July 20, 2018
While researching our Photo of the Week feature we came across the work of Tea Nagode, and beyond her pictures of Slovenia got drawn into her work with pets, which she does professionally for her Postojna-based company, FluffyPixels. Having heard the old show business saying – never work with animals, children, or, to combine the two, Klaus Kinski – we got in touch to ask about the challenges of capturing the moment with pets.
How did you get into photography?
From always I loved photographing. At home, at parties, on vacations, when I was bored, when I wasn’t bored… I was always the one with the camera. I always wanted some kind of memories from everything that made me feel nice. And this is photography – stopping time forever. Making memories.
Why pet photography?
Well, I combined two things that make me happy. Love for animals and love for photography. When you’re ‘’stopping time’’ with animals, you can see what kind of faces they actually make, which we usually don’t even notice. It’s funny. And it’s a challenge for me too, because they are animals they don’t understand why they are in my studio, they don’t know that they have to stand in front of a background, they have no idea what we’re doing, who I am and why I’m pointing a big black box at them. Most of my models are furious and have to sniff my lens first just to make sure that it’s nothing dangerous and then we can go to photoshoot. They’re adorable. And I also got a lot of kisses.
What are some of the problems with photographing pets?
Each of them is different. The most common problem is that they are very energetic, but it really depends on the animal.
Let’s take dogs for example. The same kind of photoshoot can last half an hour with one dog and with another two hours. It depends on if they listen to their owner, are they lazy, full of energy, puppies, adults or seniors… Even how they’re feeling that day matters . Most of the time they react to snacks. Most of them would do anything for the snack their owner is holding in their hands. So almost always that’s how I deal with any problems.
But not all of them, and some are weirdly not interested in food. They just sniff around the studio, smelling previous models. Then I try with toys. They adore my squeaky hippopotamus, but if that doesn’t work… well I tell the owner let’s just play with the dog in front of a background see what happens.
I do my best. I don’t force them into anything. Forcing is not cool. Puppies can also be problematic, as they often just run up and down and don’t listen or care about anything, very cute, but difficult to shoot. I’ve also had a few dogs who were just lying there, doing nothing.
I should also mention a problem with photography in general – it’s very expensive. All the lenses, lights, backgrounds, cameras… I’m finishing my master’s degree and am currently a student, so this is the biggest problem in my case. I wouldn’t mind if I won a lottery or something.
Are some animals easier to photograph than others?
In my opinion photographing cats is harder than dogs. They don’t know commands. And in most cases they don’t like going to a new place. One cat hid herself under the background and that was it. When the owner pulled her out she just ran and jumped down to the lower floor. Thank god cats have nine lives and that wasn’t her last, although I think I was more shocked and scared than she was.
In those cases I just stop, no forcing, like I said, and I suggest photographing the animal at their home. They are relaxed and themselves, and that’s what I’m looking for.
What if people would like you to photograph their pets, do you travel?
Yes, I also do outdoor photoshoots. I have three offers – a studio photoshoot where you get three photos, studio or an outdoor photoshoot with eight photos, and both studio and outdoor photoshoots with 12 photographs. So yes, I also travel. If person wants an outdoor photoshoot then I can go wherever they want.
I also do free photoshoots for homeless animals in the hope that this will help them find a good home.
Pets are your work, but what do you photograph for pleasure?
I like to photograph nature, storms, clouds and sunsets. I love playing with the camera and trying something new. But animals are my biggest passion.