Lauren Elizabeth loves pets and photography. So, she decided to combine those two loves and set up her own studio, one that specializes in pets!

But when not in the studio, Lauren’s become a big fan of Fotolia’s Instant App, contributing some fantastically cute photos of her four-legged friends. We caught up with her recently to ask about these twin passions…

Fotolia: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Lauren? Where are you based, and how did you become a photographer?

Devo, circa 2001 captured with the Carl Zeiss point and shoot technique

Devo, circa 2001 captured with the Carl Zeiss point and shoot technique

Lauren Elizabeth: My name is Lauren Elizabeth and I run Ruffles Art Studio, a San Francisco based studio that creates custom artwork for people and pets. Pet photography is what I’m best known for, although I also offer illustration and design.

I started photographing my pets when I was 12 or 13. Digital cameras were just hitting the market and my parents had bought a little point-and-shoot that I just loved to take photos with. It had a Carl Zeiss lens (I’ve been geeking over glass before I even understood the concept!) and I loved the different looks I could get with it. I also loved being able to see the photos right away, and it very quickly helped me learn what works and what doesn’t.

I bought my first DSLR several years ago and, shortly after, started Ruffles Art Studio. It’s been an amazing journey. Working with point-and-shoots taught me about lighting, color, and animal behavior, but it was great discovering the technical aspects of a DSLR, and not having to fight my camera to get the images I wanted.

Fo: What locations do you love to shoot, and where is on your photographic ‘wish list’?

LE: San Francisco and its old architecture is very inspiring to me. There’s always something new to discover here. I spend a lot of time walking my dogs and stopping to take photos along the way with my phone or camera. There’s this beautiful texture and color to the whole city that is just irresistible to me.

I also appreciate the beauty that lies just outside San Francisco. California’s landscapes change so quickly and the hills and mountains make these incredible shapes. Many of my instant photos were taken on road trips through California.

I’d love to take photos in the desert or sand dunes someday. Minimalism in nature is just about the coolest thing ever. Lakes and rivers speak to me as well. I grew up in Michigan so can’t help but have a huge space in my heart for nature, especially lakes.

Tree in Santa Barbara

Tree in Santa Barbara

Fo: We love this Instant Collection image – where it was taken and how did you capture it?

LE: I was hiking around Santa Barbara and came upon this amazing tree that looked like it was reaching for the rays of sunlight that were shooting through it. On the same trip, I had the opportunity to fly in a Cesna Airplane and take photos from the sky. Photography is awesome.

Fo: What is your favorite image from your Instant Collection portfolio and why?

Cat and Dog Staredown

Cat and Dog Staredown

LE: I love this image of one of my canine friends looking at a cat through the window. You can see some of San Francisco’s old architecture in the reflection. I love the intensity both of the animals have, and the cat’s coloring happened to fit the palette perfectly.

Fo: How did you become aware of Fotolia’s Instant Collection App and how have you found using it?

LE: Over the past year, I became interested in stock photography and began exploring my options, leading me to Fotolia. And around the same time, I fell in love with mobile photography.

You know that saying about the best camera being the one you have with you? It really is true. I love the spontaneity that comes with taking images with your ‘phone. You’re not expecting it or planning on it, but inevitably you are going to come across these “decisive moments” in your daily life that you want to capture.

Speaking of decisive moments – as much flack as mobile photography gets from the rest of the photography world, I honestly feel that Cartier-Bresson would have loved it. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the details of photography being this or that, that we forget to appreciate what have in our hands.

A camera that is literally with us at all times, that can capture light and color and detail pretty well? That is AMAZING! That is something to be appreciated. And I am so grateful that Fotolia has given photographers an outlet for these photos. It’s great to see the photos go out into the world and have a “life” outside of my hard drive.

Fo: You have quite a few dogs pictured in your photos – how do you capture them in the ‘right place at the right time’? 

LE: With treats! Dogs are total scavengers and most will give you supreme focus if you have a little “model compensation” for them.

Spending time with them and learning their language really helps, too. I had a lot of practice learning various animal behaviors by volunteering at an animal shelter and taking photos for the animal’s profiles. It’s a great place to start and it’s a really rewarding thing to do as well.

You can make a big difference in the lives of shelter animals by giving them a good start (in this case, a good photo).

Fo: What, in your opinion, makes a great photograph?

LE: Emotion and lighting. It’s hard to pin it, but I see it with my own images and with others’ images too. Some photos just catch your eye and you could look at them forever. Often it’s the most subtle gesture that makes the photograph feel alive – and, of course, great light changes everything.

Lauren and Fitzgerald

Lauren and Fitzgerald

Fo: What or who has inspired or continues to inspire your photography?

LE: I’m really inspired by Theron Humphrey of This Wild Idea. I love how authentic his images are, and the beautiful simplicity he captures in this most unexpected places. Beauty in the mundane, you could say.

You can tell he has a great relationship with his dog too, with all the places he puts her!

I love looking to things outside of photography for inspiration. I actually studied illustration, so I love looking at artists who paint and draw. I think that line between photography and illustration is really fun.

And of course – animals. You can learn so much about art just from watching a cat.

Fo: Thank you so much, Lauren, and all your four-legged friends!

You can see (and buy!) more of Lauren’s great images on her Fotolia portfolio, but she also has her own website and blog, and is on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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