Yes, pet photography has officially arrived! Ask Gia Lara, the lady behind the lens of the truly pioneering and now-famous “Petograpiya” brand, and she’ll tell you why having your pet photographed is worth every click.

By Stef dela Cruz, MD

We live in a click-happy era where social media is part of life, right up there with food and water in our hierarchy of needs. But not all clicks lead to filtered selfies, a fact many are secretly thankful for, and some even yield memorable photos of loved ones……Even those born with tails and fur.

CANDIDNESS, CAPTURED – Unlike many pet photographers, Gia mostly veers away from anything staged and fake. “I’m not a big fan of posing or making pets pose unnaturally. I do, when they allow me to.”

Always a star – Gia has seen Maru grow through their yearly photoshoots. “He will always be my number one cat model.”

 But because she is truly fond of the animals she takes photos of, she knows exactly how to capture their best moments. “I know what’s important. And really, I can’t help myself. It is what I do. Pet photography will always be fun, meaningful and interesting to me…I want to preserve the most natural moments. It could be them just sleeping, doing mischief or being playful.”

To her, those photos will resonate the most with true pet parents. “[That’s] because they recall specific, personal memories.”

THE “PETOGRAPHY” PHENOMENON – Of the many subjects photographers can focus their cameras on, why pets?

“Why not?” Gia answers. “We spend a good chunk on them [when it comes to] time, money, and love. It is like taking pictures of what is precious to us. Pets are more than just pets; they are family.”

An animal welfare advocate herself, Gia is the proud human of ten cats and one almost-eleven-year-old bunny.

Loving moments – Gia finds happiness in taking photos that show how much pet owners love their pets.

“Petograpiya is all my passions combined. I’ve always wanted to become a photographer and I still vividly remember starting to take pics of Booni, our rabbit, with a point-and-shoot camera.”

A few months after, she bought a DSLR. “You can say that my skills grew along with my pet bunny.”

Starting her pet photography in 2010, her business started to grow—and so did her furry family. “From having one bunny, the family expanded to having multiple cats. Imagine all the practice that comes with having a lot of muses. I literally took pictures everyday.”

Her goal then was straightforward but full of love: to capture her most candid and ordinary moments with her pets.

CELEBRATING THE O

Real emotions – Ali holds Kanye with so much love. “Kim K got the wrong Kanye.”

RDINARY – Asked about celebrity clients—cat, canine, or other—she has an important opinion to share: “I’m not much into celebrities because pets, celebrity or not, are always worth taking pictures of.”

To her, every client is a celebrity in their own right.

“Celebrity these days, however, may take the form of an Instagram superstar.” By that, she refers to Maru, a puspin (pusang Pinoy), who happens to be a local celebrity cat with thousands of followers on Instagram.

“I’m lucky to have met Maru and he is actually my first cat client. We have been shooting regularly since he was a year old.”

Besides, there’s one good reason to have animal subjects instead of human ones: they couldn’t care less about the fame.

“The thing about pets being famous is that they never get huge egos. Maru is still very much a cat with funny antics and mood swings.”

CUTENESS WITH A CAUSE – “One of the most memorable [photos I took] is a picture of Booni with a cat that happened randomly, in a split-second, where I pointed my camera below the car in the midst of exhilaration and panic.”

A photo worth remembering for Gia Lara a.k.a. Petograpiya, this one was from her photoshoot for Bow & Wow’s 2017 calendar.

The result: a great moment captured for posterity.

“It was a lucky shot. I remember showing it to my brother who is a master wedding photographer. He was pleasantly surprised with what I produced. To this day, I still feel inspired when I remember that moment of validation.”

Gia loves to bring her camera to pet events. However, knowing that animals are naturally charming when they’re unafraid, she prefers taking pictures in a client’s home. “Photoshoots at home with clients where pets are most comfortable where we just basically hang out, that’s my favorite.”

While the photos Gia takes highlight the cute and candid, she also uses her talent for a good cause. She lends her talent to animal welfare organizations and also fosters rescued animals.

“I love taking adoption pictures and profiles of adoptable pets from CARA.” CARA, short for Care and Responsibilitiy for Animals, is a non-profit organization offering animal welfare services.

NINJA WITH A CAMERA – Animals can be quite a challenge to photograph, a fact Gia knows well. “Ninja skills are required. You have to learn to be still and at the same time be quick to move.”

While she has yet to experience a major blooper as a pet photog, having animals as clients is in itself a blunder just waiting to happen. “I don’t recall any major mistakes but being a pet photographer comes with getting climbed on and slobbered all over.”

Spontaneous and real – “This was my first adoption event at Cat Cafe Manila and I really wanted to cry because it was just too beautiful,” says Gia. “This was the first time Jeanna and David held Bicco after adopting him.”

Thankfully, she minds neither the scratches nor the saliva.

“I’m a pet lover first, and a pet photographer second. I’m almost always cleaning the floor with my clothes because sprawling on the floor is how I interact with my subject. I have to be like them to an extent.”

NEED PETOGRAPIYA?

Your funniest photo with your pet is just a few clicks away, excuse the pun.

Contact Gia through her website, Petograpiya.com, and check out the photography packages she has to offer. Better yet, get in touch with her on Instagram (@petograpiya) and see what photos she’s taken lately.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s December 2017 issue.