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Stepping Back

Over the past couple of years I have photographed hundreds of dogs, horses, cats and other animals. It has been an amazing experience, and I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some of the best models in the country, and have my work enjoyed around the world. As a result of pet photography I have met so many great people, some of whom have become some of my closest friends and supporters!

However, due to a long-term injury which is aggravated by the heavy equipment I use for my photography, as well as other time commitments, I have made the decision to step back from photographing professionally – at least for the time being. I will still be photographing for fun when I choose to, and will continue to share these images through my various social media pages. Images captured at past shows will remain available for purchase on my website ( for at least the next 3 months to ensure everyone gets a chance to buy any photos they may want.

Big thanks for all your support over the past few years, and I look forward to sharing some more personal work with you.

F.A.Q. – Can I Enter Your Photos in a Photo Competition?

Copyright is an issue which photographers deal with on a daily basis. There is a massive lack of understanding of copyright by the general public, and an even bigger lack of respect of copyright by corporations.


One of the major copyright issues which I deal with each week is clients who would like to enter their photos in photo competitions. These are often run by large organisations for calendars or advertising material, often with the promise of free product to a certain value or the promise of making your pet a star. While these are a lot of fun to enter, I ask that my work is not used for competitions like this, and here’s why.

More often than not, these big photo competitions have a very long list of terms and conditions. Somewhere in among of all of these terms and conditions, usually right at the bottom where most people won’t read to, is a clause which says something to the effect of: “By entering this competition, you grant (corporation name here) the whole of the copyright of the images entered for the duration of the copyright, for commercial use including social media, website, and any other commercial or promotional use deemed fit by (corporation name)”.

In plain English, this means that even if your photo does not win the competition and you do not receive a prize, the organiser of this competition now fully owns your photos that you entered, and can use them in any way, shape or form they like without additional compensation.


Where in the past this large multi-million dollar company would have had to pay professional photographers hundreds or thousands of dollars for proper commercial licensing of top quality images, they can now run one of these competitions, offer up a few hundred dollars of product (which has a much lower cost for them to provide) and the promise of making your pet a star to receive hundreds of great photos to use for free. All this, and rarely do they give the photographer so much as photo credit, which actually has very little value to photographers as it is. When was the last time you saw a photo in an advertisement and decided to hire that photographer for a session?


Usually when you have had photos taken by a photographer, the copyright of the images is not yours to give.

Before each session, most professional photographers have clients sign a model release form and contract which ensures that the copyright belongs to them and to check that the client is happy for images of them/their pets/their property to be used by the photographer for things such as Facebook, their portfolio etc. Following the session clients have the opportunity to purchase beautiful prints, albums, canvas wall art or digital files of their favourite images. With the purchase of these digital files photographers will usually grant full rights to print and share these photos as you wish, however copyright (that is, ownership of the image) always belongs to the photographer. This mostly is to protect their work from being altered or used without permission, and also to protect the client from their images in these instances. For images taken in a public place such as a show, photographers do not need a model release and hold copyright automatically.


This isn’t limited to only the pet world. There are several large agricultural businesses, city councils, travel companies who are guilty of these copyright-grab tactics, all fully capable of paying a professional photographer a fair rate to use their images. When I see these types of things, it really puts me off dealing with these companies and I know that a lot of photographers feel the same way.


So, what can you do about it?

First of all, before entering any photo competition (whether with your own photos or another persons’ images), always read the terms and conditions right through. It’s often boring and confusing, but not doing this can have major consequences. If it is a copyright grab competition, think very hard about the opportunity cost before entering any images. Chances are you will want to enter your best photos into the competition, but are you willing to give up all rights to these images? What if you want to use these images down the line?

Secondly, if an image is not your own but the competition allows entering other peoples’ photos, always check with the photographer to see if they are happy for you to enter their images. If they are professional photographers and it is a copyright grab competition, most photographers will ask that you do not use your photos for this for the reasons above.

Thirdly, if you can – please question the company when you see competitions like this.

Standing up to unfair terms and conditions forces companies to take notice of this issue, and really does make a difference. A couple of months ago, an animal rights organisation was running a calendar competition which someone (not knowing the copyright rules) entered one of my photos into. I emailed the organisation and explained the issues with the use of professional images without the permission of the photographer and they took the time to call me and have a good conversation about it. After our chat, they agreed to be more careful with the rules for the next competition which I really appreciated.  Many other photographers were having similar difficulties with the competition and the way the organisation owned up to the issues made me really respect them a lot more than if they had simply ignored it and carried on the way they were.

I am not a lawyer. If you are having major copyright issues, I recommend seeking advice from a lawyer who specialises in copyright and intellectual property.

Kiya’s Story

A few weeks ago, my friend Tara Sutherland and I photographed the gorgeous Kiya for her adoption photos. I have photographed dozens of dogs for DC Rescue Dogs over the past couple of years that I have been working with them, but Kiya was different. Kiya, like so many other dogs we meet, was the result of backyard breeding. Despite a huge list of health problems which would fill an encylopedia, Kiya had a smile on her face and posed up a storm for us. I fell in love with her like everyone else that met her in her short few months of life.

This is Kiya’s story.

Boss – Working Dog, Companion Dog, Best Mate

Today we said goodbye to our oldest boy, Boss. He was 13 years old, we knew it had been coming for a while but it’s never easy saying goodbye to an old friend. I took this photos earlier this year, and am so glad that I did.

