Dog Photos: Best Pet Photographer Portraits 2018

Photo of an adorable pile of cute Affenpinscher puppies arranged in a way that they look like a single dog.

2018 was our busiest year of pet photography at the studio to date! In fact, we ended up photographing three times as many dog portraits last year as we did in 2017.

Which came to us as quite the surprise, considering how distracted we got earlier in the year when we realized how to pet dogs in Zelda Breath of the Wild.

Creative and whimsical portraits ended up being the theme for the year. We captured a fun mix of costumed dog portraits, dog bodyscapes, puppy portraits, and our signature dog headshots portraits.

Paper Hats, our art pet portrait series featuring dogs wearing hats made of paper, continued well into 2018 with over two dozen fun loving dogs added to the series. We’re excited to continue working on our signature dog photo series and already have plans to expand on it in new and exciting directions.

Now that we’re well into the new year and all of our holiday gifts for dog lovers have shipped, we thought this would be the perfect time to recap some of our favorite dog photos from the last year.

Top 28 Dog Photos of 2018

Paper Hat Portraits

Our Paper Hat pet portrait series was something that we stumbled on just the year prior. But this unique style of pet portrait quickly become a studio favorite. There’s something about putting a hat on a dog, especially when photographed using headshot portrait style lighting and compositional methods, that personifies the dog and makes it simply look more human. To help the dogs react more to the hats and display their more true authentic selves, we never tether or strap the hats down. Freeing the dogs to be themselves in front of the camera, rather than focused on our camera, lights or next command. If you compare the photos below to the rest of our selections from 2018 you’ll see what we mean. The expressions are timeless and like nothing you would normally expect in a dog portrait.

Photo of a smiling pitbull wearing a tophat.

There’s nothing like an excitable Pibble when working in the studio. These blocky headed breeds tend to have an easier time balancing our hats and crowns. As you can see in this shot, this friendly little fellow was able to absolutely rock one of our larger tophats with ease.

Photo of an excited or surprised staffy wearing a very tall and colorful crown.

This dog perfectly exemplifies why we love working with Pitbulls and Staffys when photographing our Paper Hat portraits. This long colorful crown would be difficult to balance on almost any other shape of dog head. But this little lady balanced the custom made costume piece with excitable ease.

A black and white photo of a cute boxer puppy wearing a top hat.

This brindle Boxer puppy was only a few months old when he came to our studio for a pet portrait session. Still knock kneed and a bit wobbly when he walked in, this dog turned into an absolute stud the second we busted out our Paper Hats. This dog photo is a great example of why we never strap our hats down. The jaunty angle of the hat was captured as it was falling off his head. Lending the pup an old timey, good timing, gentleman vibe. Couldn’t you just imagine seeing him sprawled out in an antique black and white photo of an old pub?


A black and white photo of a staffy wearing a tall top hat. His eyes sparkle almost like an old timey Steam Boat Willy cartoon.

This friend of the studio was an absolute blast to work with. It’s not especially common for clients to bring deaf dogs to our studio. But we love working with them. As they can’t hear, deaf dogs tend to maintain very direct and continuous visual communication with their owners. Which is helpful if you’re trying to get a dog to look a certain direction in a photo. With careful placement of our studio lights and a little help from a light reflector of our own design, we were able to carefully light this pure white dog and bring out the playful sparkle in his eyes. Between the over the top grin and sparkle in his eye, he almost looks like an old time classic cartoon.

A photo of a black lab wearing a tiny little top hat.

This fun loving Black Lab is modeling is modeling one of our more recent Paper Hat designs. This tiny robustly shaped top hat is actually quite colorful in real life. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the triangle pattern used on the hat was not drawn or painted. This patterning comes from careful sorting and placement of tiny triangular scraps of colorful newsprint.

A golden retriever wearing a gold crown made out of newspaper

This photo was another rare gem of a session. The striking dog featured here is a highly trained service dog. While some of our studio guests are certainly better trained than others, I have have never met a dog so willing to follow commands and sit still for pictures. Needless to say, it was an absolute delight to work with a subject that was literally a professional.  The owner had been working with this particular assistance dog for nearly a decade and they had grown quite close. With the dog nearing retirement, it brought us a lot of joy to help commemorate their bond and the dog’s outstanding service career with a few beautiful pet portraits.

