Photographer Kaylee Greer, founder of Dog Breath Photography, follows dogs around, lets them be and ultimately accepts that they run her company.
Her impromptu shoots are free of poses and scripts, letting pups do as they please and resulting in silly portraits that no human could’ve ever possibly planned out, even in their heads.
Dogs are her main subject but they are also the artistic directors, coordinators, prop stylists and location scouts of each and every photo shoot. “Dogs will be dogs, you know?” she says, “And there’s brilliance in that.”
We spoke to Kaylee about how dogs eventually took over her career and why her camera equipment is usually covered in peanut butter.
Barkpost: You mention that at a Dog Breath photoshoot, everything is impromptu. How does your original idea of the shoot change when the pup has something else in mind?
K.G.: My idea of the photoshoot is completely fluid right off the bat. A dog is going to do exactly what a dog is going to do. I cant coax him or change his mind. And I tell the owners this at the very beginning – don’t stress about ‘poses’ or ‘sits’ or ‘stays’ or ‘roll overs’— let’s let Fido do what is in his happy little heart – and nothing more.
They’re natural comedians. Their ability to live in the moment, to seize every single second – is what fascinates me most about them. Its my mission to capture all of that.
Would you say that the results are left completely in the dog’s paws?
K.G.: I’d like to think that my role in the entire situation is finding the best light and doling out astronomical amounts of peanut butter and treats while trying to get it all mostly in the dogs mouth and not in the cracks around my shutter button.
Once I’ve found the perfect spot and have taught Fido a thing or two about the nuances of natural light, the rest is up to him.
What are some initial reactions (when seeing the big scary camera) from the dogs that have stood out to you the most?
K.G.: I’ve had dogs bark at my camera. I’ve had dogs lick my camera. I’ve had dogs pee on my camera. (Occupational hazard, ya know?) I’ve had dogs lose their furry little minds and look at my camera with more disgust than the most hated mailman in the neighborhood. And I’ve had dogs that gave no indication whatsoever that they even realized a camera was present.
But there are some dogs who won’t even let me near them with the scary black box near my face. This means lots and lots of positive conditioning – and endless amounts of patience. Sometimes it takes me an hour or more to build up enough of a relationship with a dog to even take my camera out.
I’ll cover my camera and bags in treats and leave them alone on the ground. I’ll walk away and allow the dog to eat treats off of my camera rig. Everything I own is covered in peanut butter. My camera tech thinks I’m insane and gets those deep belly rumbling laughs every time I come in for a cleaning. He thinks I’m totally nuts.
Do you personally prefer land or water shoots? Why?
K.G.: I absolutely adore shooting in water. For a dog who loves the water, I cant think of a more beautiful and fitting backdrop. I delight in capturing them in their element.
Whats your fool-proof advice for getting a good shot of your pup?
K.G.: Make it a positive, uplifting and fun experience. More importantly than absolutely anything else, always be equipped with untold amounts of patience and kindness in your heart. This is the most fool-proof advice of all.
Keep it calm and positive. If cameras or devices squished into their faces make them uncomfortable, respect that. You need to speak dog. read their body language and communicate with them extensively.
Capture them often and always. Dogs lives are criminally short – there are no words to say how important it is to have images to capture that happiness and spirit – so you can hold onto their legacy forever.
All imagery courtesy of Dog Breath Photography