Benefits of Live Animal Props
Even though they are alive, animals are still technically props when it comes to portrait photography. There are some definite benefits to using live animals in your portraits.
- Instant attention of the child
- Ultimate realism in the portraits
- Parents are generally willing to pay a premium for the service
- Increases bookings with little advertising
- Much cheaper initial cost than fake animals
- They're just so CUTE!
Disadvantages of Live Animal Props
Along with the benefits of live animal props comes some very serious disadvantages that must be considered.
- Animals bite and scratch
- Animals can be harmed or killed by children who squeeze too hard
- Animals poop and urinate all over your studio and the children
- Chicks and ducks can carry Salmonella
- Live animals must be continually cared for or found new homes
- Exotic animals such as chicks and rabbits require special care that is much more specific than cats or dogs
- Baby animals grow up fast and become not-so-cute and cuddly animals
Advantages of Fake Animal Props
There are lots of high quality fake animal photography props available for purchase and these are a viable alternative to live animal props.
- Fake animals don't bite
- Fake animals do not need to eat or poop
- Fake animals do not get hurt if a child squeezes too hard
- Fake animals can be cleaned to remove germs from previous children
- Fake animals last for several years without needing to be replaced
Disadvantages of Fake Animal Props
Like any prop, there are disadvantages to fake animal props as well. Most of the disadvantages for fake animal props is purely due to costs (both initial purchase cost and booking numbers).
- Highly realistic fake animals are expensive
- A separate animal model will be needed for each pose (i.e. lying, standing, sleeping)
- Parents often prefer live animals
- No booking increase from the novelty of live animals
- Children are not automatically interested in the fake animals
Overall, unless you have considerable experience with exotic animals, using live baby animals in portrait photography is probably not a good idea. Even when you have experience in handling exotic baby animals, it is difficult to prevent a 2-year-old from innocently popping a baby chick in his mouth. Children rarely harm animals deliberately, but the way they experience the world (through touch and taste) rarely mixes well with fragile baby animals.