Hi guys, I’m Sam and together with my husband Ben we photograph pets and their people. We are based in Brisbane, Australia but we are fortunate enough to photograph clients all over the country.
Photography was never something we set out to do professionally and it’s taken a while to adjust to the notion of making a living by producing art. Though I feel like we kind of fell into it and simply landed on our feet I have to admit it wasn’t just luck.
We both spent hours upon hours practicing, playing and learning (and still do). It was late in 2011 when Ben gifted me my very first DSLR, a Canon 60D, when I graduated from nursing (I did work in an intensive care unit for a while before giving it up to focus on photography full time).
They say to photograph what you love and for us it’s animals and connections or emotions. We began by photographing our own fur kids. We still do, practically daily! Two of our dogs, Humphrey and Chester have their own long running photo series – Chester Chewsday (IG #chesterchewsday) and Happy Hump(hrey) Day (IG #happyhumphreyday).
We then began volunteering for local animal rescue organisations before being asked to photograph other people, their furkids and their special moments in life. We are currently at a pivotal point in our business where we are drastically reducing the weddings we take on to give even more attention to our true passion of pets and their people.
Our journey to our current kit has been an expensive and ever-changing one. We started off shooting Canon (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 6D) but switched to Nikon a couple of years ago because the gear is lighter. That is literally the only reason.
I sincerely miss some of the Canon lenses but I have a bulging disc in my spine so any weight I can shave off I will. I’ve added a little note at the bottom with the additional gear we have on hand to choose from that we might take to a wedding or for personal use but I won’t go into detail with that.
We’ve recently added a Nikon D5 to the kit for pet photography – high frame rate/great autofocus and wonderfully tough to deal with whatever we throw at it :)
This camera is a beast, in all of the good ways. It’s the go-to/favourite in our kit and we have been known to argue over who gets to use it! It’s got a solid autofocus, excellent ISO performance and 1/8000th of a second shutter. The ability to crop in a little is a bonus with more nervous pets.
If this camera had the same base ISO and max shutter speed as the Nikon D810 we would only own these‚. A better autofocus system wouldn’t hurt but once you know your camera it’s not an impossible tool to use for fast action. The colours it renders and the way it feels to shoot is simply wonderful. We have 2 of these (1 not pictured) and we each shoot with one. It’s often the primary camera for both of us with the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G.
We might be the only people in the world to not be madly in love with this camera but we’ve owned 2 and they have both had their issues. The one we chose to keep has had its main circuit board completely replaced and works just fine now and is technically incredible but it just doesn’t feel as inspiring to shoot as our other cameras.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G
This gets used when we’ve been asked to do any indoor/studio shots as it gives the most fabulous distortion so we can use it to create quite comical and engaging imagery. We aren’t afraid to get nose/lick marks on it so it’s pulled out when we want the resulting image to have a very “in your face” and dramatic feel to it. A cloth is always on hand though because no one likes their photos foggy because of doggy drool.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G
Mostly used during equine shoots so we can keep a little distance and get more natural shots. It’s also often brought along to canine shoots but only pulled out for the odd action photo and sometimes not used at all.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART
This is Ben’s preferred wide angle – plus what kit is complete without one these days?! It’s almost permanently on the Nikon D750.
Nikon 24mm f/1.4
This is my preferred wide angle and I adore it. It’s a beautiful lens that is permanently on the Nikon D810. I find it is a little slower to focus than a 35mm but I find the results much more rewarding especially as I love to get up quite close to my subjects. I often feel as though a wider lens can help draw a deeper emotive response and simply tell more of a story than a longer one. While it can be distortive it’s not something that can’t normally be fixed in post (unless your subjects are on the edge of the frame).
Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
So amazing we have 2 of them! We seriously love this lens. When I sold my Canon 85mm f/1.2 I felt like I was missing something and this filled the void! It’s not the sharpest lens in the world but it’s sharp enough and its results when used as intended are simply beautiful.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
Ben occasionally prefers this to the 58mm as he isn’t always quite as comfortable being as close to our subjects to take the shot as I am.
Nikon SB-700 Speed lights
Perfect for some basic off camera flash in dark homes or when grabbing a quick studio portrait.
Yongnuo Flash triggers
Cheap, reliable and easy to use.
These bags are simply beautiful so we have two! They are heavy and not always the most practical for travel but they are a little bit special and fit everything we need and then some. We just take the one to most pet shoots and it has enough room for both of our gear.
Ben wears his to all shoots (he has the burgundy/buffalo one. I have the bridle leather pictured.) I only wear mine to longer shoots. They are wonderfully crafted, comfortable to wear and are a conversation starter to boot!
ONA Presidio straps
I use these on pet photography shoots and for day-to-day use as they are comfortable, look good and given that I spend a lot of time on the ground on a pet session it’s less risk to the second camera while I’m moving about then a moneymaker.
Hand carved stag horn dog whistle
This was gifted to me from one of the companies we shoot for, Forester Rogers. It’s incredible for drawing out a range of expressions on most dogs so it comes to all shoots involving canines.
We photograph dogs – need I say more?!
Gear Not pictured:
iMac 27” with 5k retina display
Incredible for editing. Canines often need quite a bit of dirt/dribble/leash removal so being able to really get in and see the detail leads to a much cleaner end result.
Lightroom and Photoshop CC
My base edits are made in Lightroom using either a Mastin Lab or VSCO preset I’ve put my own spin on before moving to Photoshop for further touching up. I find Lightroom to still be slower and less “intelligent” than photoshop for tasks like leash removal.
For just in case. I don’t like using them as they can cause more drool and the dogs often get an obsessive “feed me I’m starving” look to them. I tend to just throw leaves/small objects in the air to get their attention if noise doesn’t work.
I use a cat and dog noise app to help draw out head tilts.
Spare batteries and Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards
Our other gear (not used on pet sessions)
Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS
Zeiss 100mm f2.0 macro planar
Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E
Nikkor 135mm f/2 AIS