At the recent Wyndham Pet Expo I was attracted by stunning photos – the colour, the light, and the composition were just stunning. Even though all photographs were featuring dogs, I could not resist to come and talk to John Szatkowski who was an author of all those amazing photos.
HoundArt is a body of work that illustrates the plastic, almost ornamental nature of modern dogs.
And I cannot agree more with that after seeing John’s photographs of dogs, beloved companions of their proud owners.
Even though dogs is the main focus of HoundArt as a pet photography at this stage, cats are definitely something John is also good at.
John was kind to talk about himself and his photography life. He also gave some advice on how you can make a good photo of your cat.
I first started photographing pets as school assignment while studying at RMIT. I wanted to work with a subject that would test my patients and allow me to become an all round better photographer. Working with a subject that can’t be told to just lifts it’s head or stand in any certain position allows you to become more adaptive while thinking on your feet to get that really creative shot.
My images are shot with very dramatic lighting. It’s a style that allows for controlling the environment and combined with Photoshop it gives a very refined and polished image. I mainly photograph dogs but I believe my concepts and style can be applied to any animal. My specialty is showing pets off in an ornate nature in which they have become in modern times.
I travel all over. I’m happy to move around for my work so I get stuck down with working out of a studio and become bored with the same thing day out. Being mundane has never been something has interests me.
My current clients have been from the Melbourne area and surrounding suburbs and as of yet, I haven’t been asked to travel interstate for a pet portrait.
I’d ask for the clients creative input and imagination. The more of an idea I can get about the dogs and the locations, the more I can be prepared and create a great photo.
Having lot’s of doggy snacks really helps keep the dog focussed on his role at stardom for the day.
The photoshoot usually last for about two or three hours. I generally find that in that time, the dogs has most certainly lost interest in being photographed and posing the way we want them to.
My equipment isn’t anything over and above the professional equipment most pros use. I just photograph it in a manner that I know will allow me to later Photoshop the image to achieve the results I want.
The most challenging part of photography for me is keeping up the creativity in sometimes uninspiring locations. For this reason, I think that proper planning prevents pathetic performance. If I can work with a client to make sure what we are photographing and where we are photographing is our best option then I’ll work to achieve the best result with what I’m presented with.
Mainly just having a good eye but above all else, Patience! Having a keen sense of what each pet is about and possibly what their history as a breed is. Playing on this without making it tacky can make the photos have really strong theme and ultimately a great photo
Many cat owners like taking photographs of their cats. What would be your tips to cat owners about taking a good cat photo?
My advice to pet owners out there is to hire a professional. Nothing compares to the clarity of a great camera, great lenses, Photoshop ability and pure creative nature that a photographer has. Unfortunately there isn’t always a pro on hand to capture the shot while your pet is doing that funny thing it does sometimes or while the sunlight is hitting your pet in just the right way. In this case, try and get in nice and close to your subject. Remember that the main focus is your pet, and the background is just secondary and should only really add too the main subject and not detract from it ie; your pet with a beautiful sunset. Make a decision on what is the main subject and stick to it.
I am firm believer in doing non-profit work to help out a cause. Unfortunately, to date I haven’t done any relating to the pet photography industry. It’s definitely something that is in the back of my mind for when I become a bit more established in the future.
My work per customer is a very time consuming art so for me to make a decision to help out a charity involved with shelters and rescues would need to be based around a cause that was strongly believed in by myself and not just done on a whim.
Post in comments if you like John’s photo works and if you find his advice useful.
Would you like to have a photo session for your cat?