An American mum who stages photoshoots of her three pet guinea pigs, turning them into witches for Halloween and driving Santa’s sleigh for Christmas, has found thousands of like-minded followers on social media.
Nancy Ho Foster, 47, a mum of two teenagers, has an Instagram page for her ‘Royal Furtatoes’ Leo, Polly and Maisie, and has racked up just under 11,000 followers.
Nancy was previously a family photographer, and since leaving her job to become a full-time mum and consultant for arts education and hunger poverty non-profit organisations, has continued her passion for photography, with her pets becoming her models.
With her iPhone, Nancy posts funny snaps of her guinea pigs as movie characters such as Harry Potter or James Bond, as well as fairies and queens.
She also posts photos of her pets with mini props, such as building tools, a barbell, and a canvas and paints.
Over the holidays, Nancy does themed photoshoots for Halloween and Christmas, featuring cauldrons and pumpkins or Santa hats and reindeer.
Nancy is originally from New York State, but has lived in Virginia since 2001 with her husband Brian, 52, as well as her two teenagers, and the family have two American Shorthairs, Leo, who is four years old and Maisie, who is three years old, and Polly, a two-year-old Peruvian.
Nancy was a family photographer from 2009 to 2016, taking pictures of families and their children, especially for the holidays.
She said: “But as my children got older, I decided I did not want to spend my weekends doing photoshoots, I’d rather spend them with my family.
“So I stopped doing that, but I never stopped taking pictures.”
She added: “And so when we got guinea pigs, they became my new models.
“Then, especially when I got a better phone with a better camera, it just became a lot easier to take pictures and to share them.”
The Royal Furtatoes Instagram page has earned just under 11,000 followers since Nancy started the page in December 2019.
The page reads “Guinea pigs (furry potatoes, or furtatoes) are royalty in our house” and features hundreds of posts, each earning hundreds if not thousands of likes.
“I’m proud to be as round as these pumpkins! – Leo” reads one seasonal post showing Leo among a cart of miniature pumpkins.
Nancy explained how it all began, saying: “I was talking to a friend who has a bunny, and was telling her that I liked sharing the piggy photos on Facebook, but I didn’t feel like my Facebook friends really cared.
“So she mentioned that she actually had an Instagram page for her bunny.
“People there were more of a pet community on Instagram. So we decided to try that.
“We posted some pictures on Instagram and the page just took off.”
The whole process usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, Nancy explained: “I always have a treat for the piggy. I give them a veggie treat like cucumbers or parsley while taking the pictures.
“I have to set up the photoshoot area, whether it’s a chair outside or some other area outside, for the best natural light, and then I have to get the prop.
“I have to get the pigs, and I take the pictures in a few minutes but I can take over 100 photos to get one favourite. And then I’ll do some editing.”
She laughed: “Pretty Polly is a diva but she can be a very messy eater so sometimes we like to highlight her mess, we don’t even need a prop.
“Maisie is sweet and shy – she’s an excellent model because she just sits there.
“Leo is also an excellent model, he’s a funny, chunky boy, but also very sweet.”
She added: “They’re fantastic models and we like to incorporate a lot of colour and props.
“And with having children, we just have a lot of fun things around the house.
“We have a lot of toys and accessories that we can use as props to make these pictures a little bit more fun.”
She said: “I’m always looking for inspiration. So sometimes if I’m in a store, and I see something that might look like a good prop, I can’t resist and I buy it.
“Or if I see something on the shelf that the kids don’t play with any more, I might use that.”
Nancy also does Christmas-themed photoshoots, such as incorporating presents, Santa’s sleigh or a mug of hot chocolate.
In the Instagram pet community, there are often photo ideas for each day on the run up to the day itself, and Nancy often uses those themes as inspiration.
She said: “I take photos with things like a cute little reindeer or a letter to Santa’s mailbox and I wanted to put them inside of it.
“And even just a simple big red bow that we had for a present – I stuck it on Leo’s head once.”
She added: “I try not to put clothing on them. That’s restrictive because they’re uncomfortable. I don’t mind little hats or bows. They can just shake their head and they fall off.”
Nancy explained how it feels to have such a large following, saying: “I’m still so surprised that we have such a following but very thankful for the interest and support.
“My main goal really is to share these pictures and try to entertain people.”
She added: “We try to make the pictures funny or entertaining, whether it be with funny facial expressions or funny captions.
“And I really appreciate when followers comment and tell me that our pictures brought them a smile for the day. So it feels good.”