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Photographing Pets Like A Pro: Sonja Purtteman

Photographers love the Pacific Northwest, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a great motivator for exploring your skills behind the camera. An avid hiker and runner, Sonja (a nurse educator) decided to capture her adventures behind a DSLR camera and she’s been sharing her explorations of our collective home ever since.

Sonja on Instagram

Purtteman Photo
Purtteman Photo

Each year, we see incredible entries to our calendar contest from local amateur photographers. The photos get better and better each year as we receive many repeat entries from hobby photographers aiming for that “perfect” shot. In the spirit of supporting our entrants that love photographing their pets, we met with local photographers and asked them to share their expertise on the subject. Here is an up-and-coming photographer, Sonja:

Purtteman PhotoWhen I first took up photography as a hobby, I was a bit overwhelmed with all of the options for cameras, brands, lenses and don’t get me started on all the “science” behind getting the correct exposure! With work and family, I thought of throwing in the towel before I even got started. But friends, family, the internet and photography books are amazing resources when learning photography.


Many people feel they need to purchase the most expensive camera and lens when first starting out. Guilty! But it’s okay to use the camera and lens that you already have, or borrow one from a friend (that’s a nice friend!) or even use your cell phone. Some cell phones now have the same capabilities of many entry-level digital cameras. Of course, if money is no object, then go all out! Just know that you don’t need to in order to capture a great photo. It’s just a tool, like a paintbrush is to an artist. The camera doesn’t make the photo; the photographer does.

Purtteman Photo

In addition, keep it simple. Don’t overthink photography. It’s so easy to feel you need to learn it all today and get every shot every time. That’s a lot of pressure, especially when starting out. So break down the ISO/aperture/shutter speed triangle and focus one just one of those elements for a while. And when you’re comfortable, build upon that. And once you’ve got a good handle on that triangle (be patient with yourself!), start adding in composition, or lighting, or funky angles.

Lastly, take all the photos of your pets. Or your friends’ pets. Or the pets walking down the street. They are the best photography subjects because they just really want to please you and lick your face while hearing they’re a good boy/girl. But be patient with them (and again, yourself) because once they (and you) relax, you’re going to capture some amazing moments with those loveable fur balls!