Photo of Boggle (Boxer Beagle Mix) wearing a colorful paper mache dunce cap modeled after Pablo Picasso's bronze sculpture

Don’t let the innocent smile fool you. The Boggle (Boxer Beagle mix) seen here is named George. George is the personal pet of our founder and lead pet photographer J.B. Shepard, and is quite the little mischievous maker. The hat seen here was modeled after the dunce cap from Pablo Picasso’s famous bronze bust sculpture, “the Fool”. A fitting costume for a floppy little trouble making goof of a dog, like George.

Shadowy photo of a large brown mastiff wearing a colorful tophat.

This fun portrait was commissioned by a neighbor of the studio that we met in a fairly unexpected way. As some folks in the Hampden area probably already know, the Puptrait Studio is a PokemonGo gym and next to two Pokestops. The client and her fiance are huge Pokemon fans and avid players of the record breaking mobile game. Living nearby and having visited the studio on several occasions, they though a surprise portrait of this gentle giant would make for a fun wedding gift for their friend. And, we couldn’t agree more! Catch ‘Em All!

Photo of a spalted chihuahua wearing a flatback Baltimore Orioles baseball cap made out of papermache.

It’s hard to imagine when looking at this photo, but the dog featured here is actually a 5lb teacup sized Chihuahua. Which is pretty amazing to consider when you compare his profile to that of a certain first baseman. We designed the hat right around opening day of the MLB season. As our studio is in Baltimore and we are huge Orioles fans, we thought it might be fun to make something baseball themed in celebration. Like the rest of our Paper Hats, the coloring and pattern of this flatback cap is derived from careful placement of newsprint. The iconic Orioles logo was clipped directly from a newspaper ad featured in the Baltimore Sun.

Photo os a cocker spaniel wearing a trilby. The dog looks remarkably like Kid Rock.

This dog portrait was photographed for a long time friend of the studio. We knew that this little guy was getting pretty close to the rainbow road and didn’t have much time left. So, we wanted to get him into the studio while he was still relatively healthy and mobile. What we didn’t expect was how much he would resemble Kid Rock once we put the trilby on. We’re still not entirely sure if this is a likeness shared by all floppy eared Cocker Spaniels. But there is absolutely no denying the resemblance here.

Photo of a medium sized brown dog mixed breed mutt wearing a papermache trilby. He looks like he's got a hot gambling tip on the next horse at the track.

This photo makes use laugh every time it pops up. We don’t know if it’s the expression, the jaunty angle or the porkpie hat — or all of the above — but it all came together for a ridiculous pet portrait. The dog’s owner though he looked like someone you might expect to meet betting on ponies at Pimlico during races that aren’t the Preakness Stakes. But we’re convinced he looks like that one middle aged friend who is still super into Ska. Any way you cut it, this pet portrait session was a load of fun.

A black and white photo of a senior boxer dog wearing a paper crown.

This photo is of the older sister of the brindle Boxer puppy featured above. There’s something about Boxers that makes them one of the best dog breeds to photograph. Boxers wear hats and crowns with just about the same ease as other boxy headed breeds, such as Pit Bulls and American Staffordshire Terriers. But their short snouts add just that little extra bit of character to a portrait. Walking the line between stoic and goofy, small features like this old girl’s under bite make our jobs almost easy.

A tiny chihuahua wearing a huge giant tophat. The hat is nearly twice the size of the dog.

We had an absolute blast photographing this blue brindle tea cup Chihuahua. In this photo, this little champ is pushing the absolute boundaries of what is an acceptable hat to dog ratio. It is quite unusual to meet a dog that can wear a top hat nearly the same size as him. It really is amazing what you can capture if you just get on the same level as toy dog breeds. They truly shine when they are larger than life.

A cute puppy wearing paper mache goggles.

This portrait was from a studio session working with a private pet portrait client who came to visit us with her dog all the way from the heart of Washington D.C.. These goggles were our first attempt at branching Paper Hats out beyond hats and collars. Though technically, one might argue that the goggles are still actually a hat, as they are not tethered to the dog and they can not be seen through. The goggles were constructed similarly to our signature hats, with two layers of papermache applied over a stiffer cardboard layer. The “lenses” for the goggles were constructed from crushed aluminum foil.

This costume piece was a lot of fun to work with. But if we’re honest, was a real pain to build. The delicate lines of the straps and thin edges along the lenses required a very fine touch and a lot of time to complete. So, it’s unlikely that these goggles will make an appearance in our ready made collection of Paper Hats anytime soon. But we would be open to making a custom design pet costume piece by request.

