Of course you can, in fact I encourage it!
Many people are afraid to be in front of the camera, me included! but I have found that it helps to bring a story to the images if the owner is involved in some way. If you really don’t want to have pictures of yourself, just an arm, or a leg, something of you in the shot helps to bring a new dimension to the portraits. It creates more depth and interest…just like below, Zephyr is the centre of attention, but by including Alexe her pet parent, she is not only showing the connection they share, but its helping to frame Zephyr and draws our eyes to her. She is afterall, the subject of the photo.
Let me tell you about Zephyr
Zephyr was a street dog in Mexico, she was starving, emaciated and pregnant. Alexe was a Canadian vet technician travelling in Mexico in search of big waves. She was also working in the rescue centres that help street dogs like Zephyr.
Zeph decided that Alexe was her person, and set about winning her heart. She didn’t have to try very hard and within days Alexe had changed her plans to make sure that Zephyr would be included in her life from now on.
They stayed in Mexico for a few more months so that Zephyr could regain her strength, before moving back to California, where they roamed the beaches and parks of America in a van for 6 months. Since then they have travelled together in Canada, New Zealand and now Australia.
I wanted to tell you this story because February is the month of love, and if ever there was a love story that needed to be told, this one is it! It’s not easy getting a dog into another country, especially Australia and New Zealand, and it costs a lot of money. The love and dedication that Alexe has for Zephyr is truely remarkable and inspiring.
With a story like this one, there is no way you could do a portrait session without Alexe being in the pictures. It really was an experience, perhaps more so for me than it was for them. The bond these two had was palpable, they had been through so much together, travelled to so many places as companions, and settled here in the beautiful northern rivers as a pair…it would be true to say that they are an unstoppable team. Zephyr has been to more countries and locations than most people!
The human connection
If you are brave enough to be fully immersed in the portraits like Erina is with Chips as above, it really helps to illustrate the relationship to a new level. Every animal, every human has their story to tell and it’s so much easier to tell it together. Anyone who has been through a tough time in their lives will tell you that their dog/cat/bird/reptile, whatever species you connect with, has been the strength they needed to carry on.
When I include people in my portrait sessions, I place a lot of emphasis on making sure they are comfortable and encourage an open communication. For example, if you are not someone who kisses their dog, then trying to make a portrait with this as the desired outcome, we will only end up with something that is awkward and hard to look at. Similarly we need to consider the needs of the dog, perhaps they are reactive and need to be somewhere quiet, away from other canines…or maybe they get hot easily, so its vital we find somewhere with shade.
Choosing the right location is crucial in setting the tone for the session and I generally choose natural light, if possible. It adds a soft, flattering touch to portraits, enhancing the overall mood of the images.
During the session, I encourage clients to bring personal items or props that hold sentimental value …like Kenzie (see above) many dogs have a favourite ball, and being with that ball is life! It would therefore make sense to include it in some of the images, no matter how torn up and old it is! Making beautiful art is all about sharing the story and showing the connections, it’s not just about clicking the shutter at the right time.
When it comes to photographing pets and their people, it requires a blend of patience, creativity, and a willingness to embrace the unpredictable. Every pet and their guardian has their own unique personality, and capturing their true essence involves letting them be themselves.
Thinking about getting a photography session with Rustie and co?