Should You Hire a Pet Photographer OR a Family Photographer?

Have you ever heard the old adage "never work with kids or pets"? That’s because both are notoriously difficult to work with. You need to know what you are doing and possess a special skill set to work with either kids or pets and end up with the result you want. This is where your choice in regards to the type of photographer you hire comes into play.

Before you can decide whether to hire a pet photographer or a family photographer, you need to know what type of photos you want first.

Do you want photos specifically of your pet with a few with you, capturing the bond between you?


Do you want family portraits, with the focus on documenting your family, with a few photos of your pet as well?


It's important when you are planning to know which of these two options you are after. Without a solid understanding of what you as the client are looking for in a photography session it will be more difficult for the photographer to deliver and ultimately YOU might not get the photos that you've envisioned in your head.


So the first thing you need to decide is:

Do you want a dedicated pet photographer OR do you want a family photographer who offers pet photography too?


Here's a rundown on both so you can get a clearer picture of what they each offer so you can make an informed choice.

Family Photographer:

This photographer has a portfolio full of great family and couple photography. Their focus is on people, the interactions between each other and capturing that connection.

You see a range of different people, poses, lighting, backgrounds and expressions in their portfolio. Their speciality is people but you might notice a few pets in their family portraits. The photographer may even specifically state that they offer pet photography in addition to their other services.

However, it’s important to note that while these photographers offer pet photography too, it isn't their main skill set. That’s to say, that in their day to day shooting, they mainly focus on people not pets. And as we all know, pets require special attention in order to capture them and their personalities.


Pet Photographers:

Pet photographers specialise in pets and are dedicated to capturing your furry companion in all their glory. Since pets are the only type of photography they do professionally you can expect to see a higher quality and number of photos that truly capture your pet's personality and expressions than a family photographer might capture. Pet photographers work day in and day out with pets and have developed skills and techniques in order to get the portraits they need in as little time as possible. When you work with people you can tell them what to do, how to pose and where to look in order to get the best shot. However, with pets, generally none of this is possible unless you have an extremely well trained pet. As a pet photographer you need to be able to go with the flow a little more and work with the pets personality and energy in order to capture their true self.

You also have to anticipate a lot and work very quickly to get those great shots. Pets move a lot faster than people so your photographer needs to be experienced enough to deal with the pace of them while also taking into account the technical aspects of their craft  like lighting, the background and what angles will capture your pet at their dynamic best.

You also have some pet photographers who don't photograph people with their pets and some who do. It really depends on the photographer and what they like to shoot. So make sure when you are shopping around to figure out what you want first and then hire a photographer. There’s nothing worse than hiring someone because you want some photos with your pet only to discover that the photographer doesn’t include people in their portraits.

I'm one of the photographers that enjoys capturing that bond between pet and owner. I love being able to document that connection for you to see later on. I've found that as a pet owner myself, the majority of my pets photographs don't include me and that makes me sad. I would love to have a few photos I can look back on after my pets are gone that I can remember them by. Instead of just 'remembering' the way Moxie curls up on my chest for snuggles and purrs, I could visually see and be reminded daily in a large canvas on my wall of that bond. And more importantly, how I felt when she did that. The overwhelming fierceness of my love for her and how happy she would make me when she decided that my lap was the perfect spot to nap on.

However, I have a lot of clients that just don't want to be in the photos with their pets, which I’m also happy to accommodate. Plus, we can also have the best of both worlds. If you take a look through my portfolio you'll see that there can be poses where you are in the photo and that connection is captured but you aren't fully in the frame. Perhaps it's a photo of you from the knees down and your dogs is sitting between your feet, maybe it's your hand stroking their fur or possibly your pet is in the front of the frame and you are blurred out in the background. I’m still able to capture that bond between the two of you but you aren’t the focus of the photo. You’re still there but you’re not front and centre.

In fact, unlike family photographers where the focus is on the family first, the opposite is true with pet photographers. The pet is always the main focus. What this means is that you'll often see photos with both pet and owner together, in focus, in a nice composition but you'll also see photos where the only parts of the owner are visible. For example, from the waist down while walking, just their hands as they pat the dog etc. Whatever works best to get that love and connection between pet and owner and makes you comfortable.

These are just a few of the differences between a dedicated pet photographer and a family photographer who will photograph your pet as well.

I hope this has helped you. It's important to know the differences so that you can make the right decision for you. So keep these in mind when you are searching for your photographer so that you can get the portraits that you are envisioning in your mind.

So go ahead, take a look at my portfolio and visualise what type of photos you are looking for.