Pets a focus in holiday photos

Portraits featuring families and their beloved pets abound on holiday greeting cards. The time is now to plan for the perfect family photo, the one starring Fido, Frisky, mom, dad and the kids, or Fido and Frisky – all by themselves.

Local photographers here offer some photography guidelines sure to elicit smiles from photo recipients. The delivery of photo greeting cards may take time. It is not early soon to think about the perfect pet portrait or family photo.

Bedford’s Jeff Dachowski, a certified master photographer who with his wife, Carolle, owns Dachowski Photography, 15 North Amherst Rd., offers some counsel about the successful portraiture of people and pets. He recently said the background and the lighting are important factors.

“Backgrounds should generally have a color harmony with your pet,” Jeff said. “The background should be close in color but not so close that the animal gets lost in the background.”

Jeff said that people who take pet photos or family photos with today’s technology – digital cameras or smart phones – need not worry much about an old problem, red eye. Red eye is caused by the reflection of a camera’s flash in a person’s eyes or a pet’s eyes.

“Red eye is not as much of a concern with animals,” Jeff said. “Turn off your camera’s flash to eliminate red eye. And try to choose an area where your pet feels comfortable. Turn their heads into the light with a treat.”

Jeff suggests that the perfect photo surely comes more easily to a professional whose equipment includes lighting devices, reflectors and a wide variety of camera lenses. He urges novices taking the photos to be mindful of the pet’s expression. Jeff said the aim is to capture a sense of alertness, especially in dogs.

“I am mostly concerned about getting the dog to look into the light at the correct angle, so he appears very alert,” Jeff said. “The position of the ears is super important and changes with each breed.”

He and Carolle have taken hundreds of professional photos of brides, grooms, children, graduates, personnel and others. His photos of pets, however, rate a full page on their website: www.dachowskiphotography.
com. They can be reached at 488-1850.

Merrimack’s Michael and Heather Sutton, owners of Frozen Prosperity, 416 Daniel Webster Highway, are proven experts when it comes to pet photography. The couple frequently supports events aimed at the adoption of homeless animals.

The pair hosted on July 20 a photo shoot at their studio that was a fundraiser for the Manchester Animal Shelter, 490 Dunbarton Rd., in Manchester. The shelter is a no-kill facility in chronic need of funds and families, couples or compassionate individuals willing to adopt the sheltered animals.

The Suttons offered the pet photo session at their studio and contributed a portion of the proceeds to the shelter. They intend to have dog nights and cat nights on a regular basis.

Four dogs and one cat were the subjects of the pet photo session held in July at Frozen Prosperity. The quintet of formerly homeless animals on hand for the shoot was a group adopted by sisters Katie and Rachel Potter, residents of Bedford. The sisters are volunteers at the Manchester shelter.

The subjects of the photo shoot included Sasha, 3, a big, white, Great Pyrenees rescued from the rural south after she was found wandering in a heat wave. There, too, was Titan, 2, an English bulldog who was brought in to the shelter to be euthanized due to a medical condition requiring major surgery. The Potter sisters adopted him and secured the surgery.

Lulu, a black Labrador retriever, 13, was there. She was found as a stray suffering chronic ear infections and partial deafness. The sisters adopted Lulu and continue to agree they remain impressed with Lulu’s gentleness and loyalty. Katie added that Lulu, currently enduring a spreading cancer, is extremely food motivated.

“I’m pretty sure she’d sell all the other dogs for a snack, in a hot second,” Katie said.

Marley, 3, an Anatolian shepherd mix also starred in the portrait, along with Endo, 6, a long-haired cat who had been hit by a car and suffered a fractured pelvis. The sisters nurtured the return of its health. Marley was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Tennessee when he was four months old.

The Suttons accomplished the shoot with patience, a sense of humor and a supply of treats.

Michael Sutton said the key to successful pet photography hinges on using adequate light. He advises use of a camera setting called Raw, if the camera offers it. The word is a descriptor indicating that all of the image’s raw information remains untouched by in-camera software. He said a raw image is easily manipulated with user-friendly photo editing programs such as PhotoShop, Aperture and Lightroom.

