Jennifer Waters has nothing against weddings, babies or high school seniors. But she can’t deny a compelling desire to capture a retriever’s outward joy as it leaps off a dock or the seasoned eyes of a family’s long-loved lab as it looks out to the lake.
“Grumpy Pups is now in its third year of business, and growing every year,” says the Hudsonville-based pet photographer, who offers services throughout West Michigan from Muskegon to South Haven and all of greater Grand Rapids. “It turns out that pet photography is quite common in other parts of the country, but in West Michigan it was almost unheard of when I started.”
It was Waters’ love for her own three boxers that launched this niche business, which often takes clients by surprise.
“What starts out as someone wanting to get a few nice photos for their walls or office desk turns into something so much more,” she notes. “We put effort into finding a great location on the water or in the woods, in the snow or on a favorite trail. We time it just right to get that really great light. And for one or two hours, we just focus on having fun so that there is joy in the photos, and a great emotional memory as well.”
Sadly, many customers call when they know they don’t have much time left with their pet, Waters says. “Those sessions actually end up being very joy-filled,” she reflects, “because we really focus on the loving bond between owner and pet, rather than on the sadness of the inevitable separation.”
With lake dogs, Waters often finds that owners want to capture their canine doing a specific activity that it loves, like dock-diving or swimming. Sometimes that means a boat needs to be cleared out or shoes need to be kicked off for the best angle, she notes. “But these small efforts can be what set a picture apart. And when an owner sees the photos and says, ‘That’s exactly how I wanted to remember my dog!,’ it’s all worth it.”
View more of Waters’ work at grumpypups.com.