Don’t Shoot (with) Animals!

Friends, it’s springtime. Huzzah! Which means flowers are blooming, we all have an extra pep in our step, and photographers start announcing Easter sessions with cute little bunnies and chicks!


I mean, sure, enjoy the blooms and the sunshine, but please, do not use any photographer who uses live animals (that aren’t pets) in a photo session. It’s not worth it! It’s bad for your kids and for the animals too.

I don’t have any direct experience or photos to share, because I have never and would never do a session like this, as a parent or as a photographer. But here’s my semi-related story:

In 2007, I was lucky enough to travel to Australia with a student delegation program. It was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime adventure; we did all sorts of interesting things, like shear a sheep, watch a camel race, and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. (Seriously. It was awesome.)

One of our visits was to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:

Rated one of the “Top 10 Zoos in the World” by AOL, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia, is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, with over 130 koalas. Cuddle a koala anytime, hand feed kangaroos and encounter a large variety of Aussie wildlife, all in beautiful, natural settings.

We all got our pictures taken with a koala! Here’s mine–this is the ‘official’ one from their cameras. (On-camera flash, ugh.) So fun, right?


Well. We had VERY STRICT INSTRUCTIONS about this: The koala handlers–just off to the side–would pose you in one exact spot, with your arms ready just so, and place the koala there. And then you were told NOT TO MOVE. After one or two camera snaps, the handlers took the koala back.

Koalas are small and look cuddly and calm. They sleep 75% of the day, after all! Who wouldn’t want to cuddle them? But they *are* wild animals, and they can and do get upset, and apparently it’s not good. Those claws can hurt you!

Here are some of the famous people that have posed awkwardly with their koalas: (You can see a bigger selection of celebrities holding marsupials here.)



You might be thinking, “Wait, didn’t you say using animals in photos is bad? Why are you showing/telling us this?” Here’s why:

  1. These are adults. Kids over 12 are allowed to do this, but only with parent permissions/supervision. Anyone (of any age) who does this has to read and sign a waiver.
  2. There are professional animal handlers right off camera, who know how to handle the animal and how to look out for danger/warning signs.
  3. The human was posed very specifically, and did not move so as not to frighten or startle the animal.
  4. The human only holds the animal for a very short time–less than sixty seconds. This minimizes the risk to all.

Are all four of those things going to happen with your local photog? Nope. Not even close.


A few more reasons/specifications for why no one should do bunnies/chicks/other cute animals photo shoots:


Would you let your toddler go up and cuddle any random dog in the dog park? No way!  Why? Because you don’t know how the dog will react. Some dogs love kids and babies, and some don’t, because all animals have a different personality/temperament. Animals have the instinct to protect themselves if they’re unsure or confused. You would never risk a bite from a stranger’s dog for a cute picture, would you?

Would you let your small child hug your *own* dog? Yes, of course! Would that be worth it get some cute pictures? Absolutely–because you know your dog, your kid knows your dog, and most importantly, your dog knows your kid. Much less risk for all!


Consider this scenario: your small child grabs the cute bunny in delight. Bunny gets scared or startled and bites your child’s finger, then the cut gets infected and requires stitches.  Who is going to pay for that medical treatment? That’s what liability insurance is for and that’s why all reputable photographers carry it.  Non-client-owned animal injuries may not be covered by your photographer. Do you want to take that risk?

Proper handling of animals

There won’t be a trained handler at your photo shoot. Not only that, but little kids don’t understand how to hold animals gently or in the ‘correct’ ways. That could seriously hurt the animal, and/or startle it, which might cause the animal to react in a way that’s not safe for a child.


Kids are already likely to get their special clothes dirty just by playing and being kids. Why add animals to the mix? Even if their paws/feet are clean, they will poo throughout the day. They don’t exactly excuse themselves to a bathroom! Droppings are not going to make the kids happy, or make for pretty photos, that’s for sure.

Moral of the Story:

If you want to do a special Easter shoot, please do! Dress up your darlings in their Easter best, and stick to props that aren’t alive–like Easter baskets, colorful eggs, real or fake flowers, cute stuffed animals, or even fake bunnies. Or just include your own wonderful pets! That will make everyone happy and make for a much easier photo shoot experience.

Give me a shout if you want to set up a special photo session for the spring. I’d love to capture your children coloring their eggs, or playing at park in their fancy clothes, or hunting for hidden eggs in your backyard.