Our pets are always happy to see us and are consistently there by our sides through daily life, ready to cheer us up and bring us laughs whenever we need them. They become a companion, confidant, and a source of love and joy in our lives.  

We have all had that pet who means everything to us…those once-in-lifetime relationships. And despite how long we have them in our lives, whether the time is long or short, we will always wish for more time.

Our Legacy Photo Sessions

I often have said to clients, assistants, and friends something along the lines of “If only I could press the shutter and keep them with us forever I would.” That feeling and that wish inspires me as a pet photographer to capture the love and bond we have with our pets, especially those pets who are nearing the end of their time with us on Earth.

Though I can’t keep them alive, in my own way I’ve found the closest thing to it through photography. Capturing these beloved pets in a way that truly does justice to their importance in our lives is the reason I created our signature “Legacy Sessions.” These sessions are designed to focus on the older or ill pets who have spent a lifetime giving us so much. 

I regularly receive client inquiries from potential clients who have just received some bad news about their sweet furry family member. The emotions and processing of this kind of news can be difficult. That’s why my team and I take this honor so seriously. We make it our mission to take care of every detail for our clients and their pets from the start, when we have our first phone call to the end, when we reveal to our clients their finished artwork. All our clients have to do is show up and we take it from there!

Another reason why we feel so strongly about our jobs is because we know the artwork created in our Legacy Sessions is once in a lifetime. Sadly, there won’t be a future session with this pet or a chance to redo it. We have to fit a lot of years into these special photo sessions. We’ve seen firsthand that’s an invaluable way to treasure the time left together and put a spotlight on the special bond that’s shared. Our goal is to create the “best day ever” for each pet’s personality and interests and also to keep the energy positive and lighthearted for both pets and people.

Each one of these sessions is near and dear to my heart. The pets live on in the artwork and memories we create for both my clients and within our studio. My assistants and I treasure the relationships we have with our wonderful clients and their sweet pets. They are all so special, truly, if time allowed we could share the story of each and every pet and never run out of stories and memories from our photo sessions. 

But today I want to share with you the story behind a very special dog we photographed in Fall of 2022. As a matter of fact, the day that this will go live is the one-year anniversary of Jude’s Legacy Photo Session. 

boston terrier french bull dog smiling at his legacy photo session

Meet Jude

A Boston Terrier and French Bulldog mix who had just celebrated his 10th birthday 3 days prior. 

His mom described him as having the best personality and a very happy dog that everyone loved. She also shared that he was the boss of the house and didn’t like to do what he was told. 

I loved all the information she shared and I could tell that Jude was just a confident older gentleman who knew what he liked and knew he was special! Personally, the more spirit, personality and quirkiness a pet has the more fun I think it is to photograph them. So I had no doubt Jude would have an awesome Legacy Photo Session with us. 

Sadly Jude’s photo session was urgent. His mom reached out to see if we could help her with a photo session but she had no idea if it would even be possible. You see Jude’s health had been declining suddenly and his recent vet appointment just days before found cancer and growing tumors. He was medically frail and she knew she wanted to have portraits that showed him at his best before anything progressed. 

We always prioritize urgent needs but Jude’s photo session will go down as the fastest turnaround possible! I spoke with his mom one afternoon and just 24 hours later I photographed him. It doesn’t always happen the way it happened with Jude, but sometimes the universe has a way of guiding us to the best outcome.

The Portrait Planning Appointment

Because there wasn’t much time, we had a part of our Portrait Planning appointment happen over the phone. We focused on the positive, chatting about what she loved most about Jude and what she hoped to get from a Legacy Session.

I also encouraged Jude’s mom to be in the photos as well! I know from experience that moms are often the ones taking the photos and not in them! I wanted to make sure that at the end of this,  Jude’s mom would have photos she truly loved of the two of them. Special photos she could display on her walls and in her home.

Jude’s mom shared all sorts of cell phone photos with me- from clothing options to props, to favorite existing photos of Jude. Together on the phone, we went over outfits, what to bring, Jude’s favorite things, and more so she could prepare for the big day.

For the pre-photo session planning appointment the next day, Jude arrived in style in his doggy stroller! His mom and I chatted more about Jude’s life and how special he is to her. I used all the details she shared in the call and at the appointment to work out the best way to capture these ideas, memories, and moments into portraits she could cherish forever.  

Finalizing the clothing selections, dog toys, treats, and location were also important details in planning the best day ever for Jude! We let Jude rest while at the office so he could save all his energy for the photo session itself. Once we had everything planned, we helped get Jude into the car and proceeded to the perfect photo session location where Jude could go on an adventure and soak up the sun!

My team and I treat every session as the unique and special occasion it is, so before Jude joined us we met for a short team meeting. I always like to get my assistants ready for the photography session by going over the details of what we’ll be doing and the goals we have set for the session so that when the client arrives, everything is ready for the VIP (very important pet) and family. That way all of our time together is maximized!

black and white small dog on blanket staring up at camera

The Photo Session

Meeting Jude in the park, you would have never known that he had a short time left.  He was definitely enjoying the sunshine, smells, and great outdoors. And it was no surprise to any of us that he was the star of the show. Jude was very happy to make new friends and try all the new treats we had. He didn’t find a single one he didn’t like! We all adored him. He was such a sweet soul and loved all the attention! 