An adorable yellow lad wearing a custom made paper mache stetson, striped with bit of news paper clippings.

This portrait features one of our more recent Paper Hat designs and is a great example of how far our hat making skills have come in the last two years. While most of our Paper Hats are composed of a cardboard structural layer, a base papermache layer and a top color layer. This hat included the addition of a 4th layer to complete. If you look closely you’ll notice that this hat features a colorful geometric layer broke up by a black and white striated pattern layer. It’s a subtle improvement over previous variants. But one that adds just a smidge of additional texture and contrast to the hat design. You can expect more of these 4 layer Paper Hats to come out of our studio soon.

We would also like to thank the owner of this dog for visiting our studio, not once, but twice from Bethesda, Maryland for a series of portrait sessions. As anyone familiar with Washington D.C. and its surrounding suburbs will tell you, that is not a short drive. Needless to say, we are very thankful for all of our clients, but especially the ones that think highly enough of us to travel such great distances to work with us.


Dog Headshot Photo Portrait

Most clients come to us because we are able to shoot more creative work. To be honest, we don’t do a lot of “vanilla” photoshoots. Headshot style dog portraits are often the closest we get to a more traditional pet portrait.

A cute dog caught eating a treat. He looks like he's snearing. It's a pretty adorable photo, even for a dog photo.

One of the more difficult things that we photograph are dogs that have both pure white and exceptionally dark fur on their faces. For the simple fact that is very difficult to light and expose such contrasts simultaneously – especially in such close proximity to each other. But as you can see above, with careful planning of our lighting arrangements it is possible to shoot these mixed up dog breeds well without sacrificing clarity, color or detail.

We find the trick to lighting these dogs is to use harsher light. Something a photographer would typically avoid, especially when photographing people. But when working with darker fur, the trick is to not expose to the color of the fur, but instead to light the dog in such a way that you are able to pickup just the sheen reflecting off of the dark fur. We especially enjoyed this photo due to the fun expression the dog is making. We caught the dog mid chew and it made him appear almost like he was sneering. Something the owner found to be both hilarious and an especially accurate representation of the dog’s adorable, but goofy expressions.

Dog Bodyscape Portraits

Bodyscapes aren’t one of the more popular requests made by pet portrait clients by we believe that trend is set to change soon. And, with good reason! These faceless portraits highlight traits of a dog that often go unnoticed or ignored in more traditional portraits. Bringing a bit of mystery and anonymity to the frame, this particular portrait style works great when hung in shared spaces or publicly trafficked areas. Because of this, Bodyscape dog portraits often make for a great style of prints for offices, restaurants, stores and the common areas of apartment buildings or hotels.

A bodyscape of a dog. The dogs head is hidden, but their tail is wagging.

A fancy looking composition of a cleverly cropped bodyscape of a friendly little pitbull.

Fun Fluffy Floof Crop Photos

As we saw in our dog body scapes, sometimes what you show is less important than what you crop. When working with curly haired breeds we often like to get a few shots highlighting their floofy heads.

A closely cropped colorful photo of a redish yellow fluffy golden doodle. The dog is peaking his head just inside the frame. Only his fluffy pooffy crown is visible in the dog photo.

Gold Doodles tend to be pretty amazing to work and this little fella did a great job of showing why. A mix of Golden Retriever and Standard Poodles, Golden Doodles are smart and present very unique opportunities to capture curly tawny fur. Honestly, it’s difficult to take a bad photo of these brilliant and beautiful dogs. Just look at those sweet little eyes peaking into the frame. We were so thankful to have a chance to work with him and his fuzzy little head.

A cute fluffy doggo photographed against a colorful background.

For this little fluff ball we decided to have a bit of fun with their portrait. Shot against a solid black background, we were able to achieve and excellent contrast against his stark white fur. This extreme contrast made swapping out the dog’s background a breeze. Allowing us to have a lot of fun in post editing in some fun backgrounds and lighting effects. This particular dog photo is a great example of how a little bit of upfront planning can go a long way towards coming together in the end for a truly unique pet portrait. Printed on metallic paper and then mounted to a front facing acrylic, this art print absolutely glows when hit with the right display lighting. Breathing a little extra life into what was already a fun image!

