It’s Love Your Pet Day! And we're throwing a paw-ty with photographer Danielle Spires! To celebrate the most fur-bulous day of the year, Danielle snapped a few picture purr-fect pets with their fur-shionable owners and answered a few claw-some questions for the blog.  

“Professional Pet & Portrait Photographer” is such a unique job title. Can you tell us your story and how you fell into this purr-fession?

It’s a bit of a sad story with an uplifting ending! Two years ago, my two senior cats and my elderly dog were all diagnosed with cancer at the same time. I felt like my world was ending, especially after losing my cat Noguchi and dog Isabelle. My cat Panton survived thyroid cancer, but at that point I was $24k in vet debt. I wanted to find a way to help pay down my credit card and heal my heart, so I decided to offer pet portraits in my DTLA studio, similar to the ones I would shoot with my own cats. Soon I started booking shoots almost every weekend, and the rest is history! I don’t think I ever will truly heal from losing my pets to cancer, but I found a way to give people a cherished keepsake of their own pet, something they could enjoy forever.

We’re guessing that shooting with animals can be a bit unpredictable! What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you while shooting with animals?

Photographing animals is incredibly hard, but I’ve learned over time that keeping the owners happy and chill also helps the animals feel safe. I try to keep the studio very relaxed so all humans and animals feel at ease to avoid any craziness! But I have shot a ton of really crazy animals, including tarantulas, bearded dragons, naked rats, naked guinea pigs (including a naked guinea pig wedding), regular guinea pigs, snakes, flemish giant rabbits (this is a 45lb bunny!), chickens and hedgehogs. I’m dying for a chinchilla or a little bird to come to the studio!

Photography is such a form of self-expression. What do you want your photos to say about you? How do you express yourself outside of photography?

I always wanted to be a portrait painter. Ever since I was young, I wanted to paint extravagant portraits, something like a Pre-Raphaelite artist would create. I fell into photography, and learned I could create that same feel through photographs. I love stoic and structured poses, patterned backgrounds, highly stylized sets, dramatic lighting, and cheeky subject matter. I’ve always thought the way I create my photos says so much about me as a person: stoic and structured, with a dark sense of humor.

Outside of photography, my sense of style is quite a dramatic form of self-expression. You’ll often find me in vintage 1960’s gogo dresses, sky high wedges and a faux fur coat draped on my shoulders, with oversized 70’s earrings. I’ve been collecting eclectic vintage pieces from across the world, and have ended up with some pretty wild clothing and jewelry!

I also take art classes in drawing and pottery. I find that working in new mediums strengthens my artistic abilities and keeps my brain happy. I never want to get too comfortable with art, I always want it to push me out of my comfort zone.

If you weren’t doing photography, what’s another profession you could see yourself doing?

If money was no object, I’d be an elaborate portrait painter. But alas, I need health insurance. I’m inclined to choose only creative ventures, so I could see myself owning an art gallery or running a photo department.

As a creative, where do you find your inspiration?

I suppose I’ll just get a vision stuck in my head, and I feel compelled to recreate it. Oftentimes I look at paintings and think….how the hell can I make that into a photograph? Then I just research lighting techniques until I figure it out. I also love movies from the 60’s-80’s, Victorian portraiture, vintage clothing and design, mid-century Japanese styles, horror movies, Hello Kitty and old cartoons. I kinda mash all of that together and get my style.

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