Prathima Pingali isn’t your average photographer trying to manipulate her models into posing perfectly. She loves her models to be carefree, be themselves and look their best when posing...well, posing wouldn’t be the right word because Prathima and her clients prefer candid pictures. But getting these candid shots is a bit difficult, says Prathima. Because how easy do you think it is to get a perfect shot of a dog licking a popsicle, wagging his tail and ready to leap?
Yes, Prathima, the 22-year-old from Hyderabad, is one among the few (if not only) pet photographers in the city who is clicking amazing pictures for clients who are in love with their canines.
Prathima’s passion for photography began when she was in school and she'd click random pictures of anything and everything around her. She then won a photography competition, the prize money of which she used to buy her first ever camera.
“My dad is a businessman. And maybe that’s why when I won the prize, he was adamant that I put the money into right use. It was only years later I realised that buying the camera was the best decision I ever made,” Prathima tells TNM.
Prathima began her career as a photographer when she was still in school and slowly became a regular at people’s birthday parties, family events and other occasions. Her journey to becoming a pet photographer happened out of the blue when she lost someone very special in her life.
“When I had just joined college, my father bought me a pet dog. I grew very fond of Pax and my camera roll was just full of his pictures. But in a tragedy, we lost him when he was just 2 years old and this left the entire family in a lot of grief,” Prathima shares.
Soon after his death, Prathima started re-visiting Pax’s old pictures and found that her grief became slightly bearable.
“And maybe that’s when I realised it was a good idea to have had Pax’s pictures on my camera, to revisit the good times we spent with him. Digital pictures do not give you the feel, they don’t give you the urge to stack the pictures into an album or stick them on your walls. That’s when I decided I wanted to click more pictures of other people’s pets so that even when they aren’t around, an album of fond memories would make the grief bearable,” Prathima says.
Known by the quirky name Pawparazzi Pet Photography, Prathima today does all that is required to get that one perfect shot of your dog. From baking cakes to stitching dungarees for dogs, the photographer is determined to get picture-prefect shots, no matter what.
“Clicking a dog’s picture isn’t as easy as clicking one for humans. One needs to have a lot of patience. Cameras could intimidate them, so I spend the first few minutes interacting with the owner and making the pet familiar to my presence in the room. I let the dog play around for a while until it becomes tired and asks for food,” Prathima says, adding, “Because the best way to lure a pet is by giving it food!”
Prathima never visits the owner or their pets empty-handed. She visits them with glossy candies, chocolates and sometimes even cakes for those special ones celebrating their birthdays.
“I work in association with a baker who bakes and packs the cakes for the dogs. The cakes mostly have meat or fish that would attract the dog’s attention. Once the dog starts being itself, it becomes easy to get good clicks,” Prathima adds.
It’s not just cakes that make a dog happy. Prathima also has a set of accessories that makes the pets look their best in front of the camera.
“Certain clients love dressing up their pets. While some stitch a Mickey Mouse costume, there are others who buy dungarees for their dogs. I get them costumes and also colourful flower crowns which the pets absolutely love,” the photographer says.
Prathima’s first photo shoot was for a client who had 10 dogs, which took her nearly six hours to finish. She also recalls another instance when a couple wanted their dog too to be a part of their maternity photo shoot. Prathima says it’s great to see people treat pets as a part of their family. The young woman has moved past the tragedy of losing Pax and is today the proud owner of Prancer, another canine she adopted from the streets.
Though Prathima has tried photographing cats, she says they are too timid to pose in front of cameras. The 22-year-old is finishing a course after which she will shift her focus to photographing horses.
So what explains this ardent love for photographing animals?
Prathima says, “The responsibility is much more with animals. It’s extremely important to honour their free will. Humans have a voice and can tell me if they don't want to do something. But animals don't have that ability and for that matter alone, I take it upon myself to understand how the pet is feeling during the shoot, to make sure that they are comfortable and happy.”