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“Mutt Mugshots” The Art of the Dog Portrait

If you’ve heard of fabulous lifestyle and wedding photographer Jules Bianchi, you’ve probably heard of Olive, Jules’ four legged side-kick. Jules’ love for her dog is well known, and many clients who feel the same way about their furry children have commissioned her to photograph their weddings and families.

Dog portraiture can be a rewarding and lucrative genre of photography, as well as being a blast! Jules started photographing Olive over 14 years ago, when she adopted the tiny puppy who was only 4 weeks old. Olive has been her muse for every new lens and camera, a new lighting situation, or just because Jules can’t stop capturing her favorite subject. She started “An Olive A Day,” presenting a daily picture of Olive on her own blog, as a personal project to keep herself fresh and to do something fun. It grew into a book, “Olive Goes to Hollywood,” which won an award at the WPPI album competition in 2009.

Jules began attracting more clients who shared a similar love for their furry children, and she found herself photographing more weddings that included dogs in the event. She then started photographing dogs in her studio. Her vision was to create a clean, modern look for dog portraits that was different from the usual shots of a dog in the grass, or chasing a ball. These images captured the personality of the dog unhindered by extraneous distractions. The result was a photography line called “Mutt Mugshots,” focusing specifically on pet portraits. Since launching “Mutt Mugshots,” Jules has photographed dogs for a doggy clothing line, and Facebook sensation mini Pomeranian “Boo,” where Gund used Jules’ image of Boo for a hang tag when they created a toy version of the dog!

If you want to get into the pet portrait business, here are some tips for you!

  1. Get involved with others who love dogs as much as you do. Start exposing yourself to the local dog community by volunteering at a local animal shelter or by getting to know owners of local doggy boutiques and grooming shops. Once you’ve established yourself with others who are connected, start partnering with them to find new clients who are interested in getting their pets photographed.
  2. Start with a fundraiser event to raise money or supplies for an animal shelter or non-profit that supports animals. If you partner with them, you can help get the word out and have a successful event. Your shoot fee can be donated to the non-profit, or perhaps the client can bring a bag of dog food in exchange for a portrait of their pet.
  3. Once you’ve gotten some shoots booked on your calendar, here are things to consider when photographing dogs.
  • First, are you shooting in a studio or at the dog’s home or a park? Photographing a dog at their home makes them most comfortable, and all their doggy supplies will be close by, but perhaps you want the look and lighting of a studio shoot? If that’s the case, build in extra time for the dog to get comfortable with its surroundings. Be aware that popping a flash frightens animals, so if you can shoot with natural light, do it! Otherwise give the dog time to get used to the bright lights.
  • Patience is the name of the game when photographing animals. Be prepared for any accidents (both the housebroken kind and the equipment broken kind) and bring paper towels to wipe up the first kind of accident! Make sure any photographic equipment is out of reach or tied down for the second kind. We had a very rowdy Golden Retriever in our studio once, and didn’t think about the strobe that almost came crashing down when her happily wagging tail knocked it!
  • Get down on the dog’s level to photograph her naturally. Bring a set of knee pads!
  • Bring treats and a variety of noise makers. After awhile, the original noise will no longer distract the dog, and you’ll need something different!
  • Consult with the dog’s owner to make sure that any treats you provide are ok to offer, or ask the owner to bring the dog’s favorite treats.
  • Make sure that the dog’s owner will stay for the shoot, to keep the dog comfortable and controlled.
  • Have a bowl of water as dogs get overstimulated and will need hydration. Don’t go over two hours with shoots, as dogs will get bored and squirrely after a while. Be prepared to start when they get there, but have patience to allow them time to get used to their surroundings.
  • Never schedule dogs at the same time, and give each one a good window between shoots so that the first dog will be gone by the time the second dog arrives.

Photographing pets is a lot of work, but its so rewarding. Especially when your clients pay you in licks!

About Jules Bianchi and Joy Bianchi Brown
Jules and Joy are synergistic sisters who run a successful boutique photography studio in Oakland, California, and travel worldwide to photograph some of the world’s most gorgeous weddings. Jules is an international award-winning photographer who started her wedding photography business eleven years ago and was joined by Joy in 2006. Working together, they have a lot of fun and go through a lot of chocolate.
Jules work has been featured in magazines such as People, The Knot, & Destination I Do. Jules is active in the photography community as a mentor and speaker, most recently as a platform speaker at WPPI and as a featured speaker on Creative Live and regular contributor to Sarah Petty’s Joy of Marketing.

Jules’ favorite thing to do is to capture every day life, but if she isn’t doing that, you can usually find her snuggling with her dog, Olive, or photographing Joy’s two little girls. Jules Cafe came about as a way for her to more easily share with photographers around the world. Check it out for ideas, education, and great products from Jules Bianchi Photography.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!