With the festive season fast approaching, The Veterinarian has found someone to introduce you to via our regular Day in the Life feature whose services might just end up on your Christmas List. Veterinarian Keefe Tay was kind enough to take us through how a typical day unfolds for him when he is not working as a locum in various clinics across Sydney, seeking out the best flat white in the city or relishing Japanese cuisine. Tay is the owner of Furry Munchkins Pet Photography and loves nothing more than capturing cherished moments of dogs, cats and their families.
“My roots trace back to Singapore, but Sydney has been my haven since completing my veterinary studies,” Tay said. “I pursued my education at the University of Sydney and graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the end of 2016.” Since then, he has divided his time between locum veterinary work, which involves hectic days filled with all the usual clinic consultations and surgeries most vets are more than familiar with, and pet photography. Tay founded Furry Munchkins Pet Photography in 2017 – the same year he underwent open heart surgery for a second time and got married to fellow veterinarian, Charlotte. Not surprisingly, Tay appears to have a passion for what he does, and a genuine appreciation that every moment in life is precious.
“In the world of pet photography, my mornings are dedicated to managing emails, communicating with clients, editing photos and handling marketing tasks,” Tay explained. “The remainder of the day is devoted to sales sessions, where I showcase photos to clients, design artwork, and prepare orders for them.” Generally speaking, he reserves Saturdays for photo shoots with dogs and cats. The dog photo shoots are usually outdoors and frequently take place in parks or at beaches, while the cat photo shoots are most likely to be at clients’ homes. On weekdays, in addition to his veterinary clinical work, Tay works on commercial pet photography shoots.
Since starting Furry Munchkins Pet Photography, Tay has found he relishes spending extended time with clients and their pets. Pet photo shoots provide the perfect opportunity for him to make prolonged connections with clients and their furry companions, with results that are literally worth hanging on the wall. “Since not every cat or dog is accustomed to new faces, establishing trust often requires a significant amount of time,” he pointed out. “The particularly intimate nature of a cat photo shoot at a client’s home, for example, enhances my understanding of the families I have the privilege to photograph – including their pets.”
Tay credits his veterinary training with giving him an advantage while conducting pet photography shoots, particularly in relation to his understanding of canine and feline behaviour. “My training enables me to recognise early signs of anxiety in animals, prompting us to take breaks and avoiding any pressure to ‘perform’ in front of the camera,” he said. “I’ve found that the most captivating photos and artwork emerge when animals, and even their owners, are enjoying themselves and are at ease.” Even so, Tay is grateful when clients recognise his skilful handling of their animals and their pets’ feelings, particularly when he is photographing felines. “I really appreciate it when clients express surprise at how at ease their cats were around me during the photo shoot,” he said, “especially when they initially anticipated their feline companions to remain hidden under the bed the entire time!”
Being a vet not only allows Tay to gauge animals’ responses better during photography sessions, but also enhances his ability to understand his human clients’ needs. One special service Tay provides draws directly on his veterinary experiences, having faced the challenging responsibilities of diagnosing and euthanising seriously ill animals many times. “I’ve incorporated a unique service into my business: ‘Celebration of Life’ pet photo shoots for animals nearing the end of their lives,” he explained. “This experience has instilled in me a deep sense of empathy for clients in both veterinary and pet photography realms, underscoring the profound bond my clients share with their cherished pets.”
While photographing a pet nearing the end of their life can be emotionally challenging for all involved, the thing Tay finds more difficult in his pet photography work is discussing pricing of his products and services with clients. “It mirrors the challenge faced in veterinary consultations when discussing financial matters,” he said. “Communicating value while understanding varied client reactions remains a delicate balance, but I am motivated by the opportunity to wow people with stunning pet photography.”
In 2021, Tay started a “Cats are Family” campaign on his Instagram page (which you can find at @furrymunchkinsphotography), which was followed in 2022 by his Cats are Family Sydney book, a compilation of photographs and stories about various Sydney dwelling cats and their human families. Both projects are aimed at encouraging humans to see cats as part of the family, because Tay believes if they do, fewer cats will be out on the streets. Tay’s own adopted felines – he describes himself as “proud cat dad” to Chai, Thyme and Evan – feature in the coffee table style volume, and he contributes a proportion of funds generated by book sales to the Cat Protection Society of NSW.
Clearly, pet photography brings Tay great joy – so much so that a couple of years ago, he quit his full-time veterinary job to better balance his veterinary and photographic workloads. He has also expanded the business to take on additional pet photographers and an office manager, but still loves being behind the camera himself. “There is nothing like capturing a moment in time and elevating it into a piece of enduring wall art,” he said. “Experiencing the delight on clients’ faces as they behold moments with their pets captured as tangible memories in our photos is truly fulfilling.”
And now, to conclude our Day in the Life, Keefe Tay answers our famously cheesy Creature Questions:
Do you currently have any pets?
Absolutely! Chai, Thyme, and Evan, our cats are integral members of our family, and you can read about them in our latest book Cats are Family Sydney.
What is your favourite animal?
That’s a tough choice… while I’ve always loved dogs growing up, my love for cats has grown exponentially since we adopted our cats. I cherish them both equally, though perhaps a majestic lion holds a special place in my heart.
If you could transform into any animal, what would you be and why?
A domestic shorthaired cat! The serene moments of my cats lounging or basking in the sun on hectic days make me yearn for that simplicity – although the family you end up with would play a crucial role.
Pet Photography Services & Vet Clinic Photo Shoots: Furry Munchkins Pet Photography is offering readers of The Veterinarian a 10 per cent discount on pet photography and vet clinic photo shoots. Contact Keefe before this offer ends on December 31, 2023, and once initial contact has been made photo shoots can be booked for any time in 2024. As Keefe does venture beyond Sydney for photo shoots, please reach out to him on 0404 628 424 or via firstname.lastname@example.org to see if he is coming to your state or territory soon to take advantage of special offer.