Pet Photographer in Yokohama. How I started to learn and love human’s best friend Photography in my little Tatami Studio. Tips and tricks.

Pet Photographer in Yokohama. How I started to learn and love human’s best friend Photography in my little Tatami Studio. Tips and tricks.

Photographing Pets has a lot in common with “regular” portrait photography. Making a successful animal portrait requires not only an equal amount of technical skills necessary for human portraits but also a great understanding of pets behavior. And a lot of love and passion. 

Yorkshire Terrier during a studio photosession in Tatami Studio
Yorkshire Terrier during studio photosession in Tatami Studio

If there is a clear channel of communication between humans, trying to communicate with an animal, be it a dog, or any other best-loved for that matter, is more gentle and delicate and more often than not it goes beyond words. Giving a snack to an adult while taking her or his portraits may sound silly, although is proven that sugary snacks makes us humans more prone to be happy. When it comes to dogs, well, receiving a delicious snack (sugar free of course) from time to time makes it easier to catch their little attention, thus making better photographs. 

My little canine friend has almost nine years since I have it and our joint history goes long beyond typical pet and owner relationship. Tzitzy has joined my wife and I throughout our life around the globe. Originally from western part of Romania, he has traveled and lived with us in Serbia for two and half years followed by another five years in South Korea. After our 3rd international move to Japan, since 2019th, until today January 21st, 2020th he is a proud Japanese “citizen” (and continues to be so), right now being under my office desk, while I’m typing this article, somewhere in Yokohama. At the moment he has to wear a collar because he has a couple of stitches after removals of some papillomas at Center Kita Animal Clinic. I know, he is aging, that’s why the idea of me doing portraits for my dearie in studio has been born in the first place. My dog is a fluffy friendly Yorkshire Terrier which is longer legged than average and weighs a little more over four kilograms. 

My faithful dog resting underneath my office desk while writing this article

As I wrote above desire to make portraits of my dog came out of an idea of how to have other than phone memories of him long after his life…. Of course, you may think this is a little bit creepy, but this is the truth, regardless of how it sounds, whether I like it or not. For the fist time trying to get the lights right was a challenge; I had put Tzitzy on a wooden chair which made it look like he was sat on a chopping board. 😛 Silly I know, but I was so proud of the photos until a friend pointed out that I might want to redo the photos using a more flattering support underneath my dog. Shortly after the feedback, I had repurposed a table which I had covered with a black textile to have the same color as my background. 

Yorkshire Terrier during a studio photosession in Tatami Studio
Yorkshire Terrier during studio photosession in Tatami Studio

Tip #1: groom, clean and brush your pet before a organizing a studio photo shoot

If the first try was indeed just a try with a couple of photos as a result of the test, the second try was a full studio photography session with my dog as a full time model. I made sure I gave him a bath, brushed his coat, and teeth. Yes, due to a stomach condition, I have to brush his teeth regularly in order to clean up the residue, bad smell and reduce the amount of plaque that builds lighting fast.

Yorkshire Terrie looking straight t the camera
Yorkshire Terrie looking straight t the camera

 While taking the first few shots of my dog while testing out the intensity of the flashes covered by softboxes I noticed that my dog was really interested where the light is coming from, especially because with each camera actuation the flashes were making a discharge noice. After around ten shots, my little canine friend released his interest to my studio lighting equipment and was more interested on how to jump off of the table. Luckily he truly listens to me and after I told him with a firm voice that he isn’t allowed to jump he just started to look at me, almost like trying to ask: “what do you want from me”.  The attention life span of a animal is quite small (I haven’t researched this, but trust me, as a pet owner I know) so as a photographer you need to have everything in place and start shooting right away. 

Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier

Tip #2: Snacks, your best bet to attract the pet’s attention 

Soon I had to start using a whistle, start doing noises I didn’t think it would be possible for me to do. One thing you need to know about noises and favorite ones: they are effective the first and maybe second time; after that is just noise.

