All of us photographers have our usual go-to kit that we carry with us to all of our photo shoots. From peering into the camera bag, we can learn a lot about how our fellow photographers do things.
With pet shoots in particular, I say you should always stick to better-safe-than-sorry in regard to what accessories to bring!
Items I Always Carry
This is basic… every kit starts with a camera and a lens or two!
My camera of choice for pet photo shoots varies between a sport camera and a portrait camera, depending onthe photo session’s location and end goal.
If the photo shoot takes place outdoors, my body of choice is the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, one of Canon’s sport line of cameras. The reason I enjoy this particular body is for its fast FPS (frames-per-second) and lightweight build.
This is a crop sensor body, but that tends to not be a hindrance for pet sessions.
For dogs and cats that are brought over to the studio, I will prefer one of my full-frame bodies, either the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or its predecessor the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. These bodies have slower FPS than the 7D line, but are much higher quality for the studio.
I always bring one very fast fixed lens, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM. A fixed lens is known known to be much sharper and generally higher quality than a zoom lens. However, you can’t adjust their focal length.
You constantly have to change your physical position to adhere to your desired composition. I like to carry one at an extremely wide aperture for shallow depths of field.
The other type of lens I bring is a variable focal length one, such as the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM. The pros of a variable millimeter lens is its adaptability. You can go from a wide shot to a tighter shot in seconds.
However, the downside is that depending on the lens, your sharpness might be effected when you zoom in. I will always throw in my walk around lens to be able to adapt to any situation thrown at me.
One telephoto lens, such as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM. With telephoto lenses, or long lenses, you can photograph distant subjects easily. The photographer can sit far back and not disturb the pet while taking pictures.
Telephoto lenses are also extremely useful for action photography. If the pet is scared of the camera or is frolicking in a field, I will whip out my telephoto lens.
If a client is looking for something a bit more on the creative side, I’ll throw in an ulta wide-angle or an artistic distortion lens for some variety! My go to are the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM or the Lensbaby Burnside 35 f/2.8.
Additional Lens Caps
To be able to fit all of my lenses into an efficient bag, I carry them all unattached. This means having caps for the lenses and camera body.
Considering these small caps tend to get lost amidst the hustle and bustle of a photo shoot, carrying some extras is a good idea. You can get a bulk of these for your camera brand off of shops like Amazon for a really low price!
Camera and Lens Cleaning Supplies
Dogs, cats, and even small critters are very messy. If they can’t find a way to get you dirty, they’ll find a way to make your equipment or shooting space dirty. As such, you’ll be cleaning off your cameras and lenses, backdrops, and even yourself a lot.
Having cleaning supplies with you is always a must, especially with animal photography. You need to be able to remove dust, dirt, fur, slobber, and everything in between from your equipment as soon as possible to not risk the glass or electronic components from becoming damaged.
As well as this, there is always an inherent risk when you swap out lenses in an unsanitary environment. Particles can get into the connectors, causing malfunctions.
Being able to blow these out in the process of changing lenses is a must for the longevity of your equipment.
Most basic camera cleaning supplies include microfiber cloths, lens cleaning solution, lens cleaning pen, lens cleaning paper, and a bulb air blower.
Extra Batteries and Charger
Possibly the worst thing that could happen at your photo shoot is that the battery dies! Even if you have a battery grip, keep extra fully charged batteries on you at all times.
On the off chance that I mistake which extra battery is charged (I have eleven batteries total), I have also invested in a car charger for my DSLR batteries. There are battery pouches available for sale for safe keeping.
Going hand-in-hand with a battery dying, running out of space on your memory card or having a corrupted card will ruin your photo shoot! Always carry extras, and if your camera has a dual card slot, take advantage of that.
Find a nice sturdy card case to make sure they aren’t accidentally damaged.
A Small Squeaky Toy and/or Treats
Toys and treats are must-haves for those alert facial expressions and happy ears! You’d be surprised how many pet owners forget these essentials when they rush out to meet you for a photo shoot.
It’s always better to have some on hand for those situations. I personally like squeaky toys or a toy that rustles.
Tip: Be sure to ask the pet owner if their puppy, kitty, parrot, best friend has any food allergies before offering treats.
The golden rule is that something will likely break. What’s a great way of mending a break on the spot? Really good tape! I always keep tape in my car as a golden rule, just throw a couple of rolls into the trunk and you are already well prepared.
As well as this, sometimes you need to hang something up on a wall or attach an object to another object. For flat surfaces, tape is your best friend. I prefer to carry a mix between masking tape and packing tape for whatever needs arise.
In the same vein as carrying tape with you, metal clamps are just as important! For surfaces that cannot be taped or may be damaged by tape, these clamps are your best friend.
