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How one Preston woman has turned her passion for dogs into a business

Posted on - 21st February, 2016 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Grimsargh, People
Cat and her dog Poppy, left, and one of her portrait shots on the right

Cat and her dog Poppy, left, and one of her portrait shots on the right

Some may think it’s over-indulgent, while others see it as a way to show the special bond between man and dog. But one Preston woman has seen a business opportunity and is making it work.

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We meet Cat Race who has seen her passion for those on four legs turn into a career photographing man’s best friend.

When did you start the business?
I Started CatsDog in January 2013 after working in portrait studios, photographing families, kids and that sort of thing. Every time someone brought a dog into the studio I was like “I want to do that shoot!” But I noticed that some of the dogs were uncomfortable in the studio so I wanted to take the dogs outside.

What inspired you to start it?
A recent revelation of mine is that I probably wouldn’t have started the business had it not been for my little dog ‘Poppy’ whom I fondly nickname ‘ Pants’. I’ ve always loved dogs but she really increased my interest in them. After seeing how much people in the studio loved their dogs too, I thought, ‘this could really go somewhere’, our logo is even inspired by her.

Two portraits of Cat's dog Poppy

Two portraits of Cat’s dog Poppy

How has it been going?
It’ s going really well, thanks, considering I started this as a part-time venture three years ago, just me and my Canon 7D (SLR camera). Now there are 7 of us including 4 photographers on our ever-expanding team.

What’s it like working with dogs? They do say never work with children or animals!
It’ s my dream job, I never thought I’ d be in the position I am in. If you understand the dogs and their body language, they can be easier to work with than you might think. I personally find them much easier to influence and more predictable than children although we have plenty of tricks up our sleeves for capturing beautiful pictures of dogs with there junior family members. To get the best out of the session, you need to make it a fun experience for everyone involved.

How do you get that many dogs to stay still for that long?

How do you get that many dogs to stay still for that long?

Dogs are honest creatures so how they are feeling comes across in the pictures. It can also be heart-breaking working with animals. One of my early clients booked in a photo-shoot with her elderly fury companion. He had liver failure so she knew that he didn’ t have long left. I received a phone call asking if we could bring the session forwards so he was still well enough to do the shoot. He was great on the shoot due to medication and really seemed to enjoy himself. It’ s a good job the shoot went ahead when it did because the following day I received a text from his owner saying he had just passedaway.

Is there a big market for people wanting pictures of their dogs?
Yeah, the pet industry if 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. Dogs and other pets are an extension of our family life and ourselves so we 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.

These two featured in photo shoots

These two featured in photo shoots

Who has been your favourite dog to photograph?
I’ d have to say my favourite dog to photograph is my own dog and inspiration Poppy. Since she came into my life, she’ s learnt to associate sitting in front of the camera with being showered with treats. She gives me the opportunity to develop and improve the creativity in my photography, which I can then pass on to the rest of the team. This has resulted in my house being a little bit of a shrine to her.

What did you do before setting up the business?
Before running CatsDog and working in studio photography, I never thought I would work in photography because I knew it was tough industry. Although I had an interest in it from a young age, even completing an A level, I decided to study Web and Multimedia at university in Preston instead. During my Web and Multimedia course, I took a gap year and got a job as a digital artist at a well-known international 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 shot his lifestyle family sessions. After completing my Web and Multimedia course, I eventually got a job as a photographer at Venture Studios, more thanks to the experience I gained during my gap year.

Cat put her skills to good use for the RSPCA for a 'Be my Valentines' shoot

Cat put her skills to good use for the RSPCA in Preston for a ‘Be my Valentines’ shoot

How old are you and where in Preston are you based?
My age? That’ s confidential information… ok I’ m 30 and I’ m not originally from Preston, I came here from South Cheshire for university, fell in love with the city and never left. Our studio is just a five minute drive from the M6, Tickle Trout junction and we shoot a 30 miles radius of PR2, although, we have had people travel as far as North Wales and Edinburgh to get their photographs taken with us.

Anything else I should know!
Both my parents and partner have been full of support, especially my mum who became an integral part of the team very early on. She was my first member of staff and was the catalyst for CatsDog’ s speedy development. If anyone else is interested in starting their own creative business, there is always plenty of support out there, from friends and family to helpful communities on the Internet. That’ s not to say it’ s easy, even though my supporters believed in me, they never envisaged that taking pictures of dogs would be so successful. You always have to be the one with the belief and drive to carry the idea forwards.

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