Up Close & Personal

Photography Helps Put Animals on the Map
Fetching Fido Fotography and Contemporary Concepts Photography owner Jane Caruso-Dahms combines her two loves — photography and animals. Her pet portraits not only capture a beloved memory for owners to hang in their homes, they also support rescue and shelter animals in their pursuit of finding families. Dahms journeys without any limitations, other than travel fees, to photograph animals. She has a big heart when it comes to helping any animal out. This is exactly what she shows when she makes trips to shelters to photograph shelter animals and to create portraits which will allow them to get noticed by the public. Meet Jane Caruso-Dahms …

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from the Lehigh Valley and I relocated here a few years ago. My background is actually in education. I was a teacher and taught for fourteen years and started this photography business on the side. When the business grew, I had to quit teaching. Initially, my photography career specialized in strictly photographing animals. Then once I began to receive requests to photograph children, I decided to photograph humans as well.

How did you know that photography was the career for you?
I knew at a young age that I wanted to do photography despite taking a different career path. Even as a child, I always had a camera in hand. But I’d have to say there are a few people who have propelled and inspired me into this profession. Although my father is not a photographer, he enjoyed photography. And my mother was interested in art. Between the two of them, I’d like to think my interest for photography was sparked. More specifically, Amanda Jones and William Wegman inspired me to get into pet portraits. Jones travels across the United States to photograph peoples’ pets. Wegman is best known for photographing Weimaraners in various costumes. These two professionals definitely impacted my decision to photograph animals.

Talk about Fetching Fido Fotography.
It’s a combination of what I love — animals and photography. I began photographing friends’ animals for free. Now, it’s what I specialize in. Whether it’s dogs, cats or another furry creature somebody has, I’ll photograph the animal. How the process works is quite simple; clients will hire me privately, I’ll either do the photography work at my studio, indoors or outdoors at my clients’ homes. Part of my big thing is giving back to both the rescue and shelter world. I’ll take photographs of shelter animals so that there are clear, crisp and clean images of these animals out there for people to notice. Hopefully, people will then adopt these animals into their homes. I also donate 15 percent of my private client sales to the rescue of their choice.

What would you tell pet owners who are considering having their pet photographed professionally?
I think it’s really important for people to get some pictures and photographs of their pets. They are part of your family. I know this firsthand, having two dogs and a cat myself.

Do you have a particular scheduling system with clientele?
No. I work around my clients’ schedules as best I can. Also, if I need to use natural light for the photography, I’ll schedule photo shoots accordingly to ensure I have natural light to work with. In general, I don’t really have a regular or typical workday. I guess this is in large part, because there’s nothing regular about it (laughs).

Do clients usually make specific requests for photos?
In general, this is not the case. My work is not about backgrounds and props. It’s really about a beautiful close up of a dog’s face, for example. The client may then choose to do a 30-by-30 in their home. My work tends to be with larger pieces. Whenever I begin discussion with clients over work, I begin by asking them where they are planning on hanging their portrait in their homes. Then I further inquire about my clients’ home — what color scheme do they have inside their homes, including décor. Sometimes, I’ll even go to my clients’ homes beforehand. I’ll walk around their houses and talk about hanging certain pieces, so then I know what to shoot.

What’ the photography process like with animals?
It’s definitely an interesting process. If you were sitting in on a studio session, I’d be barking, meowing or making duck calls. It gets pretty noisy (laughs). Of course, I also bribe them with treats. Recently, I even had a dog here and we were playing with bubbles. It’s always something unique.

Do you have any restrictions or limits on what you will do with Fetching Fido Fotography?
As far as restrictions go, I have no limitations set for my photography. I’ll certainly go out of state. I went to Rhode Island and Long Island and I’m more than willing to go to others as well. Clients just have to pay my travel fee.

Is there anything special you do with this company?
Yes. I’ve seen some dogs for their birthday every year. So, it’s kind of a special client that I do this with.

You mentioned that you support the animal rescue and shelter world.
I do. I go to Griffin Pond Animal Shelter once a month. I’ll do photography generally from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I believe the last time I was there I photographed 30 dogs and 10 cats. Usually though, it’s as many animals that we can get through. The more photographs I can get for animals the better, because they stand out better than, say, a cell phone picture. The photos look really nice on the Facebook feed and we help get the animals noticed this way. Also, I do work for the SPCA in Luzerne County, Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge in Dallas, PA and Rescues in both Philadelphia and the Leigh Valley. For Griffin Pond alone, I’ve photographed close to 200 dogs and over 100 cats. My photos are only one part of a large process that helps animals get the recognition from adopting families. But I’m very happy to be a part of that process, which led to the adoption of 85 dogs and 75 cats. And for various shelters in general, I’ve raised $530 this month to give people a better idea of the results I’ve been able to achieve.

What drew you into wanting to help and care for animals so deeply?
I think I was just born this way. When I was little I’d always be bringing home baby birds, turtles and all kinds of animals I’d find in the woods that needed help. Or without my parents’ knowledge, I’d be taking in stray cats. I’ve just always had an inclination to care for animals. On top of this, I’m a vegetarian as well. I don’t eat animal products. It’s just part of who I am.

Is there a particular animal you feel especially strong about?
Pit bulls. I’m a big champion for them. I feel they’ve been given the short end of the stick as far as reputation goes. People seem to fear them more than other dogs and they really shouldn’t. I’ve photographed a lot of them and not one has ever bitten me. People seem to fear certain dogs more than others. In actuality, the other dogs may bite more than those that people fear will bite them. It just makes more sense for people to not judge an animal based on what type of dog it is.

Could you tell us about any memorable pet photography experiences you’ve had?
My first job consisted of more than 70 dogs at a dog day care center. It lasted over a period of a week. I just jumped in with both feet. My business grew by the word of mouth after this.

Where can people connect with you if they would like to request photo sessions for their pets?
They can visit the company’s website — fetchingfidofotography.com. Once there, they can contact me through the site. Or, they can reach me on my Facebook page. It also has contact information people can use.

Talk about Contemporary Concepts?
Certainly. To see human photos — family, children, senior and wedding photos — people can visit my Contemporary Concepts website contemporaryconceptsphotography.com. I really enjoy photographing infants. I have both newborn and prenatal sessions. I like to think of my work here as both expressing emotion and the bonds people share together, rather than a simple photography session where people look at and smile for the camera.

Do find people associate you with either company more? Please talk about how the companies relate.
People may notice me more for Contemporary Concepts than Fetching Fido Fotography, because I just split the two and made Fetching Fido Fotography as a new pet photography division of Contemporary Concepts. Even though the two companies share the same location, they are split because together I found it was too difficult. I still do all of the photography, but they’re marketed separately.

What line of work would you say people come see you the most for?
I would honestly say it’s probably an even split between the two companies right now. Yet, I’d say I’m better known for my pet portraits, because not a lot of people do them.

Do you prefer photographing pets or humans?
The pets (laughs). It seems to be what I’m best at. Both photographing humans and animals is a challenge at times. But creating pet portraits is just what I enjoy the most.

— katelyn english