Puppy portrait sessions are about as chaotic as you’d expect: Over the course of his thirty-minute birthday photo shoot at Kirkland-based Say Woof, an adorable Havanese named Charlie prematurely licks blue whipped cream cheese off his Seattle Barkery prop cake, passionately rejects a pom-pom-adorned birthday hat, and poops on the floor of the studio.
The pictures turn out perfectly.
For many Seattleites, our pets are our babies. There are about 150 percent as many dogs in this city as there are kids. We bring them to the mountains, to the bars, even to work, if they’re among the thousands of dogs that graced Amazon’s SLU offices daily before the pandemic sent cube jockeys home to adopt even more animals.
And, as is the logical extension of the newborn portraiture gaining hold among millennial parents looking to capture fleeting memories with their progeny, there’s now an entire industry of photographers who focus on memorializing pets.
This is the arena of Seattle’s wealth of furry influencers. Say Woof owner and photographer Rina Kang counts among her clients Einstein and Jellybean (19.4k Instagram followers), Bruno Rawrs (10.2k), Hugo the Boss (7.9k), and dozens of other aspiring canine tastemakers whose social media accounts are dotted with the photographer’s signature portraits on solid, candy-colored backdrops.
How do photographers get—ahem—less seasoned pets to behave long enough to snap the perfect shot? “Let them be themselves,” says Ears and Noses Photography's Natalka Kolosok, who started her career volunteering to photograph Alaskan Malamute rescues and favors classic PNW nature shots for a range of subjects, from cats to falcons. “Don't touch the pet, and listen to the human.”
For her exclusively canine clientele, Kang favors high-pitched commands, squeaky toys, and a pocketful of chicken hearts. "All she does is be nice to them, so they love her," says Emily Harris, who runs Einstein and Jellybean's posh lives and Instagram account. The resulting photos, taken for holidays, birthdays, and just for fun, help boost the rescue dogs' social media engagement, per Harris.
But it’s a personal pursuit, too: As the one who’s typically behind the phone camera, “there's something different that comes out when there's a professional photographer,” Harris says. “I also get to see that special moment from a different vantage point. That's been really nice for me…especially as one of my dogs gets older.”
Which gets to the heart of why Seattle pet parents turn to professional photographers: Not for Instagram likes. Not for adorable holiday cards or pastel home decor. But so their furry friends, in this one small way, can live forever.