This is especially useful for putting fabric up as backdrops. Just throw a Ziploc bag of these into the trunk of your car and you’re set.
Again, another necessity for whenever the need arises. There has yet to be a photo shoot in which scissors have not come in handy!
From trimming off threads to opening packages, scissors will always come in handy.
It took me quite a while to start carrying a towel with me for pet shoots, and that was a mistake!
From wiping off drool and cleaning furry coats to creating a comfortable seat for whatever animal you’re photographing, you will find that a towel has many, many uses for pet shoots.
Towels also have many uses for you, since they can act as a clean surface you can place your gear down on.
Tripods are inexpensive and invaluable in their use. Even though I am a handheld photographer, in which I prefer to use my hands rather than a tripod or monopod, I have encountered a slew of situations in which a tripod really was necessary.
These useful pieces of equipment can be light and portable, they don’t have to be large and bulky. I will keep two in my car indefinitely. One short tripod and a large tripod that raises over 7 feet.
Notebook and Pen
Paper and a writing utensil will always prove their worth, especially at photo shoots. Keeping notes on a session, on a client’s needs, or any other necessary information for efficiency is wonderful idea.
With the immense amount of sizes and styles of both notebooks and pens, there is no excuse not to have one.
Cell Phone Charger
Let’s be honest here- we depend on our cell phones for absolutely everything. Whether it be contacting our clients, using a navigation system, posting teaser shots from photo shoots, or getting paid – a cell phone is a piece of technology none of us can live without.
If anything, this object is glued to all of our hips indefinitely. As such, nothing sucks more than a dead phone. Grab a charger!
Credit / Debit / Prepaid Card Reader
If you’re running a pet photography business, you’ll need to get paid. It’s a good idea to accept a variety of payments to make it more convenient for your clients. I always have a card reader on me to make payment easier.
Going along with the card reader, having extra business cards for your client to hand out to their friends is an excellent marketing idea (and an easy way to get more photo shoots).
Additional Items for Outdoor Sessions
A neutral density filter is a piece of glass that goes in front of your lens in order to reduce the amount of light that enters the camera.
One of its purposes is to allow you to shoot at your desired aperture and shutter speed combination without worrying about it being too bright outside and your photos being overexposed.
Not all sessions take place in ideal lighting, so having an ND filter on you can remedy the post processing headache you’ll have later and allow you immense flexibility for client sessions.
I live in sunny California. But even here the weather can be unpredictable or you may end up in a situation where the likelihood of your equipment getting wet increases.
Have a waterproof case or bag with you, because nothing is worse than the elements costing you thousands in repairs.
Additional Items for Indoor or Studio Settings
Whether or not you rent a studio, have your own, or are setting up in someone’s home – a lighting kit is a must-have. What kind of lighting you utilize is up to you, whether this is flashes and strobes, continuous lights, LEDs, etc!
My personal lighting kit includes the following:
- Chromo CI216 LED
- Spekular modular LED lighting kit
- Two Westcott Square Soft-box Continuous Lights
- One Westcott Octagonal Soft-box Continuous Light
- One Westcott Eyelighter
- Two Reflectors (silver and gold)
I never carry this entire kit at once, I pick and choose the equipment I bring depending on the shoot.
V-Tap Portable Battery
Although outlets are generally available everywhere, you may run into a situation where an outlet is shockingly unavailable. So what do you do? Use a portable battery!
I love using a V-Tap portable battery, it can last up to three or more hours of continuous use with all of my studio equipment and is very easy to charge.
If you want to get creative, you can add some colored gels to your studio lighting. Gels can be made out of cellophane and tape, or you can buy specialty gels for your lights.
In either case, I always have several colours with me, with the most popular being red, green, purple, and blue.
The studio lights all depend on tripods. Tripods may or may not break on set, so have some extras!
Nothing is more embarrassing than being unable to complete a photo shoot because your tripod leg snapped.
Sandbags or Weights
To ensure safety and stability, you’ll want to secure the bottom of your lighting stands with something heavy. Especially when working with animals, to ensure the safety of everyone on set, your lighting equipment must be secured.
Extra White Diffuser Cloth
If you’re a continuous light user like me, you’ll want to keep some extra white diffuser fabric around! Diffuser fabric can get dirty easily and effect the capacity of your light.
I admit, this is something I constantly forget at home. Always have some extension cords on you, don’t rely on someone else to provide them and don’t risk an outlet being too far away to use!
Now that you know what essentials are in my bag, you can better prepare your own and keep improving your pet photography! Read our post on how taking photos of pets will make you a better photographer for a start!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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