The Making of Viral Pet Photos

The Making of Viral Pet Photos
The Making of Viral Pet Photos
From senior dogs to fat cats, photographer Pete Thorne captures the magic the Internet goes wild for!


Pete Thorne sort of fell into photographing pets. “I’ve always loved dogs and really wanted one of my own one day,” he recollects. “But I was living in a small apartment and had roommates, so the time wasn’t right.”

What he did have was a small studio. He needed small subjects.

“After a visit to my Grandmother’s for her 100th birthday, I started to notice how seniors were underrepresented in popular culture,” he says. It occurred to him this included senior dogs, and that his small studio was just the right size for photographing animals. The more he thought on it, the more he fell in love with the idea.

“I wanted to photograph them in such a way that is normally used on models," Pete says. "I wanted to show that aging dogs are just as loveable as puppies.”


“I wanted to show that aging dogs are just as loveable as puppies.”


Pete had never before photographed an animal but as a portrait photographer, he had a keen sense of the exact moment when the expression and pose is just right.

Of course, there were some key differences between photographing pets and people. For one, “pets work for food,” Pete laughs.

As he went about his search for senior dogs, he began to receive a lot of emails from people wanting to participate. In order to convince him to photograph their dogs, they were sharing very personal stories of their relationship. “At that moment I knew I had something bigger than just a series of photos,” Pete says.

Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age was born. Overnight, Pete’s documentary project about the lives of these senior dogs and their relationships with their owners was to be a sensation.

Pete sent a simple email detailing the project to one of his favourite photo websites, Petapixel, and by the next morning Old Faithful had gone viral with almost a million views on the Bored Panda site alone. Within days Pete had an agent and a book deal.

The success caught Pete off guard. “I was unprepared for the viral sensation of Old Faithful. I didn’t have an Instagram account for it or a Twitter account,” he says. “It was all pretty wild and if I could do it all over again I would have had a legit Instagram account and media kit prepared, as success these days is often based on how many likes and followers you have, so I missed a big opportunity to build a fan base.”

Lucky for Pete, Old Faithful was not his only kick at the can. Fat Cats, his photo series of “large and in charge” cats, was also a viral sensation, picked up by media outlets around the world.  

Pete’s ability to capture the kinds of moments that resonate with the public has led to shooting campaigns like the Pool Party photos he did as a promotion for Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary. It involved organizing a shoot with a large number of dogs on floaties and lounging by the pool while a documentary crew was on hand for a reality TV series about the rescue organization.

Despite the chaos such an undertaking might involve, there are definite perks to the job. “I get all the cuddles,” Pete says.


Follow @petethepetphotographer on Instagram for more great photos of pets. Pete lives and works in Toronto, ON. Book a shoot by sending him an email at

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