Creative Photographer Captures Personality of Your Pet

You’ve got to smile. Nine, adorable pitbull mix puppies are piled on top of each other and snoozing, while one lone pup stands and regards the camera inquisitively. 

The distinctive photograph is the work of Sarah Ernhart, owner of Sarah Beth Photography.

What strikes me first about Sarah’s pet photographs is how natural and relaxed the animals look. Yet with her unique touch, the animals have the dignity of professional models. 

Sarah’s artistic eye and her understanding of color and lighting produce photographs that showcase the essence of your pet. Flip through her portfolio and you’ll see a cat perched on a windowsill peering down at you shyly while a dog rolls on his back in unabashed delight!

Sarah’s love of animals is obvious in her work. And through her work she also has been able to give back to rescue animals. Admirably, a percentage of her profits goes to rescue groups for cats, dogs and even chickens in need. 

Paper Bag & String is honored to chat with Sarah: 

Why did you choose to specialize in photographing pets?
I grew up with lots of different kinds of animals, and have always felt a deep connection with them. I've shot weddings and families, and I'm just happier when I'm photographing pets. 

What words would you use to describe your artistic style?
My work is clean and bright, simple and fun. I specialize in capturing the spirit and personality of pets, with good use of composition and color. 

Do you photograph mostly in color?
I always photograph in color, then make edits in photoshop. Sometimes an image is really best in black and white, (often the on-location ones) and I always offer that option to clients. 

I love your work. What most impressed me besides the gorgeous colors of the photographs, is the way the animals appear to be themselves. The pets look comfortable and happy, not posed. Their unique personalities shine through. How do you achieve that?
I think I just "get" animals, and they often seem to "get" me. I'm a pretty calm, easy-going person, and I think they can sense that. I have a ton of patience for pets, and a lot of the session is hanging out with them and their owners, not rushing to get it done. If a dog is stressed, we'll take breaks and regroup when he's ready. If he's nervous, he'll usually sit on my lap. It's a very fluid process. 

Is it harder to photograph cats? Cats are so independent. While dogs might stand on their heads to please us!
I LOVE photographing cats, just for the challenge! I've had clients bring their cats to the studio, and it's always a waiting game to see if they'll sit still, or even look at me. It's definitely easier at a client's home. You can't bribe them with treats, they don't take commands, they just are what they are, and I think that's great.
What if a cat is active or shy? I imagine that can be challenging.
Active is awesome, I love capturing cats playing! Shy is tough. I don't recommend bringing shy cats to the studio, it'll only freak them out more. (My cats HATE traveling) Usually in their own environment we can get them to come out of their shells.

What kind of treats do you "bribe" your dog subjects with? 
I like Zuke's Mini Naturals.... they're small and soft, and don't make a crumbly mess like crunchy treats. Plus they're super smelly and most dogs seem to love them! I have had a couple who just weren't into the treats, so I broke out the "big guns"... cheese slices and turkey.

So you work in your studio or a client’s home?
Most of my clients come to my home studio for the clean, modern look, but I do shoot on location as well. Either the client's home or an outdoor location that they like. I've shot downtown, on college campuses, in the woods and dog parks.... I'll go wherever!

What is your background? Did you grow up wanting to be an artist?
I've always been artistic... I loved drawing and sculpting clay as a kid. I actually wanted to be a marine biologist until I looked into how expensive and far away schools were. Plus I wasn't that into math and science. I ended up going to school for graphic design and fine arts, studied painting and ceramics. I only took one photography class in college and it was mostly darkroom. I'm a self-taught photographer, and my style comes from my sense of design, composition and color. I create all my own promo materials, and still do some freelance design work on the side. 

What pets did you have as a child? 
Too many to count! I've had dozens of cats, a couple dogs, sheep, horses, cows, chickens, rabbits... even had a pet pigeon for a couple years! In the house I had a parakeet, an iguana and a cockatiel. The birds liked to sit on my shoulder while I played piano.

Are you owned by a pet today?
Three, actually. Gracie, the always fabulous Miniature Schnauzer, Simon the tuxedo cat, and Chip Chip the naughty tabby cat.

How admirable that you give back 10% of any photo session to a local nonprofit rescue group. Each month you feature a different animal rescue group. (I’ve posted the list at the bottom of this post.) Could you talk a little about how you got involved with rescue animals.
My whole entrance into the pet community was actually volunteering with a local rescue, photographing adoptable dogs. The more I learn about the reality of abuse and neglect, and the staggering number of animals euthanized every day, the more I have to do something. I can't just sit back, and I'm fortunate to be able to help so many wonderful organizations. It's a really important part of who I am and what I do.

This is the second year of your Giving Back program. I'm impressed. You raised $1,400 for rescue groups last year!
I hope to raise even more this year! The more awareness I can raise about them, the more potential donors are out there. I've gotten a great response from the local groups I've worked with, and they're helping to get the word out about my business as well. 

I was very touched that you offer the owners of terminally ill or dying pets the opportunity to photograph their animals. It must be difficult, a very emotional session.
The Joy Sessions are another huge part of what makes Sarah Beth Photography what it is. They're emotional and heartbreaking, and I usually end up crying right along with the owners. But they're also so beautiful and meaningful. Every Joy Session client has told me how grateful they are to have these images, and it helps them through the grieving process. It's amazing to see and feel how much love people have for their companions. They really bring meaning to why I'm a pet photographer.

