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Pet portraits: 5 reasons why I get photo shoots with my dog

    Bella at Lake Chatcolet in Idaho

    Life doesn’t last long enough.

    Not mine. Not yours. Not our dogs’.

    Oh, thanks, Angela … it’s time for a cheery post, is it?

    Bear with me. Let’s dig into why I think pet portraits, more specifically portraits of you and your dog doing dog things together, aren’t just a cool thing to do. It’s vital.

    What dogs do for us

    The science is clear. Dogs improve our life quality.

    Hell, just watching a video of any dog helps calm us down. Researchers at Ryerson University in Toronto had 103 women and men (78/25 split) watch a randomly assigned video: a dog playing with a toy, a dog resting, a waterfall in a forest, a slow-moving stream or a black screen.

    The folks lucky enough to watch the dog videos showed the most positive effects, including decreasing anxiety and increasing happiness.

    OK, here. Take a little break already:

    Feel a little less stressed? I hope so.

    There’s more science.

    According to various studies cited in this American Kennel Club blog post, dogs:

    • Make us feel less alone
    • Lower our blood pressure
    • Help us cope with crisis
    • Get us outside and active
    • Make us more social
    • Improve cognitive function in seniors

    They’re amazing creatures and they deserve to be immortalized. Memories fade, but pet portraits, artfully created by a professional, honors their special places in our lives for our lifetimes.

    My pet portraits with Bella

    The great plan for last year was to have my own special photoshoot with Bella last year. I had chosen my friend Marika Moffitt of Dirtie Dog Photography in Seattle.

    Forces aligned to ensure it didn’t happen. I got busy, she got busy, she lost her Soul Dog and there was that tiny, niggling issue of a global pandemic that has interrupted life on so many levels.

    I’m already planning to make it happen this year. Twice. Once with Marika and once with our good friend Holly Cook of Holly C. Cook Photography.

    I did squeeze in time with my friend Colin Mulvaney to ensure I had great images for my book, Paws of the Panhandle.

    Spokane dog photographer getting her own pet portraits done
    Bella and me

    I can’t miss the chance to work with people like me who specialize in pet portraits, though. It’s going to happen this year, dammit.

    And here’s why:

    1. Bella’s life will be too short 

    My sweet girl turns 8 this year. A Maremma sheepdog has a lifespan of 11 to 14 years. She could stay in my life for another four, five or six years but no day is guaranteed for any of us. I learned that all too well seven years ago when I put my boy to rest.

    I belong to a group on Facebook called The Tilly Project, which connects humans to photographers for pet portraits at the end of their pets’ lives. All too often I see pet parents rushing to find a photographer when they have only days left.

    I’m fortunate to know the right people now, to get incredible portraits of me and my girl together being happy, healthy and thriving. Our adventures are epic, and my everlasting memories of her should be too.

    2. She’s not my dog, she’s my doghter

    The place she has in my life … well, sometimes I’m at a loss for words to describe it. Me? Yeah, for real, it’s true.

    I know I can take one look at her and feel depths of love I didn’t know I was capable of.

    She challenges me.

    She teaches me.

    She trusts me and she loves me.

    She’s my adventure buddy, my best friend and my doghter.

    I want that bond honored in a way I cannot preserve in a selfie.

    3. My cellphone pictures suck (yours do too) 

    I have tonnes of images of Shep. I can look back at our selfies together and smile. Our adventures were epic.

    I take tonnes of cellies of and selfies with Bella.

    Cellphone selfie of me and Bella

    All of my cellphone snapshots suck. And so do yours.

    Look, I don’t care what level of camera is on your phone. I just got the Pixel 6 and let me tell you, the cellphone cameras have come a long way since my Samsung A920 flip phone.

    They are still important memories and I will never let those pictures go.

    Working with a professional photographer to get pet portraits together is different. It allows you to put your cellphone down (it’s OK, you can do it if I can) and be in the moment with your dog. A pro like me knows how to pose you and your dog together, get the right light and see the sweet Magic Moment.

    4. The prints make small talk easy for visitors 

    Bella and I went to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, with friends a few years ago. I came home with this one particular image of Bella at Lake Agnes.

    She sits perched on a rock, smiling and backdropped by the Big Beehive.

    I blew that thing up to a 40×30 metal print that hangs on the wall of my living room. It’s the first thing you see when you walk through my front door.

    wall art from Bella's trip to Banff National Park
    Yeah, those are DVDs … how retro

    When guests arrived for dinner shortly thereafter, they stopped in their tracks.

    “What in the … where did you … when did you … WOW.”

    I launched into the story of that day and the memory of it remains fresh in my brain because I see that scene every day.

    I want you to bring your adventures home so you can have conversations like that and keep your memories fresh.

    Because anyone can have a generic print they bought at Home Goods. With custom pet portraits, you can have a conversation starter, a Statement piece that is unique to you and how you and your dog live.

    5. They are your legacy too 

    Not so long ago, I was having coffee with a friend and telling her how excited I was to offer the Journey session. The Journey session isn’t just about getting great pet portraits, it’s about creating a book about you and your dog having great adventures.

    She told me how her gramma would have loved to have such a book to remember the dogs she loved so much.

    I replied, “Imagine if she had left that book to you and you had it to read and remember her and the way she loved her dogs.”

    Tears rolled down her cheeks.

    We all want to leave a legacy, to be remembered for something.

    If I am remembered for how much I loved my — all — dogs, I’ve done something right. And if my nieces can have a book of my story, they will have a connection to me and who I was in this lifetime.

    All around the circle

    If you’re here, you probably cringe at the idea your best fur friend is “just a dog.”

    She isn’t. He isn’t.

    Great pet portraits immortalize that love you’re feeling right now. It’s my resolution for 2022 to get my own.

    Many of my friends in the pet photographers blog circle are making the same resolution. Let’s read about why they value pet portraits.

    Start with Canberra pet photographer Ina of Ina J Photography sharing why she thinks you should consider being in photographs with your dogs.

    When you get to the bottom of Ina’s post, click the next link in the circle and then keep going until you find yourself back here to my quest for great pet portraits. That’s when you know you’re home.  

    Right where you belong.  

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    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    10 thoughts on “Pet portraits: 5 reasons why I get photo shoots with my dog”

    1. What do you mean my selfies “suck”? Haha!!! Love the picture of you and Bella and that’s wonderful you have sessions scheduled with Holly and Marika this year! Yay! Looking forward to seeing more of your Journey Sessions – such a fun idea!

    2. Ah, the grandma story got me and put a lump in my throat. I often think about what I wouldn’t give to have a beautiful portrait of Penny, but now you’ve got me thinking about how much I would have loved to have an album of King, Pax, Gretchen, Sissy, Snoopy, Iddy, Squeaky, Abby, Emma, Indy, Chip, Peanut AND Penny. Luckily I have a lot of photo memories of our most recent loss, Dingo. Never again. And yes, everyone’s cell phone pictures suck!

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