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DOGS ON FILM: A Blog

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Izzy the Chocolate Lab at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Though most of the time I meet my wonderful clients and their dogs in their home for our Photography Sessions, sometimes clients just don't want to photograph in their houses. And of course, I understand. Maybe you're in the process of moving, or maybe you're in an apartment that you know won't be your forever home and you just don't want to center this really important moment in your lives around a place that just doesn't feel like home to you. I get it. I've always got a few very special, very beautiful San Francisco dog photography locations in my back pocket for clients just like this. And Golden Gate Park is one of those places..... but these wonderful pathways and wooden staircases and dappled light locations are pretty secret. Maybe you can guess where exactly in the park I met Izzy the senior Chocolate Lab and her sweet family?

San Francisco Dog Photography in Golden Gate Park

San Francisco Dog Photography in Golden Gate Park

Justin grew up with Labs, and he brought Izzy (that's Isabella for short) into his life when she was just a tiny puppy. Then Steve came into their lives and Izzy has started growing old in the middle of a truly kind, warm and loving family. Steve wanted to get his partner a truly special birthday gift, so he commissioned me as a surprise for Justin and when we all met at Golden Gate Park this past Summer in San Francisco on a warm Saturday morning dog photography session there were a lot of laughs and smiles and, of course, tennis ball fetches. 

Dog Photographer in San Francisco

Dog Photographer in San Francisco

I know it's a little selfish, but I really love private commissions that are surprise gifts. It just makes everyone feel a little extra special. Justin probably would never have given himself the gift of truly beautiful portraits of his beloved Izzy — not because he thought it was a silly idea, or because he doesn't like photography — but because giving ourselves permission to honor the things we love in such an intimate way really takes a lot of self love. And that's not easy to come by. So when clients are hesitant about scheduling a Photography Session with me I always try to put myself in their shoes, think about what is making them think twice. The investment is one thing, because commissioning an artist and curating a collection of hand-made fine art prints certainly is not cheap. But the real reason people hesitate to book a session with me is typically because they feel a little embarrassed to give them self such a meaningful gift. They'd prefer someone get them the gift instead, which I of course understand. 

But you know? Sometimes we just need to splurge on ourselves. Whether it is a new fancy pair of winter boots (which I just bought for myself so my toes don't freeze while walking Pancake in the snow - totally worth it!), or something a bit more personal, like black and white portraits of your beloved animal companion. We all deserve to feel loved and taken care of, and giving yourself portraits of the ones you love is one of the most powerful ways of doing that. 

As you can see, Izzy and her family love each other and we all had a very special and meaningful dog photography session in San Francisco, somewhere deep in Golden Gate Park. I can't wait to get these prints together for them. 

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Black and White Photography as a Practice

Black and white dog photography has been my specialty for nearly the past decade, and people often ask why I don't shoot in color. First, it's what everyone else does - so why do it? I'm not interested in letting my work look like everyone else's work, and photographing exclusively in black and white lets my style stand apart. But the real reason is that my mind understands things much better without color. Black and white photography literally forces the photographer (and viewer) to create meaning in a truly pure way— because without color, all you have is tonality. And getting to play with the countless possibilities of tonality and greys and whites and blacks is just so exciting for me as an artist. 

When you take away color, you are forced to focus your imagery and let the strength of your photographs rest on composition, emotion and connection. This is what I love most about photography. Here's a great site I ran across that echoes those sentiments: 

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Dog Photography Gift Certificates

The holidays are just around the corner, and that means it's time to start thinking about the perfect gift for dog lovers. Trust me, there will be more lists about 'perfect gifts for dog lovers' on the internet in about one minute than you can even count. Companies love to get onto these lists, and I have to say— I've been on a handful of them over the years. It's a nice honor!

But most of those 'gifts for dog lovers' lists are full of cheap toys and pet products. You know I'm not into that kind of stuff. So, here's my suggestion for you: get your loved ones a Fine Art Dog Photography Gift Certificate this holiday from our studio. I guarantee you, it will go over well. 

Personalized dog photography gift certificate from Jesse Freidin Photographer.

Personalized dog photography gift certificate from Jesse Freidin Photographer.

Gift Certificates from the studio include a Photography Session, Presentation and Curatorial Meeting, and a selection of prints that you and I will customize specifically for the recipient. I'll then send you or the recipient your personalized Gift Certificate in the mail, and they'll have all the information they need to get their project started. Dog Photography Gift Certificates never expire, and are such a special way to give friends and family the chance to celebrate their beloved companions. 

Let me know if I can help you put together aa really special, unforgettable gift this season by contacting me through the contact page

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Diane Arbus's Exhibit at the Met in New York

Diane Arbus has long been one of my photography heroes. Her grainy, intimate voyeuristic work lit a fire in me when I first became interested in portraiture, and I find myself constantly turning to her for inspiration and cosmic support. The Met in New York is currently showing a never-before-seen collection of Diane Arbus' very early work, all done on her 35mm camera (not the medium format square portraits she is so known for, which came later). These prints and negatives were hidden in a storage space for years, then uncovered in 2007, and the exhibit began to take shape. 

