Generous pet photographers offer free end-of-life shoots to heartbroken owners

End of life photographer shoots images of dying pets for free to help grieving pet owners
(Image credit: Lauren Smith Kennedy)

Knowing that time is limited and you'll soon have to say goodbye to your furry best friend is one of the hardest things to endure and can be incredibly painful. A generous photographer is offering free end of life shoots to pet owners expecting to have their animals put down due to unforeseen circumstances, old age or illness. 

US photographer Lauren Smith Kennedy, from Portland, Maine, has started an initiative to help pet owners through their furry friends final moments, making it a bittersweet experience that creates lasting photographic memories as opposed to a dreaded task of saying goodbye. 

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The service offered by Kennedy began as a kind gesture to capture some end-of-life photos of an acquaintance's pet, after posting the finished product online and sharing to Kennedy's social media channels, the reception she received was unbelievably overwhelming. 

People were reaching out to Kennedy offering to fly her out for pet sessions all over the country. Not being able to keep up with such a high demand, she created a resource, the 'Tilly Project', to benefit all pet owners seeking end-of-life photo services by pairing them with photographers.

(Image credit: Lauren Smith Kennedy)

Named after her beloved cat Tilly who sadly passed away, the idea behind the Tilly Project is that it allows other end of life photographers to sign themselves up and be contacted by pet owners who wish to work with them. The website hosts a central list currently composed of over 700 photographers worldwide, and doubles as a dedicated organization and network of supporting resources. 

When asked about the crucial importance and benefit of end of life photography to pet owners experiencing grief, Kennedy shared with us that: "Anticipatory grief begins well before our loved ones have passed away, and I believe that through end-of-life pet photography it allows families to begin processing these heavy and complicated emotions. These sessions, while absolutely heartbreaking, also give a space for families to reflect on the relationships and memories they've created with their pet while capturing long lasting and vulnerable moments at the same time."

(Image credit: Lauren Smith Kennedy)

The organization founded by Lauren Kennedy also aims to provide educational and supportive resources for pet owners who are living with anticipatory grief, and pet bereavement, as well as photographic tutorials for individuals and veterinary staff to assist them with capturing images in moments where a professional photographer isn't always an option. "Once the time has come and their pet has crossed over, these photos act as a tangible way to reflect on that love. There is no right way to grieve, but I believe for many, honoring their pets in such a way can be very helpful." 

Kennedy herself has experienced the grief of losing a pet, her soulmate in the form of a little orange cat named Tilly, prompting the creation of the Tilly project as a means of honoring her. Lauren currently works for Saco River Wildlife Center as their Director of Development focusing on fundraising and donor relations, working on the side as an exceptional end of life photographer too, of course.

(Image credit: Lauren Smith Kennedy)

The future of the Tilly Project may be uncertain, although Lauren is confident and focused on helping as many families as possible. "I am really looking forward to watching the Tilly Project grow in years to come...Since this happened in just a matter of months, I can only imagine how the community will continue to grow. My hope is to have the Tilly Project become a well-known end-of-life pet photography network for families to utilize, and to continue to provide accessible and free resources to both pet owners and photographers."

The stunningly moving collection of images by Lauren can be viewed on the Tilly Project website as well as Lauren's social networks. Thanks are in order to Lauren and the registered end of life photographers for spreading generosity and love for animals all over the world.

(Image credit: Lauren Smith Kennedy)

Be sure to sign yourself up as an end-of-life photographer associated with the Tilly Project if you practise this line of work, or connect yourself with crucial support and guidance resources if you are one of the thousands of people every day that experience the loss of a loved pet.

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.