No Bones About It

Julie Gallagher


San Francisco-based photographer Ann Hamilton has learned to dole out snacks sparingly during her canine photo shoots. Otherwise “treats can be the death of the session,” she says, because the dogs can become fixated on them. Among the less risky tools she uses to peak the dogs' curiosity are expression-invoking squeaky toys and whistles. “This works to open their eyes more, cock their head or have them put their ears up,” says the dog lover who shoots one-handed at the fastest shutter speed possible, on her knees or belly at a dog's perspective. Of her subject's typical behavior, she says, “If they’re an older dog and more reserved they’ll just sit there and yawn or maybe lie down. If they’re a puppy they’ll be more playful.” Because there is such a range of motion, clean simple backgrounds work best, and a good walk beforehand helps to reduce dogs’ nervous energy, she says.

Since animals ultimately obey their master, dog parents are often assistants during the photo shoots. But most don’t know that going in. “Never tell dog parents they’re going to work that day,” suggests Hamilton, who finds her clients invaluable when gaining insight about what their dogs like to do. Shoots are always limited to an hour.

A $500 sitting fee plus tax buys clients an hour in the studio, three custom prints of their choice—two 5x5 or 5x7 prints, and one 10x10 or 8x10 print. A proof book with the images from their session in thumbnail size, a dog tag with the dog’s photo and Hamilton’s logo are also included. But that’s not Hamilton’s main source of income. “My profit is in the after-sale where I schedule image review sessions with my clients to discuss the different ways to feature their images in their homes,” she says. These include canvas prints, mini silk albums, photo books, silk folios and framing services.

To see more of Ann Hamilton's pet portraits, visit



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