Pet lifestyle expert Serena Faber-Nelson is the founder of Pretty Fluffy. A contributor to Everyday with Rachael Ray, Modern Dog Magazine, Cesars Way and more; her modern, stylized take on DIY dog treats has seen her recipes viewed millions of times over.
Serena is the author of the go-to dog mom bible, Dog Mama, and the popular dog treat recipe book, Healthy Homemade Dog Treats.
Welcome to Seniors Week on Pretty Fluffy!
This week is all about celebrating the older pets we have in our lives. As they reach their golden years, there’s no better time to strengthen the bond you have with your pooch. We’ll be sharing everything you need to know about pampering your senior pet including…
+ Senior Essentials
+ Angel Sessions
+ Superfoods for Seniors
+ DIYs and more!
I couldn’t be happier to kick off Seniors Week with this brilliant article by Caitlin McColl of Ragamuffin Pet Photography on how to capture the best photos of your senior dog.
Senior Pet Photography: Photographing Old Souls
The frame still sits on his desk, surrounded by other photographs of my brother, my mother and I. Not a speck of dust taints that photograph of Mac. He was my father’s first son, his best friend, his soul dog. A gorgeous rescued Rhodesian Ridgeback X, who went hiking through the Blue Mountains as a puppy and stamped his paw to demand biscuits when he became an old man. Mac passed peacefully in his sleep, but his loss devastated our family. His dignity, wisdom and soul was the original inspiration for my Ragamuffin Soul Sessions – special photoshoots designed to celebrate our senior pets.
They might not be jumping around like a crazy puppy anymore, but seniors often offer a gentle wisdom in their soulful eyes and grey beards. There is something so peaceful about photographing an old soul – they may be blind or mostly deaf, but I’ve come to realise that these are the pets who see with their hearts and follow in the person’s footsteps.
Create your own beautiful portraits using my top five tips for photographing senior pets:
1. Photographing Deaf or Blind Dogs
If you are struggling to get a photograph of your deaf and/or blind dog looking at the camera, it can help to use treats. I like to give the dog a few treats first, so that they know that there is food nearby. I recommend bringing a variety in case your pet is feeling picky – and watch your fingers, as most seniors forget their manners in the excitement of treats!
Once you’ve caught your pet’s attention, you can briefly hold the treat by their nose then quickly lead it up towards your camera. This can be a tricky move to perfect, but with practice you will be able to easily guide your pet’s face towards your camera.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid photographing in bright light – hiding cataracts is just one of these. Not only does bright light often make it more difficult for your pets with cataracts to see clearly, but it can also make the cataracts appear lighter in your photographs.
I also recommend that you avoid taking portraits from above (i.e. where your pet is looking straight up at you) as this can also accentuate cataracts. Get down on their level! Bear’s Mum didn’t want his cataracts to show up dominantly in his portraits, so we headed to the bush around sunset, when the light was soft and shaded.
Many dogs can become restless in their old age and pick up a habit of wandering around in their own little world. This can make it tricky if you want to photograph them!
Be aware that older pets (particularly blind ones) can become disorientated and hesitant in unfamiliar settings. Putting a leash on your pet can help as not only does it keep them closer, but many dogs seem to calm down when they realise their human is on the other end of the leash.
Think carefully about where your favourite memories are with your pet. Curled up in front of the fire? Walking through your local park? Some Jobe’s family favourite memories with their boy have been at the beach in Inverloch, so of course we went to there for his photos.
3. It’s in the Details
Make sure you capture all the little details of your beloved senior as well as the usual full body/face portraits. Photos are a beautiful way of preserving those memories.
Get in close and photograph their nose (use the “Macro” mode on your camera, or a Macro lens if you are using a DSLR). Wait until they are snoozing on their favourite couch and capture the warm paws. I even photograph their food bowl, favourite toy or their collar – all those details that make up the story of your pet.
4. Cuddle in
I know that being in front of the camera can seem like a nightmare to many people (myself included!) but please believe me when I say that you will never regret taking photographs that capture the relationship between you and your senior. Ask someone else to take the photo, and cuddle in with your pet.
If you’re self conscious, you don’t even need to show your whole face to the camera. Some of my favourite portraits of pets with their humans have captured only the details of their embrace – as kiss on a furry forehead or loving hands stroking soft fur.
5. Take Your Time
This is my most important tip. Anyone who loves a senior pet knows that they move to their own rhythm. Allow yourself plenty of time to capture your photographs – not only will this prevent your furry from becoming grumpy and yourself from becoming frustrated, but you will also open up the opportunity to capture those unposed moments – like the moment when Lulu started sniffing the flowers during her session.
Savour every moment with your pet and create portraits that celebrate all those years of love, life and loyalty.
About Ragamuffin Pet Photography
Their determination as they race in pursuit of their favourite ball. The warm lean of their body against yours. The soft pads of their paws, curled up in their favourite spot on your couch. Caitlin McColl of Ragamuffin Pet Photography captures more than simple photos – she creates natural artwork that celebrates the life & personality of your pet. For more tips and stories, sign up to “A Little Soul”, the free monthly E-zine for pet lovers here.