“If your camera has the option to record raw images and you have time to edit your photos, do it. This allows you to rescue photos that might have blown-out headlights – bright areas – and pull out details in shadows that would not be as easy to recover otherwise,” Michael said.

Heather concurred that good lighting is crucial to a good photo. She said that ample light helps the camera focus more quickly on the subject. She warns, however, that too much light, indoors or outdoors, will result in an overexposed picture.

“If you are looking to avoid harsh shadows, avoid taking outdoor photos when the sun is highest in the sky,” Heather said. “The wonderful thing about taking a good picture is that generations of family and friends may enjoy it.”

Samples of the Michael and Heather’s pet portraits, family portraits and others, including some slow-motion images captured with high-definition video, can be viewed on Frozen Prosperity’s website,, on Facebook, Twitter
(@frozenpros) and Instagram. For more information and to learn about upcoming photography sessions call 275-0002.

Hollis photographers Lana and Jack D’Attilio, owners of L & J Photography, 6 Hills Farm Lane, in Hollis, are preparing to take photos that will serve as holiday greeting cards. They concur that including a family pet in a photo greeting card, or taking a portrait photo of a pet, can capture kudos and rate the giver high on the scale of coolest greeting cards.

The couple recently conducted a photo shoot for a newly engaged couple from Bow. In the photo, Matt and Massiel Reed smooch as their two huge dogs, Fiona and Mango, stand quietly in the foreground.

Lana D’Attilio noted that commissioning professional photographers offers a way of guaranteeing success but that there are a number of tips that will help the novice photographer capture the perfect photo.

She when she and Jack snapped the pictures of the couple from Bow, the couple’s dogs managed to maintain with little prompting a motionless stance. They were momentarily mesmerized by a doggie treat held on high as various photos were taken.

Lana said family photos with pets included are in great demand, especially during greeting card season. Oftentimes, she added, a family portrait taken with people and their pets in the images may be followed with some additional photos of the animal, all by itself. Few subjects, she said, provide the measure of cuteness inherent in a puppy or a kitten.

“Pet photography is becoming more popular as our beloved animals take their rightful place in the family portrait,” Lana said. “Photographing pets can be challenging but there are a few tips we use to try and capture the perfect picture.”

The tips below focus on introductions, selecting a good location for the photo shoot, the use of equipment, the need for patience and the value of bribery. Whether the photo is taken by a professional of an avid amateur, she allows that good results occur when a few guidelines are followed.

“We try to arrive early at an photo session and become acquainted with the family pet,” Lana said. “This helps relax the owner and the pet. Have fun. I often end up on the floor, wrestling around and having a good time, myself.”

Lana notes that equipment sniffing is not uncommon when a dog or a cat is the focus of the photo session.

“A photographer’s well traveled camera bag is very interesting to a dog’s nose,” Lana said. “Let the dog, or cat, investigate the equipment and become comfortable with it. Take a few pictures of the pet to get them familiar with the clicks and flashes to come.”

The selection of a location for the photo shoot is an important factor in the making of a masterpiece.

“Choose a location that’s familiar to the pet,” Lana said. “A location familiar to the pet will help it relax. It’s also wise to consider an area with no distractions. Avoid Squirrel Farms!”

Professional photographers and casual shooters alike embrace the virtue of patience. A calm demeanor, a soft tone of voice and an air of confidence may generate acceptance by the pet, whether a frisky cat, a puppy or a mature animal perhaps set in its ways.

“Know that it may take some time to capture the perfect shot,” Lana said. “Try not to become anxious. Pets don’t get frustrated, just their owners. Relax, laugh and enjoy the process.”

Many cats, dogs and even birds are trained to look for treats as reward for good behavior. The technique may be less successful with fish. Nevertheless, a successful photo session featuring people and their pets surely will make for a memorable greeting card or a cherished entry to the family photo album.

“Treats work wonders,” Lana said. “In a portrait we took that featured a couple and their two dogs, the pets were intently focused on a dog biscuit held above the camera.”

For more information on L & J Photography in Hollis, call 440-3818.