Tongue Out Photo Favorites

These back to basic photos put our canine subjects from and center. While certainly less difficult to execute on than some of our more complicated pet portrait concepts

A friendly little pitbull pibble with his tongue out celebrating his licker on Tongue Out Tuesday.

A staffy sticking his tongue out. While certainly a cute shot, this photo made our list of favorite dog portraits from 2018 for its superb use of high powered studio style lights and the clarity achieved along the snout and tongue. While difficult to see in this format, when printed and mounted on acrylic this combination of technical perfection resulted in a print that appeared virtually 3D.

Photo of an adorable senior dog with very pretty cataracts glowing a soft blue.

This little senior lady was an absolute gem to work with. She was over 16 years old at the time of the session. Due to her advanced age and growing eye sight and mobility issues we decided it would be best to photographer her in her home. Her faint grey wisps of fur and vibrant blue cataracts practically glowed once lit. An effect we were able to achieve by packing up our studio setup of strobes and backgrounds to work on location. Effectively bringing the studio to the dog.

Photo of a senior dog sticking its tongue out at the camera.

Another great portrait of a senior dog. While most people don’t typically think of cataracts as a good thing — especially if they themselves are suffering from them — we love seeing them in our older canine guests. As they lend a beautiful glow to a dog’s eyes and dogs typically only get them if an owner has cared for them well enough to reach such an advanced age. In a way, they’re little gem filled trophy’s of a life spent well loved!

A photo of a cute senior Golden Retriever sticking its tongue out celebrating Tongue Out Tuesday.

Is there anything more adorable than a photo of a Golden Retriever stick its tongue out? These floofy dogs can be a bit of a handful to work with in the studio, as they tend to be rather large, shed a lot and can be a bit clumsy. But they are always an absolute joy to be around and a great example of why we love having a dog friendly studio space to work in.

Sentimental Pet Portraits

Photo of a cute but very serious looking German Shepherd puppy infront of a vintage antique 76 American flag.

This puppy photo was a surprise gift commissioned by a client for her husband. The antique flag was sentimental to the husband and normally hangs prominently in his barber shop. The threadbare Bennington flag features the number 76, marking the birth date of the United States of America. Due to the flag’s advanced age, the photo was exceptionally difficult to setup and execute as the flag was quite fragile. We thought it would be fun to take a new spin on the classic puppy portrait. Playing off the adorableness of the puppy, our goal was to get a very stoic, almost heroic shot against the flag. Similar to what one might expect to see in a vintage pre War solider portrait.

A black background photo of an agility champion dog wearing a lacey tophat wrapped in an ornate ribbon.

This concept was unplanned and something that we came up with on the fly while photographing the dog during an in-home pet portrait session. The dog’s owner regularly attends a local Renaissance Faire / Medieval festival. The hat is a costume piece from the owner’s cosplay outfit and just happened to be laying out on a nearby table. Unbelievably, this adorable photo of the dog wearing a hat was captured on the first take.

A Weird Puppy Portrait

One of the great things about working in the studio is that it is ready to go at a moments notice. We may need to swap out our backgrounds or shuffle around our lights. But by not having to worry about packing, setting up and breaking down we are that much more free to focus on concepts. It sounds like a small thing, but not being distracted by the logistics of a shoot we are able to concentrate more on seeing shoots from different angles and directions. You might be surprised to learn how often these moments of clarity lead to off the wall spontaneous portrait moments.

Photo of an adorable pile of cute Affenpinscher puppies arranged in a way that they look like a single dog.

This photo is probably one of the weirder portraits we have ever captured. At a glance it looks like a larger dog laying on its belly with its haunches pointed at the camera. But if you look closely you’ll notice that the photo is actually group puppy portrait. The portrait features a pile of 5 adorable Affenpinscher puppies arranged to appear as a single dog. The tail is the ear of a puppy. And, the stubby little legs are actually heads of puppies.

What sells this optical illusion is our approach to lighting dark fur. This technique can only be captured by photographing dogs with camera flash. By exposing to the sheen of the fur rather than the actual color or luminosity of the fur itself, we are able to pick up subtle details without compromising on contrast or edge clarity. This is what makes this photographic pet portrait an almost painted quality.

These adorable puppies were brought to us by an award winning Affenpinscher puppy breeder, located in Roland Park, less than a mile from the Puptrait Studio. These Affenpinscher puppies are from the same line as a recent Best of Show winner from the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, held annually at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

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