China's pet photography boom sees owners paying hundreds of dollars to immortalise cat and dog fur babies in pictures

People in China will pay a high price to have their beloved pet immortalised in a professional portrait.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Pet photography is a booming industry with China's growing number of pet owners willing to pay thousands of yuan for a portrait of their fluffy babies.

As pet ownership has exploded in China in recent decades, photography for almost any occasion has seen owners forking out up to 5,800 yuan (S$1,200) for a visual keepsake of their animals.

Beijing based photographer Jessica Zhang said demand for pet portraits has boomed in the last few years.

"Previously, most of my clients only asked me to photograph their pets on big days such as birthdays and anniversaries," Zhang told China Daily.

People will pay thousands of yuan for the perfect pet picture.
PHOTO: Zhang Tianhang

"Today, pet owners see it as a regular way to openly express their love for the family's four-legged members. They will schedule a pet photo shoot anytime they prefer to do so."

China's National Bureau of Statistics China's pet industry has grown 49.1 per cent from 2010 to 2016.

A research paper by analytics company Pethadoop showed that by 2020 there were more than 100 million pet dogs and cats in China's cities. The pet market for dogs and cats was estimated to be worth 206.5 billion yuan (US$32 billion) in 2020.

The majority of pet owners are people under the age of 30, with 70 per cent born in the 80s and 90s, according to the paper.

Alongside more traditional portraits manipulated images are also popular when it comes to pets.
PHOTO: Zhang Tianhang

"Fuelled by the booming pet market in China, I've got more clients than a few years ago," Zhang said. Most are women born in the 1990s. I've taken photos of more than 30 pet cats for Christmas last year."

Owner of pet photo studio PawPaw Allen Lee said many owners treated their pets like their own children.

"People who have pet photos taken all treat their pets like family members," he told news site Smart Shanghai.

Cat owner Tracey Yang, 29, has spent thousands of yuan on professional photos of her pet cat to display.

"My cat is part of the family," Yang told China Daily. "By capturing daily moments on film, I've amassed keepsakes to cherish forever."

Zhang Tianhang studied photography in the United Kingdom before returning to Beijing and starting his own pet photography businesses.

The majority of pet owners in China are aged under 30.
PHOTO: Zhang Tianhang

"My family did not support my decision to become a photographer, much less a pet photographer," he told China Daily. "They didn't think it was a decent job."

Things have changed since then, with Zhang's company Inpetphoto now boasting seven photographers and two studios with bookings until 2020.

Zhang charges between 3,800 yuan (US$540) and 5,800 yuan (US$830) per shoot thanks to the surge in demand for pet photos.

"The demand for pet photography is increasing and this is due to the overall expansion of the pet market. More and more people are now willing to hire a professional to capture images of their pets," Zhang said.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.