The Perils of Pet Photography – Interview with Danielle Spires of @CatPartyPetPortraits

If you’re a regular fan of NATURE’s social media channels, then you know how we love to see pet pictures from our audience members and supporters. We adore seeing how your cats get engrossed in watching current episodes, or how you share the NATURE love with pets of various species and sizes! Although we regularly ask you to share your photos, we also know just how challenging photographing animals can be. Any NATURE filmmaker can attest to the patience and skill required for getting just a single good shot.

We spoke to Danielle Spires of @CatPartyPetPortraits – a professional photographer based in Los Angeles – who has built a business specializing in photographing pets with their owners. With 20 years of photography experience, Danielle has worked in everything from fine art to commercial photography but turned to pets after she lost her beloved cat to lymphoma. Her images seek to capture the special bond owners have with their pets in a fun, quirky style. Read on for her pro tips and tricks for photographing pets.

NATURE: Tell us about the business of photographing pets.

DS: Honestly, it’s been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling artistic things I’ve ever done. I’m so lucky to be able to witness this special bond between people and their pets. I have the pleasure of capturing pets that are elderly and on their last legs, and I also have the opportunity to give back to the community. I photograph pets that have cancer, as well as for the fantastic feral cat trappers and fosters that work with Luxe Paws, for free.

NATURE: What challenges have you come up against that people should be aware of when attempting to photograph their own pets?

DS: Anxiety! Pets can have very intense anxiety! They may not like cameras, lights, traveling or sitting still. You never want your pet to exhibit signs of stress, so try out stress-relieving solutions like using pet CBD oil, Rescue Remedy or Feliway. But most importantly, pet owners need to focus on being calm, because their pets will watch their owners for signs of stress. The less stressed and anxious the owner is, the better it is on your furry friend.

NATURE: What tips you would give pet owners for getting better shots of their animals?

DS: I never can have enough pet treats or distractions around the studio. If you hold a treat or toy near the camera lens, you can usually get a pet to look straight at the camera. However, most cats refuse to look at the camera even when you have toys, treats, and catnip at your disposal. Remember to be patient! Your kitty will eventually look at the camera, sometimes it just takes a bit of relaxed coaxing, a feather toy or a lot of waiting. Sometimes I have my assistant jump from behind me, and then I’ll get a quick look from a kitty. Most dogs are either squeak or treat motivated, so have both at your disposal. Squeaker toys will always make a dog perk up its ears which is adorable in photos!

NATURE: What’s the most unusual pet you’ve photographed?

DS: So far the strangest pets I’ve photographed are two tortoises! They were so friendly and munching on lettuce. During my upcoming Denver photo session, I’ll have the unique opportunity to photograph a chicken! I’ve been putting a call out to shoot the most interesting pets, and I’m hoping I see some soon. Bring me your hedgehogs, snakes, bearded dragons and tarantulas!

NATURE: What final advice would you share with fans of NATURE when it comes to pet photography?

DS: Have patience! Photographing pets can be challenging. Most photographers avoid pets for a reason, but if you’re patient and generous with the treats, you can end up with some fantastic photos!

Our sincere thanks to Danielle for all her pet photography expertise! Be sure to share your pet photos with us by using the hashtag #NaturePBS when posting your pictures on social media. We can’t wait to see your furry friends!

All photos above courtesy Danielle Spires.