At 21, Ina Jalil bought her first DSLR camera and picked up a hobby – photography – taking pics of her pups for fun.
After 12 years in the Public Service and taking photos on the side, she decided to step out of the office and jump behind the camera fur real, pursuing her passion for taking photos full-time.
The 36-year-old Canberra pet photographer opened Ina J Photography in 2019 but took it on full-time in 2022. She’s snapped pics of more than 200 pets, including dogs, cats, bunnies and even a bearded dragon.
Since becoming a full-time photographer, Ina has received numerous awards, published Tails of Canberra in 2021, and is lucky enough to work alongside her furry friends every day, doing what she loves.
She said she never thought she’d achieve so much and be able to photograph full-time as most people consider it a ‘hobby’.
“I studied photography in high school, but I never considered making a career out of it,” Ina said.
“My parents always said I had to get a ‘proper job’. Now, I get to spend every day at home, editing photos alongside my three dogs – James, Pippa and Rosie – who are such a big part of my life, and when I’m not with them, I get to photograph other people’s pets and I get to meet so many amazing people. It’s just the best.”
Ina said as her love for dogs continued to grow, she was inspired to leave her government job as a business analyst when she discovered pet photography and that it was an untapped market in Canberra.
“In 2019, my dog Mac got sick and I wanted to get some nice photos of us together as I knew he wasn’t going to make it, but I couldn’t find any outdoor-specific pet photographers anywhere. I did find a studio photographer, but Mac wasn’t comfortable with the lights,” she said.
“That’s when I decided, ‘why don’t I give this a try? There’s no one else doing it’.
“Mac ended up passing away at the end of that year from heart failure, so another reason I became a pet photographer was for him and as a tribute to him.”
The pet photographer then began investing time and money in pet photography education resources and tools, and practised taking photos of her Havenese dogs. She also invested in a business coach.
Now almost a year on, Ina’s work has recently been recognised at the Asia Pacific Photography Awards.
She was named runner-up in the Advertising and Editorial category and won the People’s Choice award in the Portrait category.
Another of her photographs placed 13th in the Top 20 of the Portrait category, and the remaining photographs received Highly Commended awards.
Ina said it felt really good to be recognised, “especially as the Asia Pacific Photography Awards are not pet-specific, so I competed against other photographers in various genres”.
“I was surprised but also grateful when I found out the news back in December,” she said.
“I’m so happy that my work was recognised because I was hesitant when submitting them as I wasn’t sure if they were good enough.
“It just feels amazing that something I love doing, people love seeing.”
Despite being terrified and questioning whether she made the right decision to quit her stable job to become a full-time pet photographer, Ina has no regrets.
“I thought, if I don’t do it, I will regret it, so I put my all into it and I’ve had the best experiences so far,” she said.
“Obviously, I had to look at my situation first as it was a big leap, making sure that I would be able to run my business successfully and that I could financially afford to do it too, so it was a calculated risk.
“Since doing so, I have met and worked with some beautiful clients and beautiful dogs, I’ve made friendships with clients and I’ve also met people in photography from all around the world.”
Ina said her biggest tip to anyone starting out is ‘invest in education’.
“I hope I can pass on my knowledge to help inspire others and encourage them to take those big leaps and invest in themselves and their careers,” she said.