and you shoot the same pictures over and over again. This camera made me rethink.
The Fujifilm X20 has an ultra-macro mode in the wide-angle range. My series ‘Nice Nosing You‘, in which I go very near to the dogs’ noses and portray them in all their wet glory, was entirely shot with the Fujifilm X20. This series got featured in magazines, newspapers and online worldwide, and even on Good Morning America.
I was hooked. I really enjoyed having a small camera with me, but I also wanted to reduce weight and size for my professional work. Therefore, I decided to switch to the Fujifilm X system entirely.
Nowadays, I’m a Fujifilm X photographer and my main camera is the Fujifilm X-T3. When you shoot dogs in action, fast equipment that can handle this situation is essential. The Fujifilm X-T3 offers me that. It’s not only a beautiful camera it’s also very functional. I just love the look and feel of the X-series.
My equipment is heavy duty. It needs to withstand rain and rough conditions. The Fujifilm X-T3 is a very forgiving tool.
My Fujifilm X-T2 is my secondary camera that I have in my bag during client sessions. I still have a camera with me all the time as I love to have something that I just can put in my pocket. My travel and dog walking camera is now the compact Fujifilm X-100F.
As for my professional equipment, I love prime lenses. My favorite prime lenses are the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR for dogs in landscapes and funny dog portraits outdoors. The Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM is my go-to lens for elegant portraits or action shots outdoors. When I shoot client dogs I love the versatility of the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM WR.
The Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 LM WR is my studio lens. It’s more or less the only lens I use in the studio. With this I can shoot quirky wide-angle portraits as well as more elegant ones in the tele range to get a natural portrayal of the dog.
I use only one strobe in the studio, the Jinbei HD 610 HSS. I would like to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible for the animals. I also only use it at low power to make sure I don’t scare my model. Of course, cooler pets are perfectly fine with more strobes and the noises.
If a dog is scared of the flash, it’s usually not the light but the sound that scare them. Therefore I try to keep it as simple as possible. The Jinbei HD 610 HSS is extremely versatile as you can shoot in high speed synchronisation and use it outdoors too.
The strobe is secured by a wire to a slide on the ceiling. This way my models can be as energetic as they like and I don’t run the risk of them causing the strobe to drop.
Usually, I have two reflectors, one at each side of the animal to make sure the light is also directed at the contours of my model. They are attached to a Walimex GN-806 tripod. The legs can be laid flat on the ground, thus making it difficult to knock them over.
My bag is the Vanguard Quovio 49. It has accompanied me to sessions for a few years now and is as good as new even though it has to endure quite a lot — dogs jumping on it, being covered in sand and dust and so on. It’s a trolley so you don’t have to carry it.
There are also a few non-photographic items in my camera bag. First of all, I have a selection of small treats. Most dogs usually do anything for treats. They couldn’t care less about having their portrait taken so they need a motivation. If I don’t know the dog, I start with more boring things like kibble.
A treat-obsessed Beagle might be all over you and forget any basic commands when you get the cheese out first thing into the session but I also have yummy treats to persuade the more picky ones, for example bacon cream in tubes or yogurt.
A selection of noise-makers is also a handy thing. Usually, I try to get a cute head tilt from my model by making noises with my mouth behind the camera. For example, whistling, whispering, clicking the tongue, etc. but some dogs are used to lots of noises and might not react to that. For those I have kazoos, hunting whistles and squeakers – even the cool senior might react with a surprised head tilt, even if it’s only for a fraction of a second.
A ball or some kind of toy that can be thrown to get some good action shots is also important.
A fur brush, a microfiber cloth, as well as some water and a mobile water bowl should be part of a pet photographer’s bag content.
Inside Elke’s camera bag: