Hi, I’m Kira DeDecker (“key-ra dee-decker”) and I’m a pet photographer serving Arizona’s greater Phoenix Metro area. Welcome to my blog! This is where I share not only my most recent work but also my life with you. Client sneak peeks, Facebook recaps, announcements, updates, awesome new offerings and the occasional (okay, frequent) story about my crazy but amazing life with my three dogs – Sox, Bixby and Waffles.

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October 7, 2013

Pet Photography F.A.Q. | 2013 Edition

Blue Merle Pomeranian TieI finally had time to sit down and wade through all of my emails, PMs and comments for my first ever FAQ. I’m honestly a little surprised in the range of questions I get asked – topics from lenses to “making the jump” – and of course, post processing (most popular subject that I’m emailed on). So let’s dig in…

How long have you been a photographer? Are you self taught? I love to hear stories of how people got started in the field and how they learned.
To be honest – since I was in the 3rd grade BUT I picked up my first SLR in 2009 and started KDP in 2011. I’m entirely self taught, I spend a lot of time reading books and blogs as well as watching and listening to podcasts and videos. Self-Taught is hot, yo.

My question for you is how did you make that jump – from amateur to pro business owner? There are times I feel really pumped and excited – like I am so close to being there – but then there are other times, where I feel I am facing a monumental challenge.
I wish I could just say “follow your dreams and just go for it!” but it would be irresponsible for me to tell someone to jump without a safety net below them. Let’s be real, being a professional photographer is more about business than it is about photography.

So before you open your doors you need to at least have…(and I’m just going to throw them out there because otherwise this answer would take up the whole FAQ) a Feasibility Analysis (Jamie at Cowbelly did an amazing write up on how to do that here), Business Plan, Cost of Doing Business Analysis, decided on your business entity, make sure you are set up to run a small business in your city+state, have your prices set up (Easy as Pie is a great place to start), branding, chosen your labs for prints and products, drawn up your contracts, have a separate business account at the bank, have insurance(s), marketing plan, a method of payment, website with a basic portfolio put together, client workflow and organization set up, high grade equipment, back ups of your gear, lighting, props, editing software, a computer to handle your workload and a back up system for all your work…I didn’t cover everything but you get the idea. Oh, and it should go without saying that in addition to the above, that you also need a firm understanding of the photography, lighting, composition and retouching.

And I also want to bring up one last point, Amateur is not a dirty word! I get a lot of emails sheepishly telling me “I’m just a amateur”, and I just want to say embrace it! Go with it, enjoy the art! Being is business doesn’t suddenly make someone more talented anymore than being a amateur doesn’t suddenly mean you lack drive and talent. You can still join the forums and Facebook groups and still hang with the other pet photogs!

If you have any words of wisdom for me after all your experiences as a pet photographer, I would greatly appreciate anything you can or are willing to share with me.
My biggest advice is going to sound lame but here I go…BUY KNEEPADS. Seriously, I use to have bruised knees after every session and kept putting off bu kneepads until I went a session where I was told there was going to be grass and turns out there was just gravel so after spending two knees in rocks, I finally went out and bought a paid of 40 dollar knees pads made for tile workers best money I spent!

Do you have any pet photographers that you admire?
Oh, I love and admire a buttload, too many to name really.

Do you primarily shoot with a prime lens?
I typically use three lenses on all my lifestyle shoots, two primes (the 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.8 respectively) and one zoom, the 16-35mm 2.8L. I do all my studio work with a 24-70mm 2.8L lens or my 10-22mm 3.5-4.5. I also have a 100mm 2.8 macro lens, but that’s only for personal work.

I am also looking to purchase a new lens at some point to assist me in working in low-light conditions, as well as with ENERGETIC animals! Ideally the lens would be somewhat versatile, but I understand I will likely need multiple lenses down the road. One of the main reasons I am a huge fan of your work is that your photography exhibits some pretty stellar depth of field, and that is something I am looking to achieve as well. Would you be able to offer any suggestions on what bodies or lenses I might consider looking into?
Lens choice (and all equipment really) depends on a person’s shooting style and budget. So while I may love the 50mm 1.4 (a staple in my collection) I also know photogs that hate that lens. Likewise, a lot of pet photogs adore the 70-200mm 2.8 lens while I sold mine off. So with that being said, I love primes, especially my 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.8. And if I could marry a lens a have a bebes with it, hands down that lucky lens would be the 16-35mm 2.8L. While I find the 24-70mm 2.8L lens to be a great workhorse, I don’t love it like the others listed.

So before you start throwing down a bunch of money on expensive equipment, start by asking yourself some questions: What kind of photography do you want to do? Do you prefer to be close to your subjects or far away? Natural light or studio? Where are you going to be doing most of your work, inside people’s home, outside or in the studio? Do you shoot a lot of action? Prefer zoom or primes? And so on. After you narrow down what you are looking for my advice is to research and then rent!

I want to be a pet photographer and was wondering if I could tag along for experience and assisting on your photo shoots.
My assistant’s job is to know more about me and my needs than about photography and I already have the perfect assistant in my husband, Tim and honestly, even if Tim wasn’t my assistant, I don’t have time to teach or train while I shoot because when I’m working, my clients come first.

If you are looking to assist photographers and are having a hard time finding jobs, please read this first!

The question is just about your post-processing in general! I’m quite mesmerized by how bright and sharp everything is. And the whites in your photos feel so clean. Do you have a typical workflow that you follow with each image? I notice that your photos – despite being of many, many different dogs – all have a very similar, crisp aesthetic. Do you filter them?
To get things crisp, clear and bright, it’s a combination of exposure, shallow depth of field and great light. Once I have a great image, I then give it boost in Lr/PS (no surprise there). So in short, no lens filters, I just really try to make sure that my workflow and style are constant and of course a lot of that clean color and sharpness happens in camera.

I’ve been trying to streamline my processing and recently thought about action/presets. I’m still not 100% sure this will be the right direction for me to go, since I like to do things manually… but somehow I’ve got to find a way to save time! I saw your post on FB this afternoon about what you’re working on and I just LOVE your processing. Would you mind telling me if you use presets/actions at all in your processing or is it all manually done for each individual image.
ANYTHING in Photoshop that takes me more than 2 clicks, I make into an Action, same goes for Lightroom and presets. Even thought I’m using actions and presets in my workflow, I still have to manual adjust and customize each image – it’s super important to note I just don’t run an action and leave it as is!

If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again, do yourself a big favor and make yourself a set of actions/presets!

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Kira DeDecker is an on-location lifestyle pet photographer specializing in one-of-a-kind fine art and modern portraits. She works exclusively with dogs, cats and all other four legged creatures to create vibrant, quirky and soulful works of art.She also photographs needy animals pro-bono for non-profit animal organizations (like Cavalier Rescue USA).

Kira DeDecker Photography is a editorial and commercial pet photographer based in Glendale AZ and serves the Metro Phoenix area (Scottsdale, Peoria, Phoenix, Suncity, Surprise, Goodyear, Avondale and Tempe) and beyond.

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The List 
The Daily Dog Tag 1,2,3,4,5,6
Hair of the Dog 1,2,3
Pretty Fluffy 1,2
Itty Bitty & Fluffy 1,2,
Healthy Paws 
PAWSH Magazine & Studio
Joy Session 1,2,3
Beautiful Beasties 1,2,3,4

Kira DeDecker | info@kiradedecker.com | Arizona Pet Photography