A day in the life of an animal photographer

Yay, it's time for another 'Day in the life' post where I share what an average day at work is like in a job that people are less familiar with. And this month I am so flipping excited to share a day in the life of one incredible, talented and inspiring girl boss, Debra Bardowicks. Debra and I have known each other since university and honestly, I'm not surprised she became one of the first pet photographers, who travels all over the world taking the most incredible photos. She's not only a very dear and wonderful friend (who I wished I lived nearer to) but someone who I greatly admire and who motivates me with her hard working attitude and confidence travelling all around the world on her own. So, this feature is a very special one to me and I hope you think so too. Read on to find out what a day in the life of animal photographer, Debra Bardowicks, is like.

Debra Bardowicks Animal Photography

Hello, I’m Debra Bardowicks and I am an animal photographer based in Frankfurt, Germany. I feel very fortunate to have a job which I really enjoy, combining my passion for photography with my love of animals. 

I have been a freelance photographer for 10 years now. I hadn’t actually planned on becoming an animal photographer, just somehow working with animals. I studied Biology with a focus on Animal Behaviour and Environmental Science. I took photography courses at school but never actually thought of this as a job option. While completing my BSc I came across a Masters course in Biological Photography and Imaging at the University of Nottingham, which sounded perfect. It did turn out to be a lot of fun and taught me a all kinds of things, ranging from basic video production to more detailed photography skills and various design programs. After graduating I didn’t find a "visual" job straight away, so took on a job as a researcher for different publications at a big publishing house. 

When my contract ended I came up with the idea of being an animal photographer full time. I knew that wildlife photography was a very difficult area to get into, which would involve a certain amount of luck as well as finances to build up my portfolio. As I have always had dogs and am a horse person as well, I decided to move into the area of pet photography. As this was in 2006 and professional digital cameras were not really that great yet, pet photography was a rare occupation and I was lucky to be one of the first, at least in Germany, where I was living at the time. 

Debra Bardowicks Animal Photography

In the years since I have built up my reputation and spend quite a lot of time working abroad, working for various publications as well as advertising and private clients. When people think of a pet photographer, they usually think of taking fairly classic photos of people and their pets. While I do this sometimes, I am lucky to have a range of clients, making my jobs very varied.

I have so far worked in about 40 countries and with all kinds of animals, ranging from snakes and scorpions to elephants and apes and of course lots and lots of lovely dogs and horses. I also volunteer for animal charities on a regular basis and have just come back from Russia, where I worked on a reportage for a dog magazine, as well as volunteering for a dog rescue in order to help them find good homes for all the dogs looking for homes. So, writing what a typical day in my life is like is a little difficult. Really there are two types of more or less typical days. One type would be at home and one would be travelling.

Debra Bardowicks Animal Photography

When I am at home and not out on a photo shoot my day starts with a nice long walk with my two dogs, otherwise they would never let me get any work done. Then I will check my emails and reply to any enquiries about photo shoots and maybe do some research regarding topics for reportages . There is generally always editing to do too, either post production for photo shoots done in the studio or selecting photos for publication. Then it’s out with the doggies again and in the afternoon generally more computer work or preparation for travel or the next day's shoot.

Debra Bardowicks Animal Photography

When I am travelling the day quite often starts off with an early start to get the best light, so I will either drive or walk to wherever I am taking the photos and meeting the people and animals I will be photographing. Depending on the type of shoot we are doing I will either just follow along and document what is happening or I will actually direct the shoot and ask people to do certain things. As it could be a portrait of a certain dog breed, or a reportage about an animal charity, or a shoot to advertise a product, all the details will of course vary widely. 

I could have woken up in a hammock, or a tent, or a beautiful hotel and could be wearing outdoor clothes and hiking all day, or something more smart and have a driver. That is really one of the things I love about my job, it never gets boring and as well as meeting lots of different animals I get to meet people from all walks of life and we always have something in common and generally have a lot of fun. I consider many of my clients and models friends. The only disadvantage to the travelling is leaving my dogs at home, but luckily they are truly spoilt when I am away, so I don’t really need to feel bad. And they’re always happy to welcome me back.

Debra Bardowicks Animal Photography

Thank you so much, Debra, it's been truly wonderful hearing about your animal photography world. Keep up the incredible work!

I hope you've all enjoyed finding out what a day in the life of an animal photographer is like and don't forget to check out Debra's work on her website and follow along on Facebook too. If you'd like to catch up on more 'Day in the life' features, you can read them all here. Thanks for reading folks!