Picture Purr-fect

August 2019 View more

Domino, a mixed breed

By Annemarie Mannion

It may take some gentle urging—a treat, a brightly colored toy or blowing some bubbles, but the cats, rats, dogs, ferrets, lizards, parrots, and other animals that regularly visit NixPack Pet Photography in Oswego (nixpackpetphotography.com) are soon ready for their close-ups.

The studio is owned by Naperville resident Claudia Nix, a seventh grade special education teacher at Jefferson Junior High School in Naperville, who is also a part-time pet photographer.

Nix is mostly self-taught, and used to take pictures of weddings, parties, and people, but found she was always drawn to animals.

“Everywhere I went, if someone was walking their dog … I’d always take a picture of their animal,” she says.

Eventually, doing weddings and other standard photography gigs became too much of a rat race. 

“I decided to stop spreading myself so thin,” she says. “I wanted to focus on what I love—animals.” 

It’s not easy to get an animal to pose for the perfect shot, says Nix, who often asks clients to bring a special toy or other item that their pet loves. 

“You can’t just say to a dog or cat, ‘Hey, look over here and tilt your head,’” she says. “I like the challenge.” 

Nix uses a single-lens reflex camera that enables her to control the shutter speed, lens, aperture, and other photography settings. 

“You’re controlling it manually so you’re doing things exactly as you want,” she says. 

Even with that control, it’s no easy task to get the best shot. 

“It takes patience to capture that split second—that perfect moment,” Nix says. 

Nix takes photos in her studio or in other settings, like a park or backyard. A session usually lasts about an hour. The cost for a Wet Nose session for up to two animals is $125. Clients pay an additional cost if they want prints or a larger, canvas wall hanging.

The first part of a session is set aside for letting the animals roam and get used to her 500-square-foot studio. 

“I only let one animal in at a time because it’s kind of intense for them,” she says of her studio. “There are so many different smells.” 

Nix keeps the cost of the sessions fairly low because she doesn’t have an assistant; she relies on the owners to help wrangle their pets. 

“If the dog jumps off the table they’re going to have to go and get him,” she says about clients. “I always tell the owners that they’re going to get a pretty good workout.”

For cats and dogs, getting a good picture may be about catching a winsome or adorable expression, but for snakes, lizards, and birds—or the tarantula that Nix once snapped—it’s all about capturing their beauty. 

“You’re trying to get the lighting really nice to bring out all the details, like the hair on the body of a tarantula or cockatoo spreading its wings and headdress,” she says. 

Some people bring clothes for their pets to wear, says Nix, who has taken photos of a bulldog in a tutu and a rat in a cheerleading outfit. Costumes are not necessary for each photography shoot, however. 

“I prefer to concentrate on the pet,” Nix says. 

Nix also offers an Evermore session for a $75 fee, which is for terminally ill animals. Melissa and Jehoshuah Knapp of Morton Grove wanted to have a photograph of their dog, Domino, who passed away in January at the age of 15. He was a mixed-breed dog with a white coat, big black spots, bright brown eyes, pointed ears, and a curly tail. 

“Our Domino was a strong, proud pup, and very handsome,” says Melissa. “The pictures we got were very representative of this.” 

The couple also were in some of the pictures with him. 

Nicholas, a domestic shorthair

“Our photos together with him were wonderful and showed the special bond we had with him,” Melissa says. 

She adds that Nix was really easy to work with. 

“We worked in a forest preserve and backtracked quite a bit to spots that she felt were the best for the time of day to capture my little pup,” Melissa says. 

The Knapps purchased 15 photos. Some are in their wallets and three are hung in their home. 

“They are wonderful reminders of the memories we had with Domino,” Melissa says. 

As challenging as her job is, Nix says it’s rewarding. 

“You can’t take a bad pic of an animal,” she says. “Even if a cat closes its eyes, it is still cute.” 

Photos by Nixpack Pet Photography