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Pet Photographer’s journey to Master Craftsman title

guild master craftsman award cat photographer

The Cats Whiskers of Pet Photography

Oh my goodness, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?! A lot has happened in the last few years in my pet photography world but I’m beyond excited to share some paws-itively amazing news with all of you;

During the typically quiet end of year period of 2022 I decided to challenge myself and start drafting my project towards earning my Craftsman status with the Guild of Professional Photographers.

“The Guild of Photographers is a highly regarded national photographic body whose members are committed to achieving the highest standards of professionalism for the benefit of their customers. Achieving this with the Guild involves a rigorous assessment process. So much so, fewer than 100 photographers in the Country hold the Craftsman title.”

A Journey Through Fur and Fluff

As I reflect on this incredible journey (one of my favourite childhood films!), I’m reminded of the unconditional love (along with a smidge of all the delightful chaos and dash of endless energy), and that pets bring into our lives. From the mischievous twinkle in a cat’s eye to the infectious joy of a dog’s wagging tail, pet photography isn’t just about capturing a moment; it’s about seizing the essence of their spirit and freezing it in time.

I believe that each pet has their own individual personality just like we do, and I’m passionate that they are very much part of the family, which is why I started photographing pets, in order to capture some truly beautiful and natural portraits of them, but to also capture their personality and preserve them in everlasting memories. This is also what I want to portray in my panel, that cats do have a certain level of obedience, and that there is absolutely affection and connection between us and them (no matter how much they appear to look down on us as their human slaves).

chinchilla persian kitten award winning cat photographer york

Unleashing Creativity

Each panel submitted for judging needs to consist of 20 images, using a maximum of 3 images of each subject, and the images as a collective had to flow or blend in together. 

This took a great detail of planning;

  • who I was going to photograph (I decided on using 20 individual subjects, to show flexibility),
  • what style or ‘look’ I was going to create, and
  • how I was going to execute it

Many canine panels have been submitted in the past, and I’ve always leant more towards team feline, so cats were the obvious ‘who’ for me. I wanted to reflect their regal stature in the finished edits, so I decided to go for a fine art feel to the pose and final edit of the images. The ‘how’? Patience and persistence (plus the added knowledge of being a cat owner so very tuned in to their behaviours)!

The photoshoots took place in the clients’ home so their cat was in a familiar environment and I took minimal equipment with me so as to not run the risk of spooking them. Clients were also sent a questionnaire prior to their photoshoot so that I had any relevant information (rescue, health conditions, breed etc) prior to meeting their cat(s).

For my panel I wanted to portray the simple beauty, cuteness and elegance I feel cats naturally have, but also capture their personality in the images. All of them sat still for a certain length of time (some more than others), and you can see in the finished panel who were more playful and mischievous, and those who were calmer. I made sure I had a range of ages, breeds and patterns.

All the cats I worked with to create my panel were very connected with and loved by their owners, and during the short time I spent with them, I observed and discovered all their little quirks and characteristics that make them, them. I always get a little giddy when I meet other people who have that same familiar, special kind of cat crazy level as me who see their pets as part of their family.

silver pets 3 copy 2

Achievement unlocked

Not only did I achieve the Craftsman title, but I was also, there and then, upgraded to be awarded the Master Craftsman title!

Fewer than 50 photographers in the Country hold the Master Craftsman title!

Not only that, but my panel was the first cat panel to have been submitted. It’s truly such an honour to hold this prestigious title, and it was such a humbling experience meeting some of the judges who take a huge amount of time and care each month grading our images (can you hear those virtual applause and tail wags?).

A Huge Wag of Gratitude

I want to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Guild of Professional Photographers for recognising my passion and dedication to pet photography.

The title of Master Craftsman isn’t just a badge; it’s a reminder of the hours spent chasing the purrfect light, getting into all sorts of positions for the perfect angle, and the genuine connections forged with pets and their humans.

Steven and Lesley Thirsk (the Directors of the Guild) said: “We are delighted that Julia has achieved this! The Guild has very demanding standards, so this achievement reflects Julia’s commitment to their photography, as well as their ability. The judging is undertaken by a panel of industry experts from a variety of photography backgrounds, so Julia should be very proud of this recognition”. Oh believe me, I am!

I was also featured in a follow up newspaper article which can be found HERE

award winning ragdoll cat photographer yorkshire 2

Furry Friends and Lifelong Memories

These photographs aren’t just pictures; they’re cherished memories that will be shared for generations to come. It’s the wag of a tail, the sparkle in their eyes, and the warmth of their presence that make these images so invaluable.

Our pets share the happiest times with us but are also there with us through our darkest, and provide a real sense of comfort and are even known to work as therapy pets to relieve anxiety. And whilst it is often much harder to earn the trust of a cat, once you do, it really is one of the best feelings.

This journey through the lens, from the first awkward attempts to the proud moment of being awarded the Master Craftsman title, has been an incredible ride. But it doesn’t end there, this is only the beginning of what promises to be a lifelong adventure in capturing the beauty, love, and joy that our furry friends bring into our lives (including a further massive proud moment and newspaper article). Every click has the potential to tell a tale that transcends words and captures the heart, let me capture these memories for you. To sign off with the words of Charles Dickens “What greater gift, than the love of a cat?”.

master craftsman panel
Master Craftsman panel

Julia Healey

Julia Healey is a passionate and skilled photographer based in York, North Yorkshire, specializing in wedding and pet portrait photography. Her style is characterized as fun, vibrant, and timeless, capturing the unique personalities and precious moments of her subjects. Julia's love for animals, especially cats, is reflected in her work, leading her to become a renowned 'Pet Pawtrait Photographer'. She holds the prestigious Master Craftsman qualification from the Guild of Professional Photographers, a title held by fewer than 50 photographers in the country, achieved with a panel of 20 cat images. Julia's work is not just a profession, but a way to treasure memories of beloved pets and special life events.

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