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Pet Photographer? Learning Lighting? Buy a dog!

October 03, 20192 min read

Okay, so clearly we aren't saying everyone should go out an buy a dog (or are we?) - but we do have a very useful suggestion.

If you are learning studio lighting and plan to photograph dogs and pets, we strongly recommend learning with a stuffed animal and NOT a live pet.  

It is best to learn the nuances of lighting with a consistent subject.  One that will allow you to experiment and carefully consider your lighting.  A subject that will sit still.  For HOURS.  We recommend a large stuffed toy.

We would recommend you find a toy that has a shiny coat - not dull, so you can see the effect lights will have on fur and the specular highlights it can create.  Also, we recommend both white and black fur so you can learn to really nail that exposure.   The white fur give you the risk of over exposure, and the black fur gives you a chance to see how your darks will reproduce.

We have a Border Collie stuffed animal from Melissa and Doug.  HE is a good size, has a glossy coat, and has black and white fur.  Honestly, he checks all the boxes.  You can find him here, but there are certainly no end of online vendors and options.  

You can also find him by searching "Border Collie Dog Giant Stuffed Animal
Item # 4868."

Our stuffed dog is named Flash.  He often travels with us when we teach in person, like we did at AIM in 2019, and he is prominently featured in our Dog and Pet Studio Lighting Course as part of The Master Lighting Course.  

Stuffed toy dog popping out the sunroof of a car in a parking lot

(Flash enjoying the road trip we took to Animal Image Makers in 2019.  He got just as many Instagram followers as we did!)

Final note:

We are NOT saying you should buy a dog to learn photography.  We are saying you should buy a stuffed dog.  When you are ready to step to working with live animals, we recommend that you do so under the expertise of a certified animal handler, or at least, someone who is very familiar with working with dogs safely, always keeping the best interest in your furry friend in mind.  Cool?  Awesome!

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Bud Thorpe

Bud is a portrait artist, photographer, and educator with a gallery and studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He and his wife Kimberly Buccheri are the authors of The Master Lighting Course.

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