They say you’re either a dog person or you’re not. I’m definitely a dog person, though it’s been more than 30 years since I’ve been greeted at the door by a wet nose and wagging tail. Much of this is a practical matter. As a professional photographer, my days are unpredictable. One morning I’m in the studio for a fashion shoot and later that day, I’ll have to be in New York City for a wedding that will run into the wee hours of the morning. But the other reason, the real one, is that I can’t imagine replacing Freya, the German Shepherd that occupied such a special place in my childhood and now in my memory.
Growing up in a family with six kids, there was no shortage of comrades or mischief in our house. What Freya provided was something altogether different – the feeling that I had something of my own, that she was not the family dog, rather she was my dog.
Because it was my job to feed her, she was amenable to this arrangement. That’s the funny thing about dogs, the good ones just know how to be the perfect companion. They also make for perfect pictures. Some have those dark gentle eyes. There are dogs with more regal posture than most humans I’ve photographed. And there are those dogs that you’d swear are smiling.
I’ve been fortunate to photograph dozens and dozens of dogs over the course of my career. The shoots have run the gamut from frustrating (the Labrador Retriever that chewed through my camera bag) to comical (the Poodle with the unimaginable gas during the entire sitting). Photographing pets is much like photographing toddlers: It requires endless patience, a knack for making funny noises and no small amount of endurance.
Clients often ask how best to photograph their canine friends. My best advice is to keep treats in your pocket and summon godlike forbearance. Oftentimes, the best photographs are more a matter of happy accidents than well-orchestrated poses. So take your camera out in the everyday moments, and you’re likely to capture the most meaningful reflections of real life and real companionship. In this issue, for instance, it was a pleasure to photograph pianist Misha Dichter with his dog, Thunder. Thunder was the star of the show and a perfect subject, precisely because he was completely his dog-self in his home.
And one other tip: If you have a Labrador Retriever, watch out for your camera bag.
Reach David Bravo at email@example.com.