When I travel into the city (San Francisco) I take along my furry assistant and mini model, Mila, for the trip. She’s been working with me for awhile now. She trades in Pup-Peroni and DentaStix, and her daily rate is affordable, but I think she’d work for free too without complaint. I’d always rather bring my pup along on photography walks than go solo.
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1. Dogs pose for you
What better way to get test shots of a location than to photograph an assistant? But assistants cost money or at least a glass of wine, so if you’re running a tight ship your dog is a great option. My girl Mila has stood in for me on many location scouting trips. The best part about it is that I now have gazillions of photos of her from all of our adventures.
Would this image have been as interesting without Mila posed in the middle?
2. Dogs break the ice
I find this especially useful for street and travel photography. People are less leery of me walking around taking pictures of their homes, businesses, etc., when I have Mila with me. In fact, they often stop to take pictures of her. Her presence encourages positive interaction and engagement, which is very helpful for me when I am trying to get the pulse of a place. Plus, it relaxes people, which makes for all-around better photography in my book.
Mila always turns heads on the street. Who doesn’t love a dog that knows how to work the camera?
3. Dogs are like kids, they teach you patience
They need to be fed when they’re hungry. They need to drink when they’re hot. They fidget and don’t give you much time to get that winning shot. Oh, and they get tired and need to take naps in the middle of the street. If you thought child photography was difficult, try pet photography.
Mila is an exceptionally well-trained and mature dog, but she still reacts to her basic needs much as a toddler would. Practicing photography with her makes me very aware of my timing and helps me develop my patience, speed, accuracy, and client empathy. Dogs are great “personal trainers” for working with younger or more demanding subjects.
The hunched shoulders tell me all I need to know: it’s time to take a break. Even so, Mila was patient enough to let me snap this shot of her in front of the famous murals at the Mission District Women’s Center.
4. Dogs protect you
I will not lie, the thought of walking solo through San Francisco with the street value equivalent of a small sedan around my neck is somewhat unnerving. Couple that with a lack of situational awareness when I am focused on taking a shot, and I’ve got all the makings for a pretty nice mugging. I always feel better when Mila is with me because (a) thieves don’t like messing with chicks with dogs, and (b) she’s got really sharp teeth. (I learned the hard way not to hand-feed her bacon.) If you can’t take a human friend on your next photography walk, why not take man’s best friend?
Check out that sassy tongue! I challenge anyone to mess with me while my furry bodyguard is on the job.
5. Dogs encourage new perspectives
It’s true that all photographers get into ruts. We get used to taking certain kinds of photos because we’ve had past success with them and therefore know they will be well-received. We have to continually challenge ourselves to seek out new perspectives, and a great way to do this is to imagine seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.
Why not a dog’s? When I work with Mila, I always get inspired to look at things differently because I have to get down on her level or compose shots to complement her smaller size. Just be prepared for lots of dirty knees, soiled shirts, and the occasional funny look as you combat crawl through grass and gutters towards your furry subject.
Get low. Amazing how the scenery changes when you’re 18 inches off the ground.
I love taking my dog with me on photography walks. Does it add some extra complexity? Absolutely. (I realized a little too late that I shouldn’t drink two glasses of water on the way to the city, it’s not easy to find dog-friendly bathrooms!) But I think about the rewards of having a pet companion with you on a photography walk, one that encourages you to interact with your environment and seek out new perspectives. It is well worth the extra effort.
If you don’t have a dog of your own to accompany you, perhaps you can borrow a friend’s.
Scroll below for more images from our San Francisco photography walk. Do you take your dogs on photo walks with you? Please share your photos and thoughts in the comments below:
Black Magic Woman. I never knew Mila was a Santana fan. The things you learn about your dog on a photography walk.
Funky fun style is a must in the Mission! Wear something colorful and bohemian and you are bound to blend in. Mila’s fashion sense led the way to this rack of hot threads.
Dog Friendly. There are lots of lovely outdoor seating options at cafes, making them great places to grab a bite with your furry friend.
I imagine this is what Mila sees when she looks up. The Mission District is renowned for its vibrant murals that celebrate the heritage and culture of the local Mexican community.>
Driveways in San Francisco are often small and on an incline, making backup mirrors like this an important garage accessory. They’re also convenient when you want to take a grungey selfie with your Sheltie.