We caught up with Cat Race- founder of CatsDog Photography to talk to her about getting her business off the ground and what it's really like to photograph dogs for a living.

Cat in action

Cat in action

Please tell us when and where your inspiration for CatsDog Photography came from.

I was working at a family portrait studio and every time someone brought a dog into the studio, I would put my name down for that session.

I noticed that the dogs couldn't express themselves like they would outside in the open. This gave me the idea to do outside on location shoot where dogs would be able to act naturally. My dog Poppy, who I got a year before I started CatsDog, also heavily influenced my business venture. I spent a lot of time with her, from training classes to snuggling on the coach and could see that other people valued their pets just as much so I decide to give my idea a go.

Cat's pooch and CatsDog Photography mascot- Poppy
Cat's pooch and CatsDog Photography mascot- Poppy

How quickly did the business start to take off?

I went part time initially at my current job but within 3 months I had enough work to quit and run CatsDog full time. Every few months I set myself new targets even doubling what I initially thought was possible. My mum started to help with bookings amongst other things and soon became a valuable employee. Within 15 months, I was able to afford to convert my garage into a studio for the clients to view their pictures, upgrade my kit and even buy a new car. We now have 7 members of staff, including 4 photographers so I can honestly say the business took off much faster than I ever envisaged.

What gave you the drive to become an entrepreneur rather than going down the normal route after university?

I've always had the drive to be successful, I went down the "normal route" after university, filled with ambition but quickly felt undervalued and under paid in my profession. If I had job satisfaction, there's a good chance I'd still be in my old job.

Of all the dogs you have photographed- is there one that particularly stands out for you?

There are a few that stand out to me. I Spotted a Great Dane puppy called Tinkerbell and knew as soon as I saw her that I had to photograph her. They are particularly uncommon to see, especially at that size. I spotted her as a previous client's shoot was coming to an end, she was actually playfully stalking my dog Poppy at the time, which made for a characterful picture. Tinkerbell was also made more memorable because the picture I got of her won me 1st place in the puppy's category at The Kennel Clubs Dog Photographer of the Year.

It still seems like an untapped market- why do you think people neglect putting pictures up of their pooches when they consider them to be family too?

I think more and more people are starting to see their dogs as full respected members of family and want to do things that reflex these feelings to others. Many people have family portraits around the house and after all, the dog is part of the family. The pet industry is actually one of the fastest growing industries in the UK and America. It was predicted last year that global spending on pets would break through the $100bn barrier for the first time. Of the $7bn that was spent in the UK, almost $1.5 of that was spent on non-essential for pets. As for the people that are yet to get a pet portrait, it seems like the idea just hasn't crossed their minds. We find that most of our clients discover us by accident and think it's a wonderful idea.

When did your passion for photography begin?

The passion has been there ever since I was a child due to me looking at my Granddad's slides and watching my Dad take pictures; I love how a photo can take you to a time or a place. Before getting a real film camera at the age of 6, I had a toy camera and would pretend to photograph sheep, cows, frogs and whatever else inspired me at the time. Growing up, I knew photography was a competitive market so although I did an A level in photography, my degree was in web and multimedia, thinking that this would give me a more realistic career path. Two years into my degree, I took a gap year and got a job as a digital artist at a well-known international photography studio. This opened up other opportunities for me where I ended up working for fashion photographer James Nader. I used to assist on his fashion shoots and even shoot his lifestyle family sessions. This rekindled my passion for photography and after completing my web and multimedia course, I eventually got a job as a photographer at Venture Studios.

Cat in 1990
Cat in 1990

I understand you run the business with your partner- do you have any advice for couples wanting to take the plunge into working together?

Make sure you trust the person and have a solid relationship before you even consider taking this step; businesses don't fix relationships, they test them. It helps that we both have different things to offer in the same field so that we aren't trying to do each other's jobs. Entrepreneurial couples should have clearly defined roles based on their strengths and interest. It also helps to have similar work ethics so you feel like you are both contributing equally. The most important thing is to set time aside for your relationship. Plan date nights and get them in your diary, they should be treated just as importantly as anything else you have planned.

Cat and her partner Michael
Cat and her partner Michael

What is a typical day like when you're capturing the dogs in action?

Muddy! It depends on the time of year; I spend a lot of time at this time of year rolling in the mud. There is a lot of preparation the night before, checking the equipment and anything else needed such as the camera batteries, price guides, waterproofs, etc. On the day, every session and dog is different. We always try to get a mix of still, action, dogs with their owners and water shots. The aim is to capture the dogs behaving as naturally as possible. A lot of clients assume that we won't be able to get their dogs to behave or sit still for a particular shot but we have lots of tricks up our sleeves. The shoots are basically organized chaos.

What is the editing process like? Do you have to make any big changes afterwards?

We meticulously select and edit around 30 unique images to show the client. This is so the client doesn't have to spend ages painstakingly deciding between two similar pictures and helps to make their journey as smooth as possible. Our editing style is quiet natural so we rarely make large changes to the images, its better if you can get it right in camera to start with. The standard post processing techniques, such as cropping, sharpening, color balancing, etc., can still take hours to go though. Occasionally, we will Photoshop out leads or switch a face if there is a perfect group shot with one person blinking but we'd rather spend the time crafting the shot during the shoot. Almost all of our large group shots just take a little bit of effort, time and patience.

I understand the business is growing every day, so can you tell us about the exciting things that are happening at CatsDog Photography HQ?

We have lots of big plans but some of them are going to stay a secret for now. If you follow us on Facebook, then you'll be amongst the first to find out. Over the next few years we plan to have a bigger studio, re-launch the website, expand our team and even plan our own events. Our charity calendar was really successful last year and we hope this year's will be too. Anyone who books a shoot with us in 2016 will have the chance to be in our 2017 calendar so there's lots to look forward too.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to start up their own business?

If you want to start your own business then its something you need to take seriously. Too many people undervalue themselves and therefore undervalue the product or service they are selling. This is not only damaging to them but it damages the whole industry. When it comes to creative business, people will even try to get you to do work in exchange for a recommendation. Set out your prices and stick to them; in the end your clients will almost always get what they paid for. If you see someone underselling themselves, just know that you are worth more and will be providing a more professional service or product.






Email address:

[email protected]



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