Portrait Session: Ernie
“What if my dog is not comfortable around other dogs?” “What if my dog is anxious in public spaces?” “I have always wanted some nice portraits of my dog, but I’m afraid his personality may not lend itself to it.”
These questions and comments, and a myriad of variation on them are something we hear often. Just like people, animals are individuals, and while some love making new friends and have no problem smiling for the camera, others are a little worried about the idea.
Understanding, and respecting our subjects as the individuals they are is what makes Bill and myself different as animal photographers. When we photograph animals, it is they who outline our portrait session. Knowing your subject intimately, and understanding their body language, behavior and listening to that to ultimately make them comfortable is the number one key to our work. This is the only way to create more than a photograph; this is how you create a portrait, a tribute.
Such was the case with our friend Ernie here. A gorgeous black Labrador we have the pleasure to know through our mutual dog training classes. Ernie is like most Labs: exuberant in his show of affection for people, joyful, sweet, playful and loyal. When it comes to other dogs however, Ernie is more of an introvert. He is selective of his friends and if you ask him, he’d tell you he has all the friends he needs, thank you very much. Interacting or being near dogs he doesn’t know makes him worried and anxious, and in that anxiety, he uses his voice loudly to make sure they keep their distance from him. Ernie is a great dog, and this one trait of his personality does not define the whole Ernie. Thankfully, he has a family who loves and understands him as he is and who actively works with him, protects him, makes him feel safe and comfortable. Ernie hit the jackpot with his family.
So when Lynn (his mom) got in touch about scheduling a portrait session as a gift to her husband Jim (Ernie’s dad), we were thrilled. Ernie has a select group of dog friends, and our own Willow is among them! The two have such a romance that started when they met at dog training class, where our instructor Charlie Reinhart, would often pair Ernie with Willow to work together or side by side, since she observed Willow helped Ernie feel safe and comfortable, even if there were other dogs around.
Ernie’s portrait session would be different on one special account: the presence of miss Willow the Wild, was requested during the session. Willow would become our assistant, helping Ernie relax and ensure he had fun during his time with us.
The result, is a happy dog showing his goofy side; joyful and comfortable in his home, with his two humans, and a great bonus… a leggy lady friend who was happy to pose with him. Willow seemed to know what was needed of her, and she greatly enjoyed romping around with Ernie in their beautiful garden. She is a one-in-a-million dog. Now we may have to upgrade her title! Not to mention, we were able to create a series of portraits for a family who loves their dog. Win, win, win.
P.S. thank you Lynn for the great behind the scenes photos! 🙂
Our sincere thanks to Lynn, for trusting us with her beloved Ernie; and for trusting Willow with his heart and comfort.
A portrait is a tribute, and every great love is worthy of such tribute. Want to photograph your love? We are here for you.