Heather Smith speaks dog.
To clarify — she speaks all animals, but her specialty is definitely dog. And it’s clear that she put this special talent to good use with her business, Paw Prints Pet Photography.
Animals have been a lifelong passion for Smith, and she is certainly no stranger to working with all sorts of critters over the years. Smith began her animal-oriented career working for the Monadnock Humane Society in high school, sneaking litters of kittens into her home (and even keeping one).
She was then employed as a dog trainer and canine behavior specialist for a local greyhound rescue group. Most recently, she has volunteered at Green Mountain Pug Rescue as a board member and canine behavior expert for the last several years.
Smith found solace in fostering abandoned and unwanted dogs and helping them find their forever homes, and even adopted one or two along the way. Her pug Maybee is a puppy mill survivor, and Smith credits her as a muse for her photography.
“Maybee has been around for all of my professional life!” Heather gushed. “She’s helped me navigate my career path in this field, and I am so thankful for her.”
She and her husband also rescued a 16-year-old corgi-beagle mix named Jake. He is blind and deaf now, but still getting to live the rest of his life to the fullest in their loving home.
Although animals have always been a big part of her life, it wasn’t until Smith experienced a new kind of love that she combined it with another talent of hers – photography.
“The passion for this business sparked when my son was born,” Smith explained. “I was having all these newborn photo sessions, and I thought to myself, ‘how cool would it be to offer this kind of session with people and their pets?’”
Smith quickly realized that there was certainly a market for pet photography in the surrounding Richmond and Keene area. How many places offer a customized photo opportunity for a pet owner and their furry best friend?
So, four years ago she took the leap and learned the art of running business and hasn’t looked back. It was clear from the beginning that Smith had succeeded in combining her two passions by creating a career that suited her and made her happy.
“I love working with people as much as I love working with pets,” Smith said. “I tend to have a special connection with the pet’s owner, because they understand me and my love for animals just as much as I understand them. Fellow dog owners are kindred spirits!”
Smith generally considers two hours a full session, but she doesn’t really like time limits. In order to make sure the animals have a fun, stress-free experience, she likes to give a little wiggle room.
The photos are typically taken outdoors, but she will offer indoor sessions as well. She enjoys taking photos in locations that are special to the owner and their beloved pet and tries to get 30 to 40 good photos per session, so the owner has plenty of options to choose from.
“I like to learn as much as I can about my clients and meet them beforehand. I just want to keep it as low-stress as I can – a lot of times, pet owners worry their dogs won’t behave properly, and that’s OK. I don’t need well-trained animals to get awesome pictures,” she said.
Clients’ animals don’t have to be perfectly well-behaved and can even stay on a leash if necessary.
“Let me worry about the dog!” Smith laughed. “You only really need a fraction of a second to capture the perfect snap.”
She personalizes the experience like no other. After the photos are taken, she offers a viewing party, so the owners can pick and choose what photos they want and how they will want to display them. It’s this kind of carefully crafted effort that speaks volumes about how much she truly cares about the customer experience – animal and human alike.
Owners are also more than welcome to be included in the sessions. Smith has found that a lot of her clients tend to have these photo sessions done at the end of their pets’ life and like to be included in the memories.
“We have such a limited time with our animals,” she said. “We should all make sure to capture our favorite moments with them while we still can.”