Boss was born on the farm in 2002, bred by our old farm manager by his top working dog, Boss, and out of his super Heading Dog bitch, Kelly (which I thought was pretty cool!). I was only 8 years old when he was born so don’t remember much of those early days. I do however remember being dropped off to visit them (probably after hassling my parents for a long time!) in their puppy pen in the round barn, only to be stuck there waiting out a lightning storm. Didn’t mind too much though – no better company than a pen full of puppies.:)


We brought him home at 8 weeks old, and he had a little yellow kennel which he inherited from my aunts old dog. The front of the kennel had the name “Boss” on it, so that’s what our very creative family decided to name him. My brothers and I had the slide and swing setup so that we could climb up the slide to get into Boss’s play pen, without having to wait for our parents to open the enclosure for us.


He started off as my dad’s first working pup to train himself. He was pretty hopeless to start with, and had no idea which way he was meant to take the cattle or any desire to leave the comforts of the motorbike. But once he turned two it all seemed to click into place, and he soon became the top Heading Dog on the farm – moving stock all day long and saving Dad’s backside on multiple occasions. He was so good that he became the dog to show new staff the working dog ropes, and could often be seen eating sandwhiches with the guys during smoko break. When he was working he loved to do Tarzan impressions – flipping through the air and absolutely loving life.


Eventually he slowed down and started spending more time on the motorbike and letting the younger dogs take care of the cattle work. We retired him and he lived out the rest of his days as a very well fed pet dog, walking in the sunshine and rolling hedgehogs along the race. Right up to the last month he still loved to come out and check on “his” farm though – always tucked right under my arm on the motorbike. He never lost his cheeky nature or his love of food though – on more than one occasion I found him with his nose inside my camera bag, scoffing all of the dog treats!


Left – Me and Boss in 2002 featuring some pretty groovy overalls! Right – Me and Boss in June 2015 checking on his farm for the last time.

Rest in peace Bossy Boots – I’ll miss seeing your cheeky smile every day. X

What’s in my Bag?

Before we start… Something a lot of photographers seem to get fixated on is gear. What lens was used, what camera, what lights? While having the gear is fantastic, it means nothing if you don’t take the time to learn how to use it! So with that in mind, here’s a sneak peek into the gear I take with me on a typical session.

Jo Totes Missy Camera Bag
Jo Totes Missy Camera Bag

This is my camera bag – the Jo Totes “Missy” in Chocolate. I love this bag to pieces! It is the perfect design for pet photography, with easy access to all my gear without having to set it down and rearrange everything, and carries a lot. I can fit up to two camera bodies, two or three big lenses (including the 70-200 2.8) as well as a 15″ Apple Macbook Pro with some careful planning. The front pockets make handy treat holders, and I love it for travelling too as it is nice enough to  double as a regular oversized handbag for around town.
Canon 5D MKIII Camera

Here’s my main camera – the Canon 5D MkIII. I bought this at the end of last year, and is one of the best purchases I have ever made! I use it with a Meike battery grip which holds an extra battery and makes shooting portrait-oriented shots a lot easier.

Canon 60D Camera

And here’s my back up – my first camera, the Canon 60D. This is the camera that taught me everything I know, and has helped me win a few awards along the way. It’s nothing fancy and has taken far more images than its expected lifespan, but it is a fantastic camera and capable of more than most people expect!

Canon Lenses

My two most-used lenses.
On the left is the Canon 70-200 2.8 II IS. This was the first L series lens I ever purchased, and is on my camera 90% of the time. I use this for all of my action work, agility shows, and for most of my portrait work. Fast, sharp and the perfect focal range for pet photography.
On the right is the Canon 24-70 2.8 II. I bought this lens to cover the wider angles, and it is super. Super sharp, nice and fast and gives beautiful bokeh. It is pretty light too, which is nice at the end of a long day shooting with the heavier 70-200.

Canon Lenses
My other lenses that I use occasionally on shoots – I bought these when I purchased the 60D.
On the left is the Canon 50mm 1.8, or the “nifty fifty”. Cheap, light, very sharp and it creates beautiful bokeh. This retails for about $150-$199 in NZ depending on where you shop, and is about the cheapest lens you can buy. This is always the first one I recommend to people wanting to buy their first camera and lenses – a great focal length for pet portraits and a great start with wide-aperture photography.
The lens on the right is the Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro lens. When I was first learning about photography I was obsessed with macro, even with a point and shoot. I’d go out in the evenings with a little spray bottle of water to use on dandelions and whatever else I could find, then photograph the droplets at all different angles – it taught me a lot about how to use light, and get sharp images even at the shallowest depth of field. I still use this lens for close up work with pets, such as nose and paw detail shots. It makes a nice all-round portrait lens too!

Squeaky Toy for Pet Photography
And of course, what self-respecting pet photographer would be without a squeaky toy? This one is just a cheapy from Animates, but it makes a fantastic dying animal noise which gets the head tilt every time.

Other stuff:
I shoot with Sandisk Extreme SD and CF cards, then edit images on a 15″ Macbook Pro using Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5. I use Smackos dog treats, peanut butter, biscuits in a container, whatever toys an owner brings or my own ridiculous assortment of animal noises to get the dogs attention on location. I have a basic studio backdrop set up, a speedlight and a reflector, but with pets I find that the less gear I use, the less time I’m mucking around changing lenses and adjusting settings and the happier and more focused the pets are.

Carol Bremner - Hi Kelly
Thanks so muc for sharing your list of equipment. I have the same camera but bought the 70-200mm f4 lens. Absolutely the best things I have bought.
Was just wondering what auto focus settings do you use, especially for action shots?

KellyWolfe - Hi Carol,
You’re welcome! The 70-200 is a fantastic lens, especially for action work.
I use the center focus point on ai servo mode, with back button focus. You can find more about how I shoot action shots here and here.
Hope this helps! :)

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