5 Questions to Help you Decide if Professional Pet Portraits are Right for You

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As a photographer, of course I believe in the importance of professional pet portraits but not for the reason you would probably guess.  I love the portraits I have, but it’s the ones I never had taken that have shown me just how special it is to have a portrait of a beloved pet.   

Our family somehow ended up “pug people.”  I have several wonderful, studio portraits of our pugs, happy and all lined up just right, on our living room wall.  I enjoy these images every day even though those little girls have been gone for several years.    

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But the dogs that came before our pugs and photography studio?  The beautiful girls that slept on our beds when our family was young?  Who played dress up with our daughter?  Who loved us as much as we loved them?  Of course, I have some fuzzy snapshots of those girls but not nice, polished portraits.  I wish I did.  I really do.   

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So you see I completely understand why people who absolutely love their dogs just sort of forget to make the time for pet portraits.  Life is busy.  Things happen.  For many of us, the thought never even crosses our minds.  I get it.  But if you’ve read this far, I bet you’re wondering if it’s time to think about portraits for your favorite furbaby.   

Here are some questions to help you decide.    

# 1. Is your pet a member of the family?    

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You knew the answer to this question immediately, didn’t you?  If you said “Yes!” then it’s time to consider having professional portraits of your pet.    

Social convention tells us that we have professional portraits of our family members from babyhood to high school graduation to the wedding nuptials and so on.  We all agree these moments are important enough to immortalize forever.    

But what about your favorite guy who greets you at the door, wagging his tail, happy to see you?  Or the best little girl who loves to go for rides?  They are members of your family.    

If you’re like me, you probably like your dog better than you like most of your family members.  But since our dogs don’t graduate from high school, we tend to forget having portraits of our best friend.    

It may be time for a new family tradition.  

# 2.  Do you struggle to get a good photo of your pet?    

When people find out I photograph pets they immediately start flipping through their phone to show me photos of their dogs and cats.  I love that.  I really do – it’s great to see people get excited about the animals they love.    

And very often, these people say things like “she’s much prettier than this photo” or “it’s really hard to get a nice picture of a black dog” or “he turns away when I try to get a photo.”  It can be frustrating to get a great shot.    

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A professional photographer can help you with that.  Studio lighting and a bit of experience works wonders to highlight a black dog’s fur, tame a wild beast, and get a good dog to show you their best side.    

#3.  Will you wish you had a professional portrait?   

This is the question that really stings, I know.  Our pets can’t stay with us as long as we would like, and when they are gone, it hurts like crazy for such a very long time.  I know.  Believe me.        

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As I said in the beginning of this blog, I know the value of professional pet portrait work because I wish I had all of my wonderful dogs immortalized forever.  Some people have asked me if having the photos of our pugs hanging in the living room ever makes me sad.    

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Good question.    

Am I just one of those people who can’t let go?  Am I just wallowing in their loss?  My honest answer is no.  I remember how much fun the photos were to create, how much we laughed that day.  I can miss them terribly and love seeing their little furbaby faces all at the same time.  My heart is big enough for both emotions.  

Enough of that.  Let’s move on to something happier like…  

Puppies!    

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If you just love puppies you know how fast they grow.  They seem to shoot from the tiny ball of wiggly fluff stage to the gangly, floppy knees and elbows stage in no time.  And then, overnight, they don’t even look like a puppy at all anymore.  The whole transformation takes about six months, tops.    

So if a warm puppy is in your future, or already in your life, move fast on capturing their first few months of puppyhood.  It’s over before you know it.    

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#4.  What style of portrait works for you?    

You have options.    

There is more to pet photography than the traditional portrait of the dog sitting politely in front of a mottled background.  While that style is important, pet photography has come a long way.    

Today’s pet owners have choices: studio portraits, lifestyle images, and fine art pieces, but what’s the difference?    

Studio portraits feature beautiful lighting that enhances your dog’s coat and eyes.  As this is typically an inside shoot, dogs can be more focused and relaxed.  Studio work doesn’t have to be boring.  Depending on your photographer, these images can be creative and fun.    

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Lifestyle images are taken at a pet’s home or out on an adventure and typically use natural light.  These are a relatively new favorite style and feature pets doing the things they love to do in a relaxed environment.  If your dog enjoys the back porch or the back forty or a trip to the coast, you may want to consider lifestyle pet portraits.   

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Fine art is another option.  While this form can be either studio or natural light, fine art images are way outside of the usual portrait box.  The photographer works to capture your pet’s image with a keen eye to creating something special and unique to be enjoyed as home décor.    

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#5.  What sort of experience do you want to remember?    

As I said earlier, when I look at the images of our pugs, I remember how much fun it was to take those portraits.  Along with wonderful images, I urge you to consider the sort of memories you want to take away from the photography session.  The goal is to be able to enjoy the images, and the memories, for a very long time.   

I suggest you find a photographer who strives to make the experience relaxed and fun for you and your furbaby.  While pretty much any professional photographer can take a picture of your pet, not every photographer has a truly pet friendly business.  If you are picky about the people you trust to care for your dog, be picky about your photographer.    

Just as some photographers aren’t much good with babies, some aren’t much good with bouncy dogs and cringe at the thought of an 80 pound dog running through their studio.  While I look forward to pet portrait sessions and have a dog friendly studio, not all photographers can say the same thing.    

How can you tell if a photographer is really pet friendly?    

Online is a good place to start.  As you search for a photography studio, pay attention to their website.  Look at the studio’s portfolio to see if a photographer feels like a good fit for you and your pet.    

For example, are you happy with their gallery of pet images?  Do the pets look happy in the portraits?  Or are their ears hanging back a bit, like they are uncomfortable?    

Importantly, what do the reviews tell you?  Pet owners like to tell the truth, and they love to share when they have had fun and their dog has been made to feel like a million bucks – the truth is in those reviews.    

Don’t forget about style while you are at it.  When looking at their gallery, do you see examples of the portrait style you want?  Would you be happy with similar images on your wall?    

Next, get ready to start asking questions and call the studio.  If you aren’t sure, ask if the studio is pet friendly.  What method do they use to help a pet feel calm, relaxed, and happy during the session?  Can you stay in the studio with your dog?    

Chances are you’ll be able to tell if a studio is excited to work with you and your pet within just a minute or two.  A pet friendly photographer will ask all sorts of questions about your fur baby – the name, the breed, the age, the favorite snacks, and on and on.  They will also be able to tell you all about the session flow, from the getting comfortable stage to the studio shots to bathroom breaks.  Believe me, you’ll know.    

There you have it.  If you made it all the way to the end of this post, you are most certainly thinking about professional pet portraits.  I hope these five things have given you both the incentive to schedule an appointment for pets portraits and the information you need to make a solid choice on your photographer.    

Take it from me, you’ll never regret having beautiful portraits of your furbabies. 

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Ann James Joles

Ann James Joles

Ann James Joles is a photographer in Bangor Maine that specializes in lifestyle custom portraiture of children, families, couples, high school seniors and pets. Discover the Joles Photography Experience!

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