Because in part I knew some of these “behind the scene” insights, I was prepared with snacks. After serving the first snack it was clear that my dog was back with me with full attention towards my camera. I may or may not put the snacks bag on top of my head and a dog’s treat….or two on my camera lens. This last resort was gold for the photo shoot I have organized for my pet. I didn’t starve my dog beforehand, don’t worry. On the contrary, I struggle to make it eat his food, because his appetite is very low and sometimes he’s forgetting to eat for an entire day. 

Yokshire Terrier moments after having a treat during studio photography session.
Yorkshire Terrier moments after having a treat during studio photography session.

After finishing the pet studio shoot, I took the memory card upstairs in my office to download the photos in the computer. You’d think my job was done right after I have finished taking the photos. Well, the process of producing one photograph it’s not completed until after applying corrections in editing programs like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop. Sometimes the photo post production resumes to only color correction, applying contrast, all basic steps. Other times the edit requires removing stains, hairs, or simply enlarging the table due to “poor” positioning of the dog. Although I use a fairly small table, for small dogs is big enough and they move around freely. 

You can see the dog here is on one side of the table I used during the studio shoot. A final edited image would have been with the table extended in Photoshop.
You can see the dog here is on one side of the table I used during the studio shoot. A final edited image would have been with the table extended in Photoshop.

My Tatami Studio is open to any kinds of pets, from dogs to snakes, rabbits, parrots. When is the case, handling may be required to be done by the pet owner. For large animals shoots please add detailed information through the contact section on my website. The location of my Tatami Studio is in Yokohama, for the exact address please ask.

Thank you for reading my blog and for following my story as a professional photographer who covers Yokohama, Tokyo and beyond.  My services extend  beyond best-loved studio photography, and also include pet and owner in outdoor settings. You can read here the story of a previous photo session I have done for a beautiful Maltese and it’s lovely owner in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.

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Portrait of Xoloitzcuintly taken during a Studio Photography Sesson in my Tatamy Studio

Pet Photography in Tokyo: Snake, Budgie, Pit Bull, Rabbit

I should probably start this article saying that photographs in this blog post are straight out the camera, no edits other than applying my logo.

You probably know already that while I love being a photographer I am too a dog lover and owner of an Yorkshire Terrier that has been traveling for quite a bit before eventually arriving in Tokyo on Haneda Airport after completing the whole procedure demanded by Japanese authorities in order to prove that he is rabies free and received his shots on time, all in all about 8 months in length. So, what comes along, goes along….and after Facebook messenger talks, today I have travelled all the way from Yokohama to Chiba Peninsula and even passed Tokyo on my way there, even if just briefly, and visited Mina, a certified dog trainer and animal rescuer with the purpose of photographing some of her rescued animals which she currently owns and takes great care of.

Mina is a beautiful human with a great heart and love towards any kind of pets.  Her love and dedication pushes her to rescue all kinds of animals, from Kevin Bacon ( as the name suggests he’s a PIG, yes, the real deal and not at all a convenient Surname but very funny after all 😉 ), Pit Bulls, snakes, chickens, Sugar Glider and the list can go on forever as she will keep doing this. Of course, all these comes at a cost, as the animals need food, occasional veterinarian visits and she could use some love and support from you… here’s Mina’s Instagram where you can contact her to find a way to support her animals. 

I have been planning this pet studio shoot for a while now, and I’m saying for a while because weather had it’s own way and agenda and got in the way. As you probably already know, in Japan was typhoon season which hopefully has come to an end, now that’s the end of October. Chiba Peninsula was one of the places that has been hit very strong and people have suffered a lot, so please, if you can help, there are various English speaking channels you can use to do good. If you are concerned about me, my family is one of the lucky ones living in Japan that haven’t been affected by the typhoons. 

So, coming back to the photoshoot, the main subject of my article, I have bagged all my  studio lighting equipment, stands, backdrops, camera and lenses and I drove to Chiba to meet Mina’s animals (and Mina of course). As a bonus I got to meet het mother too, who’s an artist that does wonders with broken pottery (similar to Kintsugi) and other art related crafts. 

