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VOL. 123 | NO. 28 | Monday, February 11, 2008

Animal Photography Offers Lasting Memories of Cherished Pets

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LOVABLE FACES: Two of Peggy Foster's "clients" pose for a portrait. -- Photo Courtesy Of Animal Photography By Peggy Foster

Got Pets? Then "they oughta be in pictures," as the saying goes.

At least that's what Peggy Foster believes. That's why she made that the tagline for her business, Animal Photography by Peggy Foster.

Foster started the business more than 17 years ago as a way to photograph pets better than what she had seen when she was a little girl.

"I always looked at the pictures of the dogs in my mother's encyclopedia and just always thought there should be a better way to do it than the horrible ways they were doing it," Foster said. "I mean, they would take a gorgeous German shepherd who should have been out in the meadows or in the woods or forest or something and take them in front of a studio background. That just looks so out of place and I just always thought there was a better way to do it."

Part of the family

Foster said she believed so strongly that there had to be a better way to photograph animals that it was motivation to start the business on her own after fruitlessly trying to convince her ex-husband it would be a success.

It might seem like a new phenomenon, but Foster said that it's not true, especially when considering the way some people treat their pets like members of the family.

"So many people don't have children, or they're putting off having children or they're empty-nesters, and so they sort of transfer a lot of that (affection) onto their pets," she said. "So (pet photography) really has come to the forefront where people really are just treating them like a member of the family as opposed to just a dog out in the backyard."

When Foster photographs pets, she prefers to do so in the environment they're most comfortable in, their home. But if the owner feels the home is not appropriate for whatever reason, she'll take photos of the pets in other environments they may be familiar with, such as a park.

There are other considerations when choosing a background for a pet photo, such as the size and breed of a dog. A large German shepherd or rottweiler, for example, wouldn't photograph well sitting on the sofa, no matter how much they may enjoy sitting on the furniture. And a smaller-breed puppy such as a toy poodle would look lost in a backyard.

"But I don't come in telling them what to do," she said. "They feel they are in charge. I come in very quietly, just letting them approach me."

Finding new friends

In fact, she said most animals are simply curious about her when she first arrives. And she takes advantage of that curiosity to get the best, most natural poses.

"They almost always do better than people think they will," Foster said. "People are always saying, 'My dog or cat wouldn't do that,' when the truth is that they pretty much do. They recognize that I'm not their owner so they're a little curious about me than somebody they've lived with for five years. They're not threatened, they're just curious. So we use that curiosity to try and get the poses and the looks that we want and by the time they figure out the buttons they can push on me, I'm gone."

More often than not, Foster said, the animals are trying to climb in her lap before she leaves - even the pot-bellied pig she recently photographed.

Foster doesn't just photograph cats and dogs; she can photograph any type of animal. That's why she chose the name Animal Photography, so it'd be broad enough to encompass all the animals she wanted to take pictures of.

She has taken photographs of dogs, cats, iguanas, horses and pot-bellied pigs. But the most unusual animal she photographed, she said, was an Australian wallaby.

"A lot of times I've been asked about fish," Foster said. "I've never done fish but I know how to do it. I've actually had people wanting to take pictures of guppies before. We'll see if they call back on that one."

Foster, who owns three dogs, said she loves animals as much as the owners whose pets she photographs.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the job for Foster comes when a pet owner calls her after they lose a pet.

"When their pets have passed away and when they can speak of it without crying, they'll call me and say they're appreciative of the pictures," Foster said. "They have a nice, permanent memory of the pet, something that's frameable."

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