Photos courtesy of Kari Maples
Interview by Janelle Lake

Have you ever wanted a photo session with your pet, but would rather not have to go to a photography studio? Kari Maples, with her Canon Rebel XTI, can capture your pet's personality in a favorite cozy chair or almost anywhere else. I contacted her to find out more about pet portraiture.

Janelle Lake: How did you learn photography?

Kari Maples: I pretty much taught myself, but I am constantly reading about photography and broadening my skills through classes and seminars.

KM: Ironically, I don't have a formal degree in photography. I have a Bachelor's in sociology and a Master's in professional counseling. However, I have taken several photography classes through Midland Center for the Arts and Photoshop 1 at Delta College.

JL: How did you decide to do canine photos?

KM: I started photographing my friend’s and family’s dogs and from there I got referrals to photograph other dogs. It was so much fun that I decided to take it to a professional level and started Say Woof! Photography four years ago. I've always wanted to find a career working with dogs doing something that I love, and photography was the perfect choice. A year ago I quit my full-time job to put my energies into making Say Woof! a full-time business.

JL: Are there any special problems that arise when working with dogs?

KM: The toughest part and the best part of photographing dogs is that they are unpredictable. But that's what I love about them.

JL: How do you make the dogs comfortable during the shoot?

KM: Every session I spend about 15 minutes just hanging out with the dog and its owner. This allows the dog to become comfortable with me, and my camera. I've always had a special relationship with dogs. I've had many clients say that their dog never warms up to anyone, but they always do to me. The treats probably don't hurt either.

JL: Do you make them pose in any way?

KM: In most cases I don't make them sit and pose, I don’t like to make them pose unless it's requested by the owner. I follow them around and photograph them doing what they naturally do. Not making them artificially pose is how I can capture their true personalities, and that's what I think makes my photographs special and unique.

JL: Where do you take the photos? In a studio? In homes?

KM: Currently I don’t have a studio. So all of my shoots are at the owner's home or at a special location chosen by the owner. I find that dogs are much more comfortable in their own homes and yards.

JL: Do you shoot more outdoors or indoors?

KM: I primarily shoot outdoors because I love the quality of natural light, but I do have a portable backdrop system and studio lights that I take incase the owner wants something a little more formal. I love it when clients want to shoot at their dog's favorite park or place to walk.

JL: Do you photograph owners with the pets? Or do you only photograph the pets?

KM: I love photographing the owners with their pets, but unfortunately I've only had a few clients who have wanted to do this. It's usually all about the dog, but sometimes I can cajole them into taking a few with their pet.

JL: Would you consider your photographs more journalistic or portraiture?

KM: I would have to say that I would consider them more journalistic in the sense that my style is very documentary and candid when compared to traditional posed portraits.

JL: On average, how long does a pet sitting take?

KM: Usually the average one takes about an hour. In that hour I will take about 200 pictures and the owner will receive 20-40 great shots on a CD.

JL: What kind of packages do you offer?

KM: I do things a bit differently than traditional photographers do. I don't make the clients purchase prints. All of my packages include the digital negatives on a CD that the clients have full rights to. I have three different base packages that can be found on my website. I do create custom packages for clients too.

JL: Do you offer any special discounts?

KM: I offer a 25% discount to clients who have adopted their dog through a rescue group or from the local animal shelter. I'm a huge advocate of dog rescue, and I like to support those who get their dogs that way instead of buying from a breeder or a pet store.

JL: Do you take photos of other animals, or just dogs?

KM: I specialize in dogs but will photograph any pet. I'm waiting for the day I get a call to photograph a really exotic animal. Recently I've begun photographing horses, and that's truly an amazing experience!

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© Janelle Lake, 2009