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Portraits and Photos Unique, Fun Way to Pay Tribute to Pets

Commissioning pet portraits and photos is a unique way to turn your love for your furry family members into stylish artwork for your home. Most animal lovers already have countless photos of their pets on their phones; they use them as screensavers and post them on social media to brag about their cuteness. So why not take that obsession with pets one step further by booking them their own photo session or commissioning their portrait?

From photo sessions with pets as the stars to contracting with local artists to capture their essence, pet owners have options. And since pet portraits and photos make even better gifts for family and friends, it may be worth considering for those in search of a memorable present.

Sitting Pretty for Pet Portraits

“A custom-painted oil or watercolor portrait is a one-of-a-kind gift to cherish forever,” said Yelena Lamm, a Pittsburgh artist specializing in people and pet portraits. “In my portraits, I strive to show not only a physical resemblance but to reflect on their personalities and unique characters.”

Lamm works from photographs sent to her by clients or when possible, from photos she has taken herself of her subjects. She prefers to meet the animals before painting them to get a feel for their personalities.

“If I cannot meet with the models in person, I want to see multiple pictures of them, from different angles, in different settings. I want to know more about them to capture their essence,” she explained. “I like to hear stories people tell about their pets. This emotional connection with my subject helps to create a successful portrait, and my clients can feel it when they see the result.”

An artist all her life, Lamm credits her evolution as an artist and the shift in her artistic style to her cat, Rio. Lamm only started painting family pets and other animals in 2018 after her Maine Coon kitten got sick. He needed knee surgery and was miserable, Lamm recounted.

“I was heartbroken. I painted his first portrait as my own art therapy and decided to offer pet portrait commissions to raise money for his surgery,” she explained. Since then, she has continued painting pets and animals.

She does not limit her portraits to the usual cats and dogs and other indoor family pets, however. Lamm has painted alpacas, cows, chickens, goats, horses, llamas, pigs, roosters and squirrels as well. “I’ve even done a portrait of a fish,” she said. “I really want to paint a bunny and a parrot.”

Humans who want to appear in portraits with their furry friends have that option as well. Lamm is open to most requests, and you can learn more about how to commission a piece at

Say Cheese for the Camera

Yvonne Pavlik, owner of Portrait Princess in Tarentum, began taking pictures of pets while working in her mother’s photography lab and studio back in 2003.

“We used to take pet event pictures, and I was always able to get the right look from the pet, even from the most hyper dog,” she said.

Now an accomplished photographer in her own right, Pavlik uses her love of animals to offer something more personal than the ‘sit-with-Santa-style’ holiday photos, working mostly with cats, dogs, and small family pets.

“I’ve always had a love for horses, and I’d love to expand my portfolio to all sizes of pets,” she said, adding that she welcomes requests from pet lovers with animals of all sizes and encourages them to contact her to discuss their needs.

Pavlik has several package deals available and can photograph pets in the studio or on location. For studio shoots, pets relax in a controlled environment on custom-staged backdrops. Props and costumes are permitted. Pet owners who would prefer a location shoot can designate where to meet, and Pavlik and her team will travel to the site. Learn more at

Painting Your Own Pet

Pet owners who want to try painting their own pets also have options. Painting With A Twist has locations in Penn Hills and the South Side of Pittsburgh where budding artists can go to create their works of art—and knowing how to paint in advance is not a requirement. The pet owner sends in a photo of their beloved pet, and the talented artists at Painting With A Twist take the photo and turn it into a sketch. All that pet lovers have to do is paint between the lines during their class. A staff member guides guests through the process to ensure they create the perfect portrait of their furry friends. Find a complete listing of all the paint-your-pet workshops at Painting With A Twist on their website at

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