By Gina King
When Abby Malone was a young child, her family traveled from Arkansas to Ocean City, New Jersey, to visit her grandfather. Accompanying her were her pet raccoon and a sugar glider, a small pocket-sized marsupial native to Australia. She was an animal lover through and through. So it was no small leap for the child to grow up and become a pet photographer.
Today, Malone is the owner of Pawsonality Pet Photography in Little Rock, and she photographs all kinds of animals, usually along with their owners.
Animals have always had a place in art, whether it be cave drawings or oil paintings, and pet photography has been around as long as the camera has been in use. One of the earliest animal photographs is Dog Sitting on a Table, taken about 1854. Fast-forward to the 1970s and many will remember the memorable shots by artist William Wegmans’ pet dog, Man Ray, a sleek and handsome gray Weimaraner who posed for funny and odd pictures.
Malone took her passion and love for animals and parlayed that into successful pet photography business. It wasn’t a path she had planned on taking. With a degree in Spanish, Malone had been active in martial arts but after competing and coaching, she had to curtail the sport because of age and injury. Photography was always in the background, though. She bought her first digital camera and set out to learn everything she could about photography.
“Down the road, carving out a niche in pet photography was something that came natural to me,” Malone said. “Relating to pets as far as photography was easy because I am comfortable with them and I know how to make them happy.”
Malone’s business caters to a variety of customers, but her target demographics are younger married couples who don’t yet have children and older couples with grown children. Both groups consider pets to be valued members of their families.
Taking pet pictures can be challenging, but Malone doesn’t have any horror stories other than the usual rowdiness and excitement; getting their owners to calm down is another story.
“Part of my job is reassuring and cuing the humans more than the pets,” Malone said. “It’s a lot easier to get a pet to act natural versus a human.”
To get a good photo, Malone said she has to channel the pets’ feelings and energy knowing that they feed on the photographer and her feelings. A bigger challenge is making sure people look good in the portraits. With an animal, things tend to move more quickly and the picture has to come together fast. But it can take just an instant to take that special one.
An award-winning photographer, Malone plans to continue her business in what has become a booming business. “Making a pet happy and letting it show a little personality is a key hallmark of what I do,” Malone said. “It’s a great time, market-wise, for pet photography.”