Inspiring Conversations

Pet Photography: No Monkey Business

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We speak with founder and pet photographer of Furry Photos, Nicholas Lee, about his passion for pet portraiture and why, so far, no one has approached him with a monkey.

By Penny K

Nicholas Lee, 26, is an animal hunter but he doesn’t shoot to kill. Instead, he runs around chasing animals with a camera, shooting to encapsulate snarls, growls, and prowls. He’s also great at capturing our furry friends at their best – being cute.

We speak with Nicholas about his passion for pet portraiture and why, so far, no one has approached him with a monkey.

Hello Nicholas, tell us more about Furry Photos!

I have been doing pet portraiture since 2006. Currently being a pet photographer is like being a super hero with a special power: By day I’m an ordinary person, after office hours I’m a pet photographer!

How did you come to take an interest in pet photography?

I used to walk dogs at the SPCA and I started out helping to take photos of the dogs for their adoption site. As I practised and shot more, I realised that the pictures were helping attract attention. I then decided to try and learn more about photography to get better at it. So the motivation to learn photography was to help better photograph the dogs and cats so they could be adopted out sooner.

That’s nice. You must be a true blue animal lover…

A good picture can accelerate the adoption process by helping to draw attention. The sooner the dogs and cats find good homes,  the more space the shelter has to accommodate more needy animals.

How do you go about helping out at the shelter?

Normally I show up on weekends and ask what new animals are up for adoption or if the shelter has any special requests for photography.

Do you have a pet? If not, do you intend to in the future? What’s your dream pet?

Many people are surprised when they learn that I do not have any pets at the moment. I would certainly want one in the future once I can commit the time and ensure that he or she – yes, I do use those terms on pets – can be well cared for. I guess I would want a dog, more specifically a German Shepherd.

You have taken pictures of mostly dogs and cats. Is this intentional or simply because no one with a monkey has approached you yet?

Well, dogs and cats are the most easily available subjects! I’ve taken birds, rabbits and hamsters too but that’s few and far between. And I don’t think its legal to keep monkeys in Singapore (laughs)!

Does taking pictures of animals require a special technique? Could you tell us more? We noticed your photos display vibrant colours and textures are accentuated.

Techniques for animals are quite similar to young children in the sense that you cannot really give them instructions on posing. The best ones are those when they are relaxed and themselves. (For more tips, see below)

Animals are wired differently so as a human being, you must be great with animals to be able to pull off those shots. How do you manage these pets?

Learning about dog and cat behaviour is very important. When you do a pet shoot, they call the shots so you have to speak their language and adapt according to their personality. Sometimes if they just aren’t comfortable you have to try again another day. I’m more comfortable with dogs as I have had much more experience with them.

On average, how long does a photo shoot take?

A shoot averages about over 2 hours with at least 15 minutes for ‘warmups’!

What would be your dream animal to photograph?

I’d like to photograph a North American Grey Wolf in winter. Next choice would be any of the big cats in Africa!

What camera do you use?

I’m currently on a Canon 5D ‘classic’ bought second hand in January 2009. The camera before that was a Canon 350D that served from July 2006 till then. A word of advice: invest in lenses not the body. Those last way longer. I have a lens I bought in May 2006 that I still have and use today.

What’s next for Furry Photos?

Besides more cats and dogs to photography, the next step would be teaching others how to do the same! I am currently in the process of planning for a pet photography workshop so keep a lookout for when its available!

Sharp Shooting with Nicholas

Basic tips from Nicholas of Furry Photos for the budding pet photographer!

1 Master the basics of composition , exposure and be able to operate your camera blindfolded. It has to be an extension of you.

2 Learn about your subjects – being able to read what the cat or dog feels through their posture and body language is important so you know when they are comfortable or when you need to back off. Understanding their body language is the tool to get them to do what you want.

3 Shoot, review, learn and repeat. The more mistakes you make and learn the faster you improve.

All images courtesy of Nicholas Lee of Furry Photos. Visit Furry Photos for more pictures!

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