I can't wait to visit this exhibit when I'm in New York for New York dog photography sessions in September and November. Getting to stand in front of a hero's work is one of the most incredible feelings, and always recharges my creative batteries. Let me know if you want to come along!

Exhibit info can be found here. 

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How'd You Get That Shot!?

New York Dog Photography

New York Dog Photography

Here's another photo I get questions about all the time. It's a true, long time favorite of mine and always catches people's eyes when they look through my portfolio. This is an image I created for one of my very first clients, believe it or not, in a backyard in San Francisco. 

My client had a Bloodhound, a Pitbull and another hound mix. They were all pretty rambunctious, yet also a bit people-shy at the same time. So, I was really on my toes during the entire dog photography session. I wanted to keep the dogs and my client calm, yet I knew that if I showed any stress or anxiety the dogs would quickly pick up on it and avoid me. So I played it cool and simply observed them and their human interacting, being so sweet with each other. My client mentioned that the Bloodhound and Pitbull and been with her for so many years, and were not getting old and dealing with some health issues. So for her, a portrait of them together was her main goal. 

After trying to get to sit together in a relaxed way, and continuing to fail, my client had this crazy idea of putting them on leash and wrapping their leashes gently around the fence she was in the process of installing in her yard. Her yard, by the way, was all dirt because she in the middle of putting in fresh grass. So we had to bring out Minnie (the Pitbull)'s favorite soft pink blanket and lay it down so that she'd sit still. It was a real circus out there for a few minutes but as my client was wrangling both her excited dogs I stepped back, loaded a few extra rolls of film, and framed up this portrait. I focused on the Bloodhound, closed down my aperture to make sure I pulled in as much focus and detail as possible, and simply waited for my client to step out of the frame. 

As soon as she did, the dogs looked worried. I wondered if this would even work at all. But as always, I waited patiently and quietly with my hands holding my Hasselblad (with the waste-level view finder) as still as I possibly could. My hands were shaking soon after because that is a heavy camera, and my palms were sweating. All of a sudden the dogs started singing, and everything fell into place. It was the hound that got it going, and then the Pitbull chimed in. Their song was soulful and scratchy, and beautiful to watch. I stayed in my place and shot through two whole rolls of film, just letting the dogs move through the moment, making sure I landed on one or two great portraits. 

The result is above, and it's pretty great. I made an enormous edition of this for my client's home, and kept one in my studio ever since. 

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Long Island Puppies

New york dog photographer

New york dog photographer

Oh man. What a hilariously fun New York dog photography session! It was a hot, muggy Summer day in Long Island, and I had two floppy, happy Golden Retriever puppies on my hands, and one very distinguished senior Golden. We played in the big, beautiful yard, rolled around in the mud (well, I didn't do that part), almost fell in pool (yes, we ALL did that), and finally came inside and cooled off on the stone mud room floor. So much fun. 

Dog Photography in New York

Dog Photography in New York

This dog photography session in New York was a birthday gift for my client, and we really had fun with it. As always, I asked my client what his favorite thing to do with the dogs was and he showed me this very special gravel driveway where they always go for little jogs together. The light was perfectly shaded, the texture wonderful, and the imagery beautiful. 

I also encouraged the whole family to get involved, and love these family portraits. This couple has had Golden Retrievers in New York ever since they met, so these two new puppies were really meaningful. It was very clear to me how much the dogs brought this family unit together, and I loved getting to witness and photograph that bond. 

New York dog photographer

New York dog photographer

New York dog photography

New York dog photography

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Bo the Boxer at Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Pet Photography in San Francisco

Pet Photography in San Francisco

After photographing dogs in San Francisco for nearly 10 years, Bo the Boxer puppy was the first dog who ever really wanted to eat my camera strap during our fine art dog photography session at Ocean Beach. By the time we were done, I think everyone was completely covered in sand and dog slobber — which for me — means a productive day at the office. 

Photographing big, excited puppies in an enormous open space is not easy. Especially when you've got elements like harsh sunlight and crashing waves to deal with. But, those challenges are exciting to me as an artist. I love an easy, peaceful dog photography session in a calm, quiet shady space. Those are easy and sweet and flow so nicely. But I need to be challenged in my work or else I get bored, so this session in San Francisco with Bo was a great way to put that into practice. 

More importantly though, Bo was such a good dog. He loved his people, and his people just adored him. They were head over heels in love with this dog, and as I so very often see, this dog brought the family together. Bo wrapped his humans up with love and playfulness and attention and it moved me to see such loving connections between all three of them. I'm truly lucky to get to witness that kind of emotion and loyalty on a daily basis. It honestly makes me tear up every time I see it, because I know that feeling first hand, and because I know how important it is to love and be loved. For some reason, this fine art dog photography session with Bo — though it was a bit of a sandy juggling act — really inspired me. 

