Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pet Portraits for the Holidays

Trying to write about doing pet portraits is always kind of awkward for me. I think photographing someone's pets has to be one of the most confusing and difficult propositions. It's one thing to photograph your own pet...where the concept of "Owner's Pride" covers all manners of sins. But when you step up to having your pet's life recorded as an image, it gets very personal. How will this person see my pet? Will they feel like they can trust my animal? Will the animal behave and if it doesn't will everything go awry? How will I look with my pet? Do I even really want to be in the picture? Is this really what I want? All of these issues are at the heart of the vulnerability inherent in pet portraiture.

That vulnerability makes photographing pets very intriguing to me. I am always curious what owners want to capture in the final portrait. Do they want to see their pet relaxed? Resting? Actively engaged in play? Interacting with their human? Interacting with other pets? Doing something silly? These questions really help me uncover more about the personality of the animal (and the owner), while I think about lighting and composition.

With this portrait of our friends Carol and Gordon, and their dogs Doolan and Grendel, we wanted to do an indoor portrait. They wanted something like a family portrait, in the living room with midday light pouring in the big front windows. They wanted that relaxed feel of sitting by the couch, and both dogs, present but relaxed.  Both dogs were extraordinarily patient. We tried shooting from a few different vantage points, but in the end, working indoors was the main limiting factor. I can't wait till we can do some outdoor portraits of these two handsome dogs! 

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