When did you begin photographing dogs?
My passion for photography started when I was 10 years old. It was magic to develop film and see the portraits emerge in the darkroom. My dad is a retired pro photographer. I learned about creativity, patience, and attention to fine details from him.
How did you become a professional pet photographer, and what are your highlights?
After graduating from UC Berkeley, I was an environmental scientist at prestigious environmental consulting firms. I managed environmental impact reports and biological plans to save endangered species. I worked day and night under fluorescent lights, behind windows that could not open, in San Francisco skyscrapers.
After a stressful day, I turned on the TV and heard Oprah ask, “What is your passion?” I proclaimed, “I want to be a pet photographer.”
I checked the internet to see if ThePetPhotographer.com was available, and it was. Then I volunteered at the SPCAs, humane societies, PAWS, ARF, and other awesome nonprofits. Synchronicity—a few years later, I was published in O, The Oprah Magazine.
Why do you photograph dogs?
I photograph dogs because I love and admire them. They teach us to be grateful for each moment. Photography invites us to pause and savor life. Dogs inspire and radiate joy. I honor them by creating portraits that celebrate their lives. Dogs are a pathway to peace. They love us, even during times of loss and tragedy.
I passionately fundraise and photograph for nonprofits. It is an integral part of my mission to contribute to humanity and why I created Pets for World Peace, an effort to inspire, connect, and educate people about animal welfare and the role animals play in our lives.
What are you trying to do with your photos?
I photograph love and joy and capture the dog’s true essence. My intention is to illuminate a unique perspective of the dogs to their beloved humans. I invite their essence to shine and the art presents itself. Photography captures a defining moment. I believe that dogs are exquisitely beautiful. Their legacy is magnificent.
I am excited to learn from my clients about the unique qualities of their dog and what they love about them. Many of their dogs have triumphed over homelessness and health challenges. It is exhilarating to feel the energy of the clients and their dogs during our fun photo shoots at the beach, park, or at home. I love consulting with clients to select artwork, the frames, and how to exhibit them.
Can you offer some advice on how to successfully photograph your dog?
Set your intention. What is your vision? Go to a place where your dog is happiest. Carefully select your background—typically, a clean, uncluttered background is best. Use a variety of camera angles and settings for artistic compositions. Typically, it is optimal to sharply focus on your dog’s eyes. If you are outdoors, gorgeous lighting is close to sunrise and sunset. Use high-speed film or set your digital camera at a high shutter speed.
Timing is critical. As you anticipate the elements of your dog’s expression, the composition, and lighting converging, start to press the shutter button before the peak definitive moment occurs. Have fun and let your creative vision flow.
To contact Lori A. Cheung, The Pet Photographer, visit ThePetPhotographer.com or call her at 510-559-8119.
Main article photo by: Lori Cheung