How to Find the Right Portrait Photographer for Your Dog

As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." But, as we found at Pets & People Photography, a picture of a family with their beloved pet is priceless. A portrait creates a lasting memory that will be cherished by the family.

If you are like so many pet owners, your pets are a part of the family, so it is only natural to want to include Spot or Fluffy in family portraits and holiday cards. In fact, almost half of the people surveyed by the American Animal Hospital Association said pets are included in their holiday greetings. This can be especially important for couples without children, or for people whose pet may be their only immediate family.

There is another reason for including pets in family portraits, a side of the business we don't like to focus on: Most of our pets do not live long enough (with the exception of some birds and tortoises). Over the years, pet owners, whose pets have passed away, have been grateful to have had a portrait taken.

Finding the right photographer is the key to capturing your pet's personality and the special relationship you share. You want to find someone who knows how to work with animals and is skilled enough to make both of you look good. There are many talented portrait photographers who may let animals in their studio, but they must know how to work with pets. If they don't, you may wind up with a good picture of yourself, but with your pet looking up at the ceiling.

Your pet should be as important to the photographer as you are. Referrals from friends are good bets. Try to review the photographer's work so you know his or her talents and style. Many photographers have Web sites or brochures. Visiting the studio is also a good idea. You might want to ask a potential photographer the following questions:

A photographer should guarantee your satisfaction or your money back.

Many photographers prefer the studio, where there are no outside distractions and the subjects (you and your pets) are the focus. But they also have had great success with location shoots. With animals like horses, it's a necessity. It's your portrait, so go with the look you prefer.

That's always a good idea. But unless a dog is hyperactive, don't exercise him. It's easier to get a dog to stop moving for the instant it takes to get the shot, than to get an exhausted animal to lift his head.