Pets get star treatment thanks to pro pet photogs and painters.
In a time of non-stop selfies and 24/7 social media, we’re free to capture every moment, no matter how special. And, with our pets doubling as our BFFs, it’s no wonder they’re one of our most photographed subjects—with dogs at the top of the list, according to Google Photos (sorry, cats!).
And who can blame us? Our pets’ cuteness knows no limits—just check out the County Lines’ Cutest Pet photo contest in this issue for handy proof. In fact, we’re so crazy about images of our furry friends that there’s a booming specialty in professional pet photography and pet portraiture for their images in oils. Chalk it up as another addition to the growing pet-economy of high-end doggie daycare and precious pooch birthday parties.
Think pet artists lucked out on the Best Job Ever award? Our local photogs and painters are here to tell you that, well … yes, they did. And proud pet parents are keeping them plenty busy!
A big reason we take photos is to remember. We want to freeze our pets’ adorable moments—the wide-eyed faces, funny poses and antics—into something tangible.
Christina Cookson of Wag Your Tail Photography understands that desire perfectly. Although pet photography may be an overlooked and underrated type of photography—compared to weddings, newborn or engagement services—she believes it’s gaining popularity thanks to our urge to preserve the much-too-short time we have with our “furkids,” as she calls them.
“We love our pets like we love our children,” Christina notes. “And for some of us, including myself, they are our only children.” Pet photography lets us document that special relationship with our fuzzy family members and honor their importance in our lives.
Sometimes we want to capture that bond before it’s too late. In fact, that’s how Lauren Kaplan of Pet Imagery launched her career as a pet photographer. “While I was working different photography jobs after college, our family dog, Norma, became sick and started a rapid decline in her health,” says Lauren. “I wanted to take as many photos of her as possible to keep her with me.”
That’s when Lauren realized she could offer the gift of quality photo memories to others.
Whether it’s a newborn puppy or an aging cat, pet owners love showing off their furry friends—on social media, their office desk or their home’s walls. And many of our attention-seeking pets love showing off, too! Only this time they won’t have to photo bomb your selfies for a spot in the limelight!
“Senior pets especially love the camera time,” says Lauren. “The new experience revives them with energy and excitability like they had in their younger years.”
These photos are a treat for owners, and having special images allows pet parents to remember their fur babies (no matter how old!) at their best.
Go to a Pro
Although your smartphone may do the job for snapping everyday moments, a professional camera can’t be beat, especially when the subject is running in circles or jumping in the air.
“You’ll get stunning, artistically composed images that can be printed to virtually any size and medium,” says Christina Cookson. And distracting details like leashes or flyaway hairs are easily Photoshopped away in the production process.
But a high-tech camera and superior editing skills aren’t the only reasons to visit a pro. In many ways, “you’re not just purchasing professional images, you’re sharing a very special and fun experience,” says Christina.
And since you’re not the one behind the camera, you can be in front of it and join in the modeling fun with your pet! “A photo session is a great way for busy owners to spend some focused bonding time with their animals,” notes Lauren Kaplan. Plus being there beside your pet and not fiddling with your phone will help the star of the photo shoot cooperate and feel comfortable with the human they know best.
“The goal of a session is for everyone to be relaxed and let things happen naturally,” Lauren says. So instead of a static, stiff stock-photo image, you get a candid gem capturing your pet’s unique and quirky personality.
Many photographers are happy to shoot wherever your pet feels most at home—from your cat’s throne in your living room to your dog’s favorite park.
And don’t worry about your frisky furry friend being too much of a handful! The pros are used to animals’ unpredictability and likely have a few tricks to get your pet to focus on the camera and show their best side for the perfect picture.
An Artist’s Best Friend
In addition to the companionship and happiness our pets bring to our lives, they can also be an inspiration. From Salvador Dali’s ocelots, Andy Warhol’s and Pablo Picasso’s beloved dachshunds to Frida Kahlo’s many animals friends—including monkeys, macaws and a fawn!—pets are both muses and companions to artists everywhere.
Closer to home, Philadelphia-based artist Jay McClellan began his journey in dog portraiture thanks to two very special canines, Tip and Honey. “I really connected with them,” says Jay. “My relationship with them built the foundation for all my dog paintings.”
Best known for his lively works gracing the walls at White Dog Café’s Haverford and University City locations, Jay paints for himself and does commissioned works for pet owners—from big names like Chase Utley to his close friends.
Jay’s dogs Tip, Honey and Lucky are the main inspiration behind Marty Grims’ White Dog Café collaborations—with Honey being the most “famous” thanks to her striking, large-scale portrait in the Haverford café (pictured above).
“My paintings are a combination of the dog’s personality, the colors and the patterns that interest me,” says Jay. He loves getting to form that special connection with each dog and share that with the people he works with. In return, his clients get a unique, vibrant perspective of their canine companion that they can treasure for years to come.
From candid snapshots to artsy portraits, our furry friends have numerous options to make them feel like a superstar—and pet parents get to cherish the memories that make our pets the stars of our lives.
Pet Imagery by Lauren Kaplan Photography