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Portraits and Fluffy Friends

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

W.C. Fields once said, “Never work with children or animals.” However, we found quite a few photographers who disagree with Mr. Fields. If you don’t work with them, you’ll never capture that fleeting, perfect moment between  innocence and wonderment.
Pamella Vann of Pamella Vann Photography  not only loves photographing children and animals together, but she has clients who sign up on a waiting list just to get through her door when she announces her artistic, spring animals sessions. We sit down with Pamella to find out more about her sessions.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in photography.
I am located in Gadsden, Alabama, and I started my portrait business less than 5 years ago. I have always enjoyed art and taking photos. In my high school bedroom, you could barely see the actual wall because nearly every inch was covered by a photograph, but it was not until my daughter was born, in December of 2009, that I actually wanted to learn how to take a better photograph. When she was really young, I purchased my first DSLR camera. The rest is history and I knew what I was meant to do. If you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to be a successful portrait photographer, I would have thought you were nuts, but here I am today, and I could not be happier.
2. Your Spring images with rabbits and other animals, recently caught our eye. Tell us more about it and how do you market it?
I have photographed with various LIVE animals for several years now. In fact, I already had clients contacting me, during the first week of January, to find out what I was doing this spring. So apparently, I have developed a slight reputation for photographing with animals. As soon as I do my set or location pick for the Spring sessions, I do a promotional shoot to show clients EXACTLY what they can expect. This year, I even broadcasted the promotional shoot LIVE on periscope. It was an instant hit with a ton of people.
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My Spring Sessions this year are going to be on February 27th. So, I only have pictures of my daughter with this year’s set up so far.
Then, I create a facebook event that shares all the session information with the public. I also invite past clients to the event and potential new clients. This year I boosted my event and only spent $10, to a very targeted market. All sessions were filled within 24 hours. These were some of the Promotional photos I used. The model is my beautiful daughter.
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3. How do you prepare your clients for this? And what do you have to do on your end to prepare? 
The bunnies I am working with this year are AMAZINGLY docile. They are the Angora rabbit breed and it must be something that is bred in this breed. They are pedigree bunnies and I am working directly with their breeder. She takes amazing care of these animals and treats them like babies. She will be my bunny handler during all the shoots. She actual works at a petting zoo also at a local park. So helping children handle bunnies and animals is something that she has a lot of experience with. I highly suggest finding a bunny or animal assistant for this type of shoot. She is also bringing around 7 bunnies. That way they each get plenty of rest between appointments and do not get stressed out or anything.
I will also have A LOT of paper towels, towels, and lap towels, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer on hand. Bunnies can and do poop and pee. It is just a risk that they must be willing to take. I also have a sink beside my studio space where everyone can wash their hands properly after handling the animals.
I am really happy this year to be working with the breeder directly. It really is the best of all worlds. If you can find that type of scenario, it really makes your life so much easier. Get an assistant that is in charge of the animals care and well being so you can focus on capturing amazing images.
This is a picture of my Bunny Lady this year. She is pictured with her favorite one, “Tony.” Yes he is REALLY FUFFY!!
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If you are doing these sessions outside, please follow these tips. Get a leash for the bunny. Make sure they have A LOT of breaks, water, food, and shade. Many breeds are very delicate and over handling can be too strenuous on them. Most bunnies I have worked with in the past will hop away if they have the opportunity. That is why the leash becomes important. Please warn parents that they can scratch. If you can have their nails trimmed before the session, please do so. Use props to help pose the animals when you can so they can be handled less.
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This is Addison with one of our pet Guinea pigs. She got two Guinea pigs for Christmas this year and they are her pride and joy. They are the first thing she checks on after school every day and plays and cuddles with on the weekends. Their names are Shimmer and Shine “Guineas Devine”. We attempted to do a Guinea Pig Calendar shoot one day but we got distracted after the first few sets. It was just for fun anyways. Guinea Pigs might be the easiest animal to photograph. If you give them a piece of hay, they will do anything. Plus, they kind of just sit there too.
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4. How do you light these portraits with unpredictable subjects?
If you have ever photographed an energetic toddler successfully, then you can photograph animals too. The two subjects are a lot alike. In my studio space, I have an Alien B400 with a softbox attachment on left side and a Nikon SB700 external flash on an umbrella stand on the right side that are triggers. Then I use a reflector to fill as needed.
You definitely need to have a high shutter speed also. 1/200 at the minimum.
If you are doing these sessions outside, please use a shaded area only. The bunnies can and will get overheated. Plus, bright light is never the most flattering lighting anyways.
5. What’s the best lens for this type of portrait work?
I think I might be one of the only photographers who uses primarily zoom lenses. When you are photographing small children and animals, you need to be able to adjust the focal length quickly. I shoot with Nikon’s 24-85mm mostly. I love my Nikon 70-300mm for older children and outdoor spaces. Again, I know most photographers will tell you primes lenses and I have tried that too, but I still find myself using what I find works best for me.
6. Any advice to those photographers who would like to offer this type of limited session?
Please be considerate of the animals you are working with. Any “Spring” animal I have ever used in these types of sessions has always been treated like a pet. In past years, when I purchased animals, and once the sessions were over, I would find them amazing homes to live in. I can honestly say, ALL animals I have used in years past have had better lives because they met me. *Also, please check with your local laws about obtaining a permit.
Ducks and baby chicks. Ducks are really fun and sweet, but they also love to get wet. They leave nice wet spots on the kid’s pretty outfits. I don’t recommend ducks. Chicks poop a lot too and are not easy for little ones to handle. If you use chicks, make sure you use some sort of prop to have them corralled in. The less handling the better.
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My favorite photos, with the baby ducks ended up being my daughter taking a bath with them. I had one of these printed on Adoramapix’s metal print and they are displayed in my bathroom. Again they did poop, so bath time with the ducks was short. Then I had to Clorox the tub.
, so bath time with the ducks was short.
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I got a lamb last year. We considered keeping it. I got really attached. Her name is Sparkle. I bottle fed her 4 or more times a day for about 2 weeks. She got REALLY attached to me and followed me everywhere (Pamella had a Little Lamb). I did cry when we could not keep her because I got so attached to her. Again, as with all my spring animals, I found her a WONDERFUL farm home and I actually still get to check up on her. She is also the farmer’s favorite sheep because she was so pampered while in my care. Overall Lamb sessions were probably the hardest I have ever done. I don’t plan on ever doing them again. I was seriously sweating after each session with the lamb.
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One last piece of advice. Take a few photos without too many Easter/Spring props and or animals. At the end of the day, parents want an amazing portrait of their child. As fun as these sessions are for the kids and everything, too many props and animals can be distracting from the main subject. You want to at least present a few images that could be displayed in their home all year long and that do not look too themed.
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Also, if you really aren’t comfortable or don’t have access to spring animals that is okay too. There are so many great vendors online that sell Digital Animals that will also make your spring portraits magical. I purchased magical reindeer for some of my Christmas photos.
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I hope you have enjoyed this blog and found all of these tips to be helpful. When Printique contacted me, I was so honored to be asked. Printique is an amazing company and I truly do love their products.
Thank you Pamella for the wonderful images and information. Pamella orders Printique lay flat albums for her clients and to showcase her work.  If you would like to see more of her amazing work, feel free to click on her website HERE. 
(Please note: Many cities, towns, etc require people to have a license to work with live animals. Make sure to research and contact your city officials  to find out what is needed to ensure a safe and legal portrait sitting)