Dog Photography in San Francisco

Dog Photography in San Francisco

San Francisco Dog Photographer

San Francisco Dog Photographer

And, if you are familiar with my work, you know that there's nothing I love more than a beachy landscape with a dog running right through it. Give me foamy textured waves and paw prints in the sand and flapping ears and paws mid air — print it huge and hang it above the couch and I'll call it a day done right. 

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NBC's 1st Look Episode with Cooper and Ashley Roberts

Cooper on NBC's 1st Look with Jesse Freidin Dog Photographer

Cooper on NBC's 1st Look with Jesse Freidin Dog Photographer

A few months ago NBC asked me to shoot an episode of 1st Look with Ashley Roberts (this season's host) and her awesome dog Cooper. I was already in Los Angeles for dog photography clients at the time, so I booked a day at my good friend's Downtown studio (at the Factory Arts Building, where my old Los Angeles dog photography studio used to be) and prepared myself for a fun and challenging day on set. 

The 1st Look crew was great, and Cooper and Ashley were a lot of fun to work with. Cooper had just spent the past day socializing with various famous dogs of Instagram, and getting groomed  by my friends at Pussy and Pooch (the best dog store in LA). So, he was a bit exhausted from all the attention — which made for a hilarious dog photography session. Most of the time, he just wanted to shut his eyes and take a nap. I don't blame him, being on TV is not easy. 

Jesse Freidin Dog Photographer

Jesse Freidin Dog Photographer

It's always good to know people in the film industry in Los Angeles, because they have access to the best props. So I had a set decorator friend of mine pull the perfect tiny armchair for Cooper's portrait. NBC said they wanted to show his funky, stylish side. And this miniature leopard print armchair could not have been more perfect. They also brought in some fake grass and a fire hydrant - which were fun to play around with as well. 

I asked Ashley to sit in with Cooper for a bit and just spend some time with him, which is what I ask my regular dog photography clients to do during every session. Ashley adores Cooper, and these images were easy to make because there was so much connection and love present. Be sure to catch the 1st Look episode TONIGHT on NBC, right after SNL!

Dog Photographer in Los Angeles Jesse Freidin

Dog Photographer in Los Angeles Jesse Freidin

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Dixie the Dog in New York (and a cat)

"Our session was so dang excellent and I can't stop looking at the prints we ordered. They are so beautiful and honest, and they truly make me feel loved and happy. I really can't say enough about them. Thank you for this truly special gift you've given us."

-Max, New York

New York dog photography

New York dog photography

This is the second time Dixie's mom has commissioned me for a New York dog photography session. Our first session was six years ago, when Dixie didn't have any grey on her muzzle (well, none of us had any grey on our muzzles back then...) - we had a great shoot in New York's Union Square in early winter and the light was just perfect and the images grainy and timeless.  Now Dixie's family has grown- a new forever person, and that person's forever cat. 

So to update their print collection, honor Dixie's noble saunter into her senior years, and celebrate a birthday AND an engagement (!), I returned to New York to create a whole new series of black and white dog portraits that wrapped all those lovely feelings up into a set of strong portraits. It was just so much fun. This family overflows with love, connection and kindness and it's simply a joy to work with them. 

New York dog photography

New York dog photography

New York dog photographer

New York dog photographer

Yet again, after sending my hand-printed photographs to my client I woke up to a truly amazing email testimonial (you can read it at the top of this post). Nothing's better as an artist when you know that you and your client both walk away with an equal amount of gratitude. That's really the magic of commissioned work. 

Dog photography New York

Dog photography New York

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Fall Dog Photography Sessions in the Berkshires

Fall in New England is something everyone should experience, and I'm sure most of you already have. Maybe you grew up here, or maybe you're a New Yorker and you take day trips to the Berkshires, or Western Mass, or upstate New York on the weekends in the Fall to check out the leaves and eat some fresh picked apples and have a maple creamy and bring home some enormous pumpkins and go antiquing and peep some leaves and hike some of our amazing local trails. 

Either way, there's nothing better than Fall in New England. Which is why I now offer very special two-day Fall Dog Photography Sessions in North Adams — the heart of the beautiful Berkshires. When you schedule a Fall Dog Photography Session you'll receive a personal Guide to the Berkshires with info on our cozy local bed and breakfasts, two tickets to MassMOCA (one of the best contemporary art museums in the world), a very special fine art dog Photography Session out on the trail amongst the beautiful fall leaves, and a Presentation in my studio the following day to curate your print collection with my assistance. 

Make it a weekend getaway from Boston or New York, or jump on a plane from San Francisco or Los Angeles and spend a week in the Berkshires. 

I'll only be offering these Fall Dog Photography Sessions during October, which means there will be a very limited number available. For more information, shoot me an email via our contact form. 

Dog Photography in the Berkshires

Dog Photography in the Berkshires

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