I'm sure everyone has heard that saying "don't work with children or animals". Call me crazy then, because I choose to do both!
I am a photographer based in Ferntree Gully in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs. My business Kiddy Kats Photography has been operational for about 3 years now and I specialise in photographing babies, children and families. About a year ago I also got serious about photographing people's pets (something I always had the intention of doing!) and over the past six months I have had the pleasure of mixing the two genres - photographing babies and children with their furry best friends!
To me, this is just the pinnacle of what I do! I love photographing babies and I love photographing dogs - but putting them together is just the ultimate portrait for me to photograph! Some people may call me crazy because it is definitely some of the hardest work I have had to do. Trying to control a baby and capture them at their happiest can sometimes be hard enough, especially if bubs has had a bad night. But adding to that a dog who is only semi-trained or who has a small attention span, now that is hard work! However, I do love a challenge and when I manage to achieve such a special portrait it is definitely worth all of the effort!
The bond between a child and the family dog is such a beautiful thing. A lot of the time couples have brought a 'fur baby' into their lives long before deciding to start a family so when their baby and dog become best mates it's not only a sigh of relief, but a beautiful friendship to watch growing as bubs get older. Capturing this bond with photographs is so special and why I love what I do!
There is definitely another element to consider in these photo shoots and that is the safety of the baby and myself. Even the best behaved dogs can be unpredictable when in an unfamiliar environment and with unfamiliar people (me!). I have to be very aware of this, especially when there is a baby next to them. Of course I have the parents right there with me and if at any stage I feel the dog is showing that they are stressed I consult with them. I also like to give the dog regular breaks and I have a secure backyard they can run around in. More often than not though, dog treats do the trick and we achieve some great portraits!
INVOLVING YOUR DOG IN NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHS
I am also a Newborn Photographer, and therefore on the odd occasion I have an enquiry from parents about involving their much-loved fur baby within a Newborn Photo Shoot. Again this is something that I love to do but the safety of the newborn baby is my first priority. Newborn photographs are usually taken when bubs is only between 6-12 days old. For a dog who is used to having all of their owner's attention, it can definitely be a difficult time of adjustment, and this needs to be considered when choosing to involve your dog in Newborn Portraits.
INTRODUCING YOUR BELOVED DOG TO YOUR NEWBORN
I recently got in touch with Ruth Elliott from Formal Dogs (www.formaldogs.com.au) in Melbourne to talk further about dogs adjusting to a new baby. Ruth has been a dog trainer for 20 years, has 3 children herself, and has recently launched a new program called 'Leashes and Lullabies'. This program is all about educating parents on the best ways to introduce a new baby to their dog so it is a smooth transition.
These are just a couple of great tips Ruth had to give:
"Quite often our dogs are used to a set routine. Babies and household routines don’t always go to plan and it can take time to settle or feed a baby. Start varying your dog’s routine in the lead up to baby arriving and see how your dog adjusts to getting walked or fed at different times of the day. If any issues arise from these changes to routine, you will have time to address them."
"At some point, the studies tell us, most new parents will bring their baby into bed with them. This is not safe if there is an animal in the bed. If your dog is sleeping in your bed you can help your dog to learn that it is ok to sleep on a special dog bed on the floor, or in another room, before your baby arrives. Only being allowed onto the bed when invited (or not at all) means that you won’t be trying to teach your dog this change while you are caring for a new baby."
If you are interested in having Newborn Portraits with your beloved fur baby, I would definitely recommend looking into a program such as 'Leashes and Lullabies' to ensure your dog will be the best it can be with your newborn at such an early age.
OLDER BABIES AND DOGS
Photographing your baby with your dog when bubs is between 6-12 months old is perfect! If your baby is sitting it makes things much easier and by this age they are interacting really well with each other. Your dog is probably also fascinated with your little human and all the things they are doing!
I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for these photo shoots and of course these are food driven so I can get your dog where it needs to be. The first trick is using peanut butter! Dogs love peanut butter and it's also healthy for them, so to get some kisses for baby happening I just dab some peanut butter on their cheek! Most dogs will happily lick it off!
The other trick is hiding treats around the baby and hopefully the dog will sniff them out and there will be some great interacting moments to capture while this is happening!
About Kiddy Kats Photography Melbourne
Michelle is a Silver Award winning photographer as judged by the Australian Institute of Photography which is the second highest honor that can be given to a photographer in Australia. She is currently working with the RSPCA (An Australian organization responsible for saving lost and abandoned animals) on a photo-book to help support their charity. You can support her by following her on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. She uploads original photo’s every week so check out her stuff and support Kidy Kats Photography in it's amazing work. If you are in the Melbourne area and would like to get involved follow the link to her website were you can call or email Michelle directly.
PHOTO BOOK PROJECT
I am currently about to begin a long-awaited Photo Book project, all about babies and children with their Furry Best Friends! I have just organised with the RSPCA to use this project as a fundraising initiative for them, and I can’t wait to get started!
If you live in Melbourne, you can register to be involved here:
For a $45 donation to the RSPCA you receive a photo shoot with me plus your photo in the book!
My home studio is in Ferntree Gully (Melbourne's eastern suburbs). It is baby-friendly and I have also designed the photo studio to handle excited pets of every shape and size. You can view my work at:
Written by Michelle Marchant APP, of Kiddy Kats Photography.