After looking through thousands of photographs since first working in the photo industry, I have found my photography Achilles heel—animal photos. You can often hear me ‘awwing’ at my desk while my coworkers roll their eyes. Recently, I came across the perfect marriage of great photography and adorable animals in photographer Grace Chon. When Grace joined Wonderful Machine I immediately contacted her to learn more and get my puppy fill.
After talking with Grace, I was surprised to find that she used to be an art director. Several years ago, overworked at an LA agency, Grace realized she needed to a hobby to de-stress herself before she burnt out. Spurred on by her love of animals, Grace started taking shots of homeless dogs to help them find homes. Her weekend hobby quickly snowballed and she soon found herself with a side pet photography business. After nine months of moonlighting as a pet photographer while still maintaining her crazy art director’s schedule, she decided to leave the advertising office behind to focus on photography full time.
Eventually, Grace’s beautiful animal shots started getting some real attention and she found herself gaining both commercial and celebrity clientele. In 2009, Grace got a call from her first celeb client, Perez Hilton, who wanted a shot of his beloved dog Teddy. According to Grace,
“Perez adores his dog and blogs about him regularly—he’s even started a pet blog. He had his dog photographed by others in the past before I met him, but he wanted another shoot with me (because you can never have too many professional photos of your dog, right?). He was kind enough to blog about our shoot and my consumer pet photography business really took off that year.”
Since Perez’s shoot, Grace has shot a large number of celebrity pets. Recently, she had the pleasure of spending the day with the acting husband and wife duo, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, along with their pets of course. The couple had seen Grace’s work displayed at a Best Friends Animal Society event. They loved her photos and soon contacted her about shooting their own animals.
Showing up to a celebrity’s house, Grace never knows quite what to expect. Before shoots, Grace instructs her clients to wear clothing that reflects who they are along with sending over some styling tips. Arriving at Chris and Anna’s house, Grace knew it was going to be a good day when “Chris answered the door wearing slippers.”
The day continued in a relaxed fashion with Chris staying in his slippers and Anna sporting a hoodie. Grace described the couple as the, “kindest, awesomest, funniest, sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Exactly as you’d expect them to be. I only wish all the celebrities I’ve photographed were so gracious.” The three got along well and Grace even learned that she and Anna had something in common—they were both former mad men, as Anna used to work at an ad agency before her acting career took off.
As for the pets, Grace explained,
“Pugs are known to be lovable clowns and it’s this reason they are one of my favorite breeds to photograph. It doesn’t surprise me that people as funny as Chris and Anna would have such hilarious dogs. Bernie and Sherman were 16-week-old puppies at the time, and Bonzo was the first pug in the family. They had so much personality and expression in their little smushed faces. Bella is Anna’s 17-year-old cat—she adopted her when the previous owner didn’t want the curmudgeonly old cat anymore.”
Knowing animals can be quite tricky to capture, I asked Grace to explain some of her techniques to getting the perfect pet photo,
“A key part about getting great pet shots is the ability to read the animals quickly so you can capture their unique, quirky little traits. In an instant I can tell the personality of the animal I’m photographing, and I try to take photos that reveal these little quirks. Aside from that, I think lots of patience and high-reward treats help a lot. Also, shooting a lot of frames is really helpful, especially if you have multiple subjects, so you can get a final image with all the elements working well together.”
After their down to earth shoot, Grace got to work processing the images and eventually sent them back over to Anna and Chris. They loved the results. Really though, who doesn’t love Grace’s photos?