Wednesday, July 23, 2008


One of the things I do at Toronto Animal Services is take pictures of the dogs to be used for their adoption profiles on the adoption website. Often there are time restrictions and so I try to limit my time shooting each dog to about 5 minutes. I'm not trying for art but I do try to get something with personality and in focus.

I can never guess how a dog is going to react in front of a camera. Sometimes the most placid dogs go absolutely wild when I stick a camera in front of their noses; sometimes the crazy jumpers settle right down. It's as if they know there's something strange going on and so they must react to it, do something, something different, whatever that might be.

For example, this little nutbar, Olivia, was a terror walking over to the shoot location. I brought her along with poor Irene who was straining at the end of her leash to get as far away as possible from the you-must-play-with-me-now puppy antics of Olivia. Olivia was like the spring you couldn't get back in the watch. She'd jump on Irene; I'd pull her back; she'd jump on Irene; I'd pull her back; she'd jump on Irene. It's a good thing she's only 10 kilograms because after a hundred of those pull backs, it felt like I was playing tug of war with an anvil.


But then, as we get to the grassy spot and I pull out the camera, she whines a couple of time and then magically settles down. To look at the picture, you'd think she was contemplating the meaning of her life. Irene looks okay in her photo but I think you can see she's still a little bit frazzled.


When I take the dogs' pictures, I try to get at least a couple of shots of them looking straight into the camera. The eye contact usually works well with the human viewers although sometimes the square on face shot doesn't do the dog justice. They've often got a lot of character in the profile of their muzzle which gets lost when you see the dog straight on. In Blacky's case, I chose a 3/4 profile shot over the full on shot because in the full shot, her black furry face looks too flat.


With Boomer, Blacky's partner on this photo shoot, there was a lot of expression around his eyes so I chose the straight on image in his case.


Dominick and Smiley were no problem at all to photograph, except that I was a bit worried about Smiley's limp on the way back. She didn't seem to mind, though, as every so often she'd do a downward dog at Dominick trying to get him to play.



The last photo of the day was of the nameless pug with the protruding tongue. Chubby guy, very friendly but I had a hard time getting him to sit still. I think the only reason he did finally decide to stop trying to kiss the lens and sit down was because of the heat. I quickly snapped a few shots and got him back inside.

Chub pug

I try to take the photos which hopefully show the dogs in visually appealing poses. Sometimes this doesn't totally jive with their true natures. Like any picture in a family album or on the cover of a glossy magazine, photographs are not meant to duplicate reality. They leave out the life history and future potential. They only show that piece of reality the photographer wants the viewer to see.


Anonymous said...

Very nice photos. You've done an especially good job with the black dogs - not an easy thing to do at all.

I wish some of the local shelter folk could get better help with photography. I sometimes wonder if the reason that black dogs are harder to find homes for is that, even if they're stunningly beautiful, they're freakin' nearly impossible to photograph well.

Fred said...

TAS used to rescue dogs from a high kill rate shelter in Ohio for adoption up here. A lot of those dogs were black labs (or lab mixes) and that was the first time I heard about the black dog syndrome. As it turned out, all those black labs were quite popular and quickly found homes.