From the beginning I have been welcomed by Kevin Bacon, ahhh  and I so wish I had taken a photo of him, but I chickened out in front of the rain… and Ella, an eight year old rescued Pit Bull, an absolutely wonderful dog if you get to know her. Because I didn’t want to make any of Mina’s animals suffer during the photoshoot, I kept the session as short as humanly possible. Mina was kind enough to help me out almost as an assistant photographer with “poses” of her animals too, and so the rainy day had become a little bit more bearable and happier. 

First time I had photographed the snake whose name is Hendrix, because Mina told me is better for our safety (her safety to be precise) that the snake wouldn’t feel any other animal’s smell, otherwise the risk of biting could have been an issue. For those reptilian lovers, this is a beautiful snake. I’m very proud as a photographer to have such an exotic model, not to mention it will have a spot in portfolio too. 

Second in turn was the little parrot Kaipo, from the family of Budgerigars- nicknamed budgie by the loving parrot community. Although I have a phobia towards feathers (or anything covered in feathers, with a bird so little it seems that I have no problems) I did actually enjoyed to photograph it and even got it stay on my fingers.

The third pet I had in front of my Nikon camera in the impromptu pet studio was the Pit Bull Ella. I must admit, I had felt intimidated at the beginning because indeed, Pit Bulls are very muscular dogs. Like all dogs, Ella would manifest exactly like my little Yorkshire Terrier, except with extra weight of 20 to 30 kilograms that comes packed together with a tone of force. Needless to say, Ella is very well trained by Mina and she listens everything is told to do. Wish my little dog Yorkie would listen half of the commands this Pit Bull does. 

Fourth “client” was a fluffy white rabbit with red eyes. I could see during the photo session that the rabbit was a little bit scared being surrounded all of a sudden by all black cloth on a table. Even though challenging, I have managed to get a few “poses”. During the shots I was even thinking inside myself about “how to pose a rabbit”, an animal that doesn’t responds to sounds and to my knowledge, only responds to fresh hay and water.  🙂 

Do you live in Tokyo or Yokohama and are you a pet owner? I would be more than happy photograph your beloved animal in my little Tatami Studio. Press the contact button down bellow and let’s Frame Your Life Stories.

Pet Photography in My Tatami Room

Being a photographer involves equal amount of dreaming and desire to develop and improve photographic skills. It’s been a while since I wanted to have my own photo studio and moving in Japan, was the trigger to make it happen. I know it’s not downtown Tokyo, but you know what they say: one step at a time. I assume there is no single cameraman, anywhere else in this world, who wouldn’t like to have his own little play ground.

So, one day I just decided to transform the Tatami Room I have available (a Japanese traditional room, with specific interior look paved with mats) into a photography studio, somewhere in Yokohama.
Some of the first steps were to order the tools needed. I started with solid textile backgrounds and for that I went with back and grey colors, followed by stands, , clamps, reflectors, etc. Basic things needed to start producing photographs. I know there are better and more spacious photo studios owned by others, but this is enough to start with and develop the skills needed to work studio lights. At the moment I’m using strobes (flashes) because I had them from before. Flashes are especially good to photograph on the go, due to their small size.

Got the things needed to get me started, but… how about subjects? Well, here comes into play my little dog Yorkie:

Let me introduce you properly my Yorkshire Terrier:

This is TziTzy.
Now don’t think he was an easy subject… no, no. At first I had to bribe him with snacks to sit on the table. By the end of the studio photo shoot, he wouldn’t want to go down 😛 Regardless of his small size, this dog has personality.

This is one of the first test shots I took of my dog and as you can clearly see, he was more interested in the lighting equipment than looking at me.

It even made me craving of his pet snacks, wish I had some for myself as well! I can tell you that he was enjoying.

This is how my little home studio setup in a Japanese Tatami room looks like.

I never thought before of doing this kind of job, but after the experience with my dog I’m telling you that this line of work is a very rewarding experience(not to mention there are 0 potentially complaints 😉 ). Therefore, in case you’re a pet owner and you would love to have some great looking studio portraits of your dog, cat, rabbit, snake (and the list can go on) just shoot a message pressing the button down bellow, I am definitely your local pet photographer in Tokyo Metropolitan Area.