Created by Minneapolis-based photographer, Sarah Beth Ernhart, Joy Sessions® are special photo sessions just for terminally ill and elderly pets.
They are an opportunity to capture the relationship you have with your pets before they pass. Rather than something sad, it’s meant to be a celebration of their lives, to create tangible memories that you can cherish forever.
As this genre of photography began to grow, Sarah Beth created joysession.com in 2012 as a directory of photographers who offer end-of-life pet photography sessions. By the end of 2016, we had grown to over 450 photographers, representing 42 states and 15 countries.
To provide pet owners with a one-stop-site to discover all the options available to them at this time in their lives, we relaunched in 2017 with a new, comprehensive network of all things related to pet hospice. This unique resource gives owners an easy way to learn about different ideas and techniques, and find practitioners in their area who offer services they need.
Armed with knowledge and compassion, you’ll be better equipped to make the best decision for you and your furry family members.
Joy Sessions® aren’t about pictures of dying pets; they’re about celebrating the relationship and the love you share. They’re about capturing the little things that make them special to you: the expressions, the quirks, the lick on your cheek or the paw in your hands. Our pets are only with us for a short time, but they make a huge impact on our lives – why wouldn’t we want to document something so important to us?
There can be a fine line, however, of when it’s no longer appropriate to invest in a session. It’s best when your pets are still looking and feeling good, so the memories we’re capturing will be happy ones, that you can look back on with a smile.
If your pet has progressed to a point where you don’t want to remember them this way, then simply be grateful for any images you do have from when they were healthy. Treasure the time you have left, and don’t try to force new photographs that will be painful to look at after they’re gone.
Hospice and palliative care for pets (just like hospice for humans) refers to care provided to patients after a diagnosis of a terminal or incurable illness. The goal of hospice and palliative care is to provide your pet with a good quality of life, free of pain and suffering, during this final stage of their lives. Rather than a “cure,” hospice care is meant to provide comfort, pain management, and relief of anxiety.
Each service you utilize during this time can be considered part of your hospice “team.” Every business listed in our network provides a service that can help you during this difficult time. Your journey is unique, and what feels right for one pet owner may not be right for you. We’re here to provide a comprehensive resource so you can learn abut all the options available and make the right choices for you and your pets.
If you are dealing with the impending loss of a pet, you can Search the Network for photographers or service providers, by location or keyword. All the listed businesses within the parameters you’ve entered will appear on the screen.
Premium Members will be listed first, and you can click on their listings to learn more about them, view photos, visit their social media accounts, and even get in touch with them directly through their page.
Explore our Resources for information about the journey of losing a pet, and what options are out there for you.
The blog is a great way to catch a glimpse of what other pet owners and photographers are doing for their photo sessions, learn some practical tips from TJ, and read articles from experts in the pet hospice industry.
You can also share your own stories and photos about pets you’ve loved and lost, to be published on the site!
Every business that offers services to owners with terminally ill or elderly pets is welcome to join the network!
We offer Membership options for any budget, and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Check out the Membership Options to get started.
Premium Listings don’t automatically mean better photographers or businesses; the network is open to everyone who offers something to pet owners experiencing the loss of a pet.
Those who have chosen to purchase a Premium Membership want their businesses to stand out, and to help provide a more robust searching experience for you. You can quickly and easily learn about what they do, and have all their contact information in one convenient location.
All the photographers listed here offer their own versions of an end-of-life pet photography session. “Joy Sessions®” are specific to Sarah Beth Photography, LLC.
Inviting someone into your life at this very personal, difficult time is not a decision to take lightly. You want to feel good about the person you’ll be working with, and confident in their abilities. Every photographer runs their own business in their own way; there’s not a “right way” or a “wrong way,” but some things may or may not work for your individual situation.
Start a dialogue with potential photographers, either via email or phone, and see what feels right. When it all comes together and you’ve found a photographer you love, you’ll both be ready to go into your photo session with confidence and accurate expectations.
Some things to consider when selecting a photographer:
Do you like their style of photography?
Can you envision those types of images in your own home?
Does their portfolio maintain the same quality and style of images throughout?
Will they be able to deliver that style for your session?
Does it seem like their personality will be compatible with yours?
Through their writing and images, you can often get a good impression of the type of energy they will bring to their photo shoots.
How close are they to you?
If you like a photographer who’s not in your city, how far are you willing to travel?
Are you willing to pay travel expenses to have them come to you?
What is their availability?
If this is an urgent situation for you, you’ll want to be sure that the photographer can fit you into their schedule.
Can they accommodate your special needs or concerns?
Perhaps your pet can’t leave your home; some photographers may only shoot in a studio or only outdoors. Maybe your pet has large tumors, shaved areas, or a feeding tube; if hiding or eliminating those things is important to you, do they have the ability to remove them in post-processing? Or do they have ideas on how to minimize those areas during the session?
What are their options for sessions and products?
While costs are certainly an important factor, don’t let it be the only factor. Think about what is most valuable to you, and which photographer might be the best for your unique situation. Are you willing to invest in something higher-end, or will you be happy with a smaller package? Are you interested in an album but they only offer digital files? Does the photographer offer payment plans?
Only you can decide if an end-of-life pet photography session is right for you, and your unique situation.
Do I want to remember my pet this way?
There can be a fine line between capturing happy memories with your pet that you’ll look back on with a smile, and capturing a time in your pet’s life that you’d rather not be reminded of. Investing in a professional photography session is not for everyone or every situation, and if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask the photographer their professional opinion.
How valuable are these images to me?
For many pet owners, end-of-life veterinary care can quickly add up. While you may feel like you’ve already spent too much money, really consider what these photos will mean to you after they’re gone. Most people who choose to invest in a session are incredibly grateful they did it. The photos can help with the grieving process and maintaining a connection with your best friend.
Will lingering medical bills be the only thing you have after they’re gone?
How flexible can I be to make this happen?
Work and school schedules may not line up with your desired photographer’s availability (or the weather, or the right time of day, etc). Are you able to take a couple of hours off to capture these memories?
Do I want to be in the photos with my pet?
This could also depend on how your photographer works, but while many of us dread having our picture taken, I really recommend being in at least a couple of the shots. Chances are, you have very few images of yourself with your pet (since you’re probably the one taking the picture!) and this is your opportunity to capture those memories.
A photo of just your pet can be beautiful by itself, but if you’re in there with him, embracing him, giving kisses, when you look at those photos later, you will be taken right back to that moment: the smell of the grass, the feel of his fur, how you felt in that moment.
A good photographer can incorporate you into images in a flattering way, perhaps without even showing your face.