10 tips: Live animal sessions with kids

Child portraits with bunnies, ducklings, and chicks are popular for spring and make for adorable images. But how do you run these sessions in a way that’s safe and comfortable for both animal and child? Here are 10 tips:   

  1. First and foremost, get right with the law. When you capture images of  clients with their pets, you don’t have to obtain a license. But if you’re acquiring animals specifically for sessions, you’re required under the Animal Welfare Act to obtain an animal exhibitor license (see more information about how to obtain that license).
  2. Try to select animals you already know are comfortable being handled—for example a rabbit that’s spent lots of time in human laps.
  3. For the animals' sake, keep sessions short: 30 minutes is a good max.
  4. Always have an assistant on hand to help with the animal while you capture photographs.  
  5. Before taking a single portrait, check in with the parents about the child’s comfort level in handling animals and whether there are pets at home. Introduce the animal slowly before allowing the child to touch or be near the animal. For example, it’s best to introduce a child to a rabbit while it’s still in its hutch, then take the animal out and hold it while the child pets it.
  6. If you’re purchasing chicks or ducklings for sessions, find a good home for the fowl before you acquire them so they’re guaranteed a proper place to live out their adulthood.
  7. Ducklings and chicks need to be kept warm in their first few weeks of life. Purchase a heat lamp under which they can rest and keep the area set at a monitored temperature.
  8. Have multiple animals on hand so each of the animals gets a long break before sitting for more images.   
  9. Use a washable backdrop and set pieces: These sessions can get messy!
  10. Consider teaming up with a local farm to do sessions with their farm animals on their property instead of acquiring your own. See if you can make the partnership mutually beneficial by allowing the farm to use some of your images for advertising and promotions.

RELATED: Animals in studio

RELATED: License yourself for live animal sessions 

Sources: Pat Rubin, M.Photog., Mitch Rubin, CPP, Sonya Keener, and Pilar Quintero