Working with thousands of pets over the years, my team and I admittedly have lots of tricks and techniques to bring out the best in our pet “models.” I’ve noticed that our clients often enjoy watching their pets behind the scenes too! Just like every other parent, pet parents are proud of their babies and enjoy watching them interact and be themselves.  

This is the important, candid part of the story… I focused on capturing Jude just being himself. We set up different photo opportunities and let Jude naturally interact and explore. All while safely secured on a leash that would be edited out later in his final images. 

This approach is one of my secrets to great images. By allowing the client and pet to interact and be themselves, it helps me to capture those tender heartfelt moments that are so important in creating a legacy album and any other art the client may want. When Jude’s Mom joined him, it was obvious, she was his universe and vice versa. Watching the way he looked at her, there was no doubt the adoration was mutual. He lit up as his mom talked to him, petted on him, and held him tight. 

Besides the natural backdrop our locations offer, we love to encourage clients to customize their session even more by bringing props, favorite snacks, and other items to use in the session. This makes the details even more personal.  During the planning phase, we talk all about this with all our clients just like we did with Jude’s mom. 

For Jude’s session, his mom brought along many special items from home. One of my favorites was a big basket of toys- many of which he recently picked out for his birthday! One of Jude’s favorites was the pink elephant. He liked that one so much that he had two of them! He was really excited and even jumped over his elephant, showing off his agility skills!

I bet you didn’t know that we consider dog toy staging an art here! My assistants have finetuned their skills to help arrange the props/toys in the best possible way. We created an adorable photo that showed Jude proudly standing within a sea of toys “spilled” out of his toy basket. It was one of my favorite moments and I was so glad to see Jude’s mom later selected that for his album.

Some other highlights included: a yoga mat because Jude loves to hang out with his mom while she does yoga, a pillow and blanket from Jude’s couch that he often snuggled up with, his recent toy haul from his birthday celebration the weekend before, and his favorite beloved monkey toy.

We also brought a surprise for Jude… a bubble machine! Jude hadn’t seen one before and he was definitely interested and intrigued with the bubbles floating around in the air. It made for an adorable moment that made everyone smile, including Jude and his mom! And yes that one made the album as well!

Viewing and Ordering

With End of Life Pet Photography, what follows the photo session is often unknown. It’s such an emotional chain of events. Some pets are with us longer and delight us with the good news that they are doing well. Sadly, in the case of Jude, we had him at his best. The days that followed his photo session were hard on his mom and also on him. His time went by pretty quickly after that day in the park. Jude lived his days to the fullest though and he was with his mom when he left this world.  

It breaks my heart but Jude had crossed the Rainbow Bridge by the time his mom came in for her Ordering Appointment. I know it’s not easy to come in for what should be a fun appointment when your heart has been broken. We keep this in mind as we navigate the process with our clients. Everyone handles things differently. I was touched when Jude’s mom brought his favorite monkey stuffed animal to the ordering appointment with her. Of course, there were tears from us both but it was special to have something of Jude’s at the office. Just like the rest of the process, Jude was right there with us. 

Though bittersweet, Jude’s mom loved seeing the images we captured that day and decided a coffee table album would be the perfect way to display the images in her home. With so many beautiful moments, the hardest part was choosing which images to include. We have a great process to narrow down the images to find the best of the best! So I guided her to select her favorites along with a favorite image for the front and back covers. She also chose a very special title for this album- “Baby Jude.”

Order Pickup

When the time came to pick up her album, Jude’s mom went from tears to smiles as soon as she opened her it. Time stood still. It was as if he was back having his best day all over again. It was all there, full of meaning, full of life, fond memories, and happy moments of a lifelong friend. Each and every image has so much life and love captured. Jude’s memories are forever stored within this treasured album. 

My favorite moment was when Jude’s mom shared that having this album was like having him back with her. I’ll always remember the smiles, tears, and joy on her face as she held her album tight to her chest. I know that a piece of Jude is right there with his mom and she can look back anytime. 

We were all blessed by Jude. He put his best paw forward at his photo session and did everything we asked of him with the best smile on his face! Looking at the album, you would never know that he was sick, but it is very easy to see he was living his best life. As a matter of fact, his mom shared that his photo session day was one of Jude’s last really good days he had. I’m grateful we were there for it. 

There are many more stories and thoughts I could share about Jude and these special Legacy Photo Sessions I’ll wrap it up with this thought.  I always take notes during my calls and consults. Sometimes my notes are simply words or ideas. Rarely do I write down full sentences. But when Jude’s mom and I first spoke, I wrote down word for word a very special sentence she shared… she told me “If we all could be more like him the world would be a better place.”  

I couldn’t agree more. 

black and white small dog during dog photo shoot

Words from Jude’s Mom

Jude and my photography experience was amazing. 

During such a hard time in our life, it was nice to experience such kindness and care throughout the process. Jude had such a wonderful day doing photos which made this dog mom’s heart so happy. 

I love my album so much. I am able to have beautiful, joyful memories of my sweet boy. He brought so much joy, laughter, and love into the world to everyone who met him. 

Your photography captured his personality and it shines through in the images in his album. I will forever be able to look at Jude’s legacy album and smile seeing the happiness and love Jude brought into the world and the bond that we shared. Thank you!!”

Interested in learning more about our signature Legacy Photo Sessions?

We offer complimentary no-obligation consultations to discuss your pet’s needs and potential options. Please don’t wait to reach out. With aging or ill pets, the best time is always right away.

PS. When you come into the office, we have our own copy of the “Baby Jude” album we’d love to share!