An Old Chihuahua on the Couch
I've been cleaning out my hard drive recently, and have unearthed some real gems. Like this dog portrait from many, many years ago. It's such an old image that I don't even remember the session.... I'm sure it was photographed in San Francisco at the beginning of my career because I was still using my Hasselblad 500c (and Ilford HP5 medium format film, of course. What else even is there?) Why do I love black and white dog photography so damn much? Because it does not flood the viewer with unnecessary information- like color. All that's left are tones of gray (and trust me, there are a lot of tones), and emotion. That is a pure recipe for success, in my opinion. It's what I've based my entire dog photography career on, and it's an approach that just does not get tired or dated.
Shooting in color, and relying on saturation and wide angles and close ups and silly mishaps like tongues lolling out or grass on a dog's face - all these things are crutches. They are tricks, short cuts even. Instead of filling a portrait with depth, meaning, emotion, story etc so many dog photographers these days rely on the 'whoops!' factor - hoping they'll get lucky and capture something cute by shooting on auto mode and blanketing the scene with a million exposures. It's certainly an approach that has been proven to be popular, I can say that for sure. But it creates vapid work.
Put your camera on manual, connect with your subject, be in the moment fully and make work with meaning. That's what matters at the end of the day. If this image had been photographed on color film, it could possibly feel a little bit cute. But in black and white all you have are the expressive eyes, that quirky snuggle tooth, the gentle head tilt where obvious we know the dog's human is just out of frame. This is all the kind of content that makes a client tear up, and makes for an unforgettable image. I'm so glad I dug this one up.