The incredibly talented local indie businesses of Yorkshire deserve credit, and Emily Nicholson’s fantabulously unique pet photography business is one of them!
Emily from Pet Stories Photography recently joined us at our hotel, to take some pup-perfect piccies of the dogs here, so we caught her for a chat. In this Q&A, our Scarborough hotel got to know Emily, her business and her rescue pooch, Alan.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a self-taught photographer, animal lover and quite a sentimental person. I’m from a small sleepy town called Glossop in the High Peak, on the outskirts of Manchester, and over the years have been so lucky to call many UK cities home. A few years back, myself and my other half finally settled in Sheffield, just over the hill from Glossop, and we absolutely love it. We have such an appetite for adventure so it’s the perfect location for dog walks with our rescue hound Alan, as well as bike-rides and wild swims.
Can you talk to us a little about Pet Stories Photography?
Pet Stories is a niche photography service capturing pets’ unique personalities and the special relationship they share with their owners. We are based in Sheffield, but travel nationwide to meet and photograph pets and their people.
I launched Pet Stories four years ago now and it has to be the best job in the world! I get to greet so many personalities and sometimes I have to pinch myself that I get to do the work I do. Influenced by the lockdown, Pet Stories evolved into a talent agency with a sister service called The Pet Stories Agency, at the beginning of 2021. Already we’ve achieved so much this year and I’m excited to see how the business grows.
How did your business come about?
In a past professional life, I worked as a trend forecaster. However after struggling with anxiety, I left this fast-paced role, picked up a camera and found myself taking more and more photos of my best pal, Cavalier King Charles, Ted. Capturing Ted was a welcome distraction and the best possible therapy at the time. I learned how to use the camera and so I learned about Ted too. His daily habits and the aspects of his personality that I adored so much.
Capturing Ted and everything I loved about him made me realise that other people might want to have their pets photographed in the same way. Sadly, Ted is no longer with us and passed away in 2019. I miss him dearly, he was the most gentle and devoted boy. I will be forever thankful to him, for his patience, pro posing and above all, his encouragement to launch Pet Stories.
When I first launched the business, people thought I was mad to go so niche and not to go down the wedding photography route. Now, there are so many unique and amazing pet photographers. I would go as far as to say, pet photography is just as popular and in demand as wedding photography.
You steer away from posed photoshoots to show pets and owners as natural as possible. Why is this?
Pets are such a valued member of the family and yet, sadly they only get to spend a fraction of our lifetime with us. I find studio-style shoots can often lack identity or show the unique personality of a pet. On a Pet Stories shoot, I visit people and pets at home, accompany them on their favourite or most meaningful walk, or tag along with them to a much-loved coffee shop.
Pet Stories shoots are all about capturing people’s lifestyles with their pets. So, there have even been times when I’ve had the pleasure of joining a pet and owner in more unique situations such as on epic hikes or wild swims. Every pet and owner relationship is different and that’s what I want to capture for my clients. These genuine moments between pet and owner will be memories that will be so dearly cherished for years to come.
What is the best thing about your job?
There are just so many aspects of my job that I adore. Every pet is different which means every shoot is different. I never really know what to expect and I love that. It’s just a fun time for all and I happen to take photos in the process.
One thing I absolutely love is that I get to experience the favourite walks and parts of the UK, which I never would have come across if it wasn’t for the pets that enjoy them on a daily basis. It’s such a privilege to be able to share these special and meaningful places.
Another aspect that makes my job so great is seeing how pets make people feel so at ease. I’m a naturally anxious person – so not only do the pets I photograph make me feel instantly relaxed, but I can tell they take away the anxiety and awkwardness for their owners too. There have been occasions where I’ve had a shoot booked for photos of just a pet, but during the shoot, the owner has felt more relaxed and has become open to having photos together with their sidekick. These spontaneous yet natural moments are always the photos my clients love the most and the ones they choose as prints. Just them and their pet, being themselves and having a special moment together.
Animals don’t always behave! Do you have any funny photo shoot/pet stories?
Call me crazy but I have always said the more chaotic the shoot, the better! I love it when pets are naughty, or a little wild on a shoot as there’s atmosphere and more often than not, lots of chuckles by embarrassed owners that I love to capture. This is what owning a pet is all about and in my opinion, a chaotic scene always makes a better photograph!
One great example of this is when I photographed a family of Spaniels; a mum, dad and their three pups all living in the same house. When I arrived, the pups were zooming in and out of the kitchen and it was so interesting to see how their mum barked and told them off to calm down. It was a beautiful sunny day and after some shots at home, I ventured with the family to a river at the back of the house. It was the first time the Spaniel pups had ever been for a swim and it was such a special moment. As you can imagine, the water-loving Spaniels were all doggy-paddle pros, and were completely in their element. Again, mum and dad were there to keep a close eye and it was so interesting to document the whole family together. It was a privilege to be there for those first moments.
Finally, what is your favourite type of pet?
I genuinely love all pets and my dream is to live in the middle of nowhere with chickens, goats, rabbits, guinea-pigs, a donkey and all the rescue dogs I can accommodate. I have such a soft spot for guinea-pigs and remember as a child, I had such a close bond with my own piggie Cyril. They are such endearing little creatures and the way they chirp and communicate their feelings makes that bond even stronger.
Do you have any pets yourself?
I have a rescue dog, Alan who is three and a half. Alan’s mum was taken in as a pregnant stray in Cyprus and so Alan was born in a rescue centre. Once named Loco (which explains a lot!) he came to us at four months old – a little tornado that loved to chew and bite everything in sight. I have such a passion for rescue pets and for raising awareness on responsible pet ownership. We donate 5% of every shoot or model booking to The Wild at Heart Foundation, the charity who brought Alan home to us.
Alan is quite a nervous soul, but we have learnt so much about his personality and I just couldn’t imagine life without him. He needs us and we need him. He’s almost human-like in his expressions, noises and everyday routine. He loves to be with his pack (me and my other half Nik) and I love nothing more than when we get out into the Peak District and explore the great outdoors. Alan never strays too far and always holds back and checks in with us. And, it goes without saying that he’s a bit of a pro at posing and he genuinely loves it when I get my camera out. He will happily sit there and work those angles!
To find out more about Emily at Pet Stories Photography, visit her website: https://www.petstories.co.uk/