What would be the first step in booking a photography session with you?
Just send me an email! We'll chat about what you're looking for and what will be best for you and your 

Where are you located?
I'm in Minneapolis / St Paul, Minnesota where, it's now a balmy -9° 

Do you offer your pet prints for sale? 
I do! You can purchase a few of my favorites in my Etsy shop:

Any memorable sessions with a pet? 
All the Joy Sessions are quite memorable, I think because they're so raw and real, and the owners really open up to me. 

What’s the most unusual animal you photographed?
I got to photograph a pair of Sugar Gliders last year.... when he contacted me, I had to google them to see exactly what they were! They're these super cute little flying-squirrel-type creatures from Australia, and were so fun to shoot!

You have the best job! You get to be creative and work (and maybe play a little!) with animals all day!
I do believe I have the best job ever! There's nothing better than meeting all these great people and their fabulous pets. Each one is so unique, and I'm learning a lot about different breeds along the way. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do :)

Here are the list of rescue organizations that Sarah Beth Photography supports:

January – Chicken Run Rescue
February – Underdog Rescue
March – Save-A-Bull Rescue
April – pending
May – Home For Life
June – Feline Rescue
July – Wags & Whiskers
August – Safe Hands Rescue
September – pending
October – MNSNAP
November – The Pet Project
December – Angel of Hope Cat Rescue

Photo credit: Sarah Beth Photography


  1. That is so cool. Some of these pictures are really pawsome.

  2. Wow! Stunning photographs! Best wishes for Sarah's continued success - and kudos for the donations!

  3. Those really are gorgeous photos and she does capture the purrsonality!

  4. These are terrific photos. Very talented lady, and generous. For some reason I love the one of the brown tabby looking up. It's so ...... cuddly!! lol

  5. Yes, these are beautifully done, and what a great interview! Thank you so much for this fine post!

  6. Beautiful photographs. She has to love animals to get such great shots.

  7. I checked out her site and I'm so impressed! Her photographs really are amazing! She's really able to bring out something special in all of her animal subjects.

  8. What an amazing Photographer. Her photographs are truly beautiful. Not everyone can bring out the best in animals, but she has that special ability. Thanks for featuring her on your blog.

  9. I love these photos! So beautiful! At the same time Sarah is helping animals. It is really wonderful. Thank you for sharing the story :-)

  10. Hi...we had to come and visit our newest follower! Thanks for the sweet comment and we will have to come back and look thru your posts when we got some time. Sarah is amazing, each animal has a 'spark', truly a gifted photographer. Thanks for sharing her with us!

  11. Hi Remington here! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Nice to meet you. I really like your blog -- it's so cool! I am going to follow, not around your living room....just in Blogland....I hope we can be great friends.

  12. What a fabulous post, Ann! She is one terrific photographer and I checked out her site, too. Just wonderful. I sure wish she lived here in Va :)
    By the way, 2 things: first, your book is GREAT. I have been having the best time with it and I don't think there's ever been anything so original. I think it was pure genius.
    Second, I want to pass on an award to you. It is called the Stylish Blogger Award and really should be showing somewhere on your page. Go to my page, grab it up and bring it back here. Very, very deserved :D

  13. Cool pictures and interesting interview! Thanks for stopping by!

  14. We know those Joy Sessions must go a long way to help with the emotional healing after a beloved pet has gone to The Bridge.

    ~Slash & Bronzy

  15. Whiskeratti (I've probably said it before, but I do love your name!) I think the photos are pretty pawsome too.

    CindyLu's Muse: I think it's great Sarah is giving back.

    Brian: Purrsonality! That's the best word! :)

    Carolyn: I love the cuddly tabby too.

    Curator: Thank you! The photos are beautiful!

    Jan's Funny Farm: Yes, to get such great shots you have to love animals
    and they have to love you!

    Catsparella: Sarah does capture that special something each animal has.

  16. Mariodacat: Thank you! I totally agree, she brings out the best in each animal.

    Tamago: Yes, it is truly inspiring she is getting these incredible shots plus she gives back to the rescue community.

    Terri and the Cats of Furrydance: Yes, good word: each animal has a spark. And you are welcome!

    Remington: Nice to meet you too. I don't mind if you want to follow me around my living room. You can visit any day. But if you can't visit me, blogging is the next best thing! Thanks for your nice words.

  17. Luscious Lucy, wow, you made my day! All those nice words, I don't know what to say! Aww, I'm blushing.
    So glad you like my book. :) I had fun with it.

    And the Stylish blogger award, that is too sweet of you! :) I'm just having a ball, so I am pleased that you are enjoying my blog.

    Cheyenne-Millie: Glad you liked the photos! Thanks for stopping by!

    Slash and Bronzy: I totally agree that the Joy Sessions will help with the emotional healing. I appreciate you stopping by.

  18. Absolutely beautiful. I love the very last where one is presented with a beautiful back and hind quarters. ♥


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