San Fransisco-based pet photographer Mark Rogers is no stranger to surprises. When producing imagery of animals, you’re never quite sure what to expect. When one of his friends in Seattle mentioned they knew someone who had just joined the Healthy Paws marketing team, he unexpectedly began a years-long working relationship with the Seattle-based company.
When Mark first met with Healthy Paws, a pet insurance company, he learned that they were working on an internal project featuring their employees and office pets. So, he traveled up from San Francisco to get started.
I got along really well with their art director, and we started talking about their other image needs. We brainstormed and came up with an approach where I would provide a set of images quarterly based on their needs and handle it all remotely down in SF.
The Healthy Paws art director would provide Mark with some shot categories and scenarios that they would need for their website and emailers, along with animal and human models. Mark would then be left in charge of producing and shooting over the next few months.
Mark’s indirect connection with the company may have gotten his foot in the door, but his portfolio and initial shoot with them are what sealed the deal.
They liked the authenticity of the human-animal connections that I’m able to capture. Of course, my ability to also handle the production end of things without having to involve them every step of the way also helps.
Mark has had a lot of experience putting together his own shoots, especially when it comes to using real pets and real people instead of trainers and studio animals/animal actors.
Working with them in Seattle in person for our first shoot gave them the confidence that we could have an ongoing project like this one and manage it remotely without them needing to get involved in every casting and location decision. This also allows me creative and scheduling freedom that makes each shoot really fun and flexible.
It’s been two years since Mark started working with Healthy Paws. He’s seen just about everything you can see from household pets during that time, and the image scenarios these adorable animals present give the photographer a lot of options when it comes to taking pictures.
I rely a lot on my own knowledge of outdoor locations in SF and the Bay Area as well as my own network of pet businesses and outdoor animal welfare groups.
Of course, because of the inherent flexibility of these shoots, Mark will occasionally take the talent’s location suggestions and run with them.
Sometimes I’ll cast a particular shoot and ask the human talent if there are any locations near them that might fit the bill. This often leads to spots I never knew about that end up working out really well and joining my future location list.
Anyone who has ever tried to take a picture of their pet probably knows: with animal photography, you’ve got to stay on your toes. This is even more true when running a production solo. Without having a big crew or the art director on the ground with him to bounce ideas off of, Mark has to stay more disciplined in coming to each shoot with a few very specific shots in mind.
With animal photography, it’s surprising when there aren’t any surprises. Sometimes a dog or cat just isn’t in the mood that day. Sometimes they have the complete opposite reaction to something than you think they will. Sometimes the location is full of other pets on walks, and we have to move.
Working remotely from the company, of course, is a double-edged sword. Without the AD or CD on the ground to provide approval, encouragement, and fresh perspective, you could feel limited. However, Mark does enjoy the freedom of working on his own, an aspect of these shoots that he thinks is enhanced by his extraordinary relationship with the creative team at Healthy Paws.
There’s a lot of trust involved with an ongoing project like this, and you definitely learn a lot about each other. I still like traveling for projects and having the team on the ground with me, but these remote productions have definitely opened up the realm of possibilities.
See more of Mark’s work on his website.