Top 10 Dog Photos of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close we though it might be fun to revisit some of our favorites professionally captured dog photos and puppy portraits of the year.

This year we saw a lot of compositing and high concept work coming out of the Puptrait Studio. Part of which can be chalked up to our team simply getting better in post and working more regularly in Photoshop, but a good number of these portrait concepts were driven by client requests, where they had seen what we were able to do with past dog portraits and simply inspired future works.

One of our favorite things to hear from clients during the commission discovery process is the instruction to “make something weird” or “create something different”.   And, these images are a great example of what our team can come up with when left to their own devices.

The Puptrait Studio’s Top 10 Dog Photos of 2017

    1. the Hero, from Paper Hats

      dog photo of a happy pitbull wearing a paper crown

      Paper Hats was a lot of fun to create and it ended up being one of our most celebrated dog portrait series to date. The Hero was undoubtedly a fan favorite. The piece featured a smiling pit bull wearing a golden newspaper crown. The holden heart seen in the bottom of the portrait was created by mirroring the pup’s shoulder and coloring it carefully in post-production.

    2. Adrift, private client commission

      dog photo of a border calling floating through space in front of saturn

      Adrift is one of the more heavily composited images in this collection. It features a border collie that actually photographed in the client’s home in Bowie, Maryland. The joyful, smiling expression the dog gave us was too good not to play with. It simply set off any scene we worked it into. The image is composed of roughly 75 Photoshop layers, featuring a number of elements that may not be obvious at first glance. In fact, the shield on the dog’s astronaut helmet isn’t glass, it’s actually the reflection from a soap bubble. Either way, we think it works and the resulting image speaks for itself.

    3. Portrait of an Artist, private client commission

      dog photo of a house mix dog in button shirt with collared shirt

      This image is another composite from an in-home session. The pup featured in this dog portrait received a tough diagnosis shortly before our session. Knowing that the pup was likely to soon make the journey across the Rainbow Road, his fur momma wanted a portrait that was creative, somber, but happy image to remember him by. The colorful tear ad paint background was added in post-production with a modest amount of work in Photoshop. However, the blue button down shirt was captured in camera. We actually found it pursuing the children’s section at a local thrift shop.   This is a costuming technique that we lean on quite frequently. Besides being a more cost-effective alternative (I believe the shirt cost us a total of $2), we find human toddler clothes to be of higher quality and hold better lines than most “dog costumes” that one might find off the shelf.

    4. Donut in Glasses, pro bono shoot of a Bella’s Bully Buddies foster

      dog photo of a happy pitbull sticking its tongue out wearing yellow sunglasses

      I hate to play favorites, but Donut, the dog featured in this image is one of my favorite dogs I’ve ever had a chance of working with. He was an absolute sweetheart and as younger pups go, especially newly fostered street digs, he had a very affectionate and responsive temperament.  Donut was an absolute ham in front of the camera. Which it even more surprising that he still hasn’t been homed. Interested in adopting Donut? Fill out an application at bellasbullybuddies.org.

    5. Suns Out Tongues Out, private client comission

      a dog photo of a golden retriever sticking its tongue out

      This image was from an in-home dog portrait session in Pikesville, Maryland. The owner of the dog informed us prior to our photo shoot that they were tight on hanging room and were planning on printing the photos in a smaller size. Knowing this going into the shoot we aimed at filling as much of the frame as possible with the dog’s face and eliminating unnecessary white space that would be wasted on a smaller print size. The patterned effect you see in the ears here is something we added for the sake of this post, to better fit cropping to a square format.

    6. M’Lady, private client commission

      dog photo of a border collie wearing a brown top hat

      This is actually the same dog as featured in Adrift. The dog’s owner was an avid cosplayer and attendee of the Maryland Renaissance Faire. The photo was entirely spur of the moment and by random chance.  Towards the end of the dog’s photoshoot, we noticed that the owner had this hat laying off to the side. We popped the hat on the pup for a handful of shutters and this image was one of the three photos we captured before the dog decided it didn’t want to wear the hat any longer. But as you can see here we still managed to land a magical photograph of the dog.

    7. the Sphinx, from Paper Hats

      dog photo of a pitbull dressed up in a robotic sphinx mummy costume

      This is one of my personal favorites from Paper Hats. The dog photo looks cool here in a digital format, but when printed to aluminum for the show the glowing eyes and circuit board texture along the robo mummy’s chest really took on a life of its own. To be honest, this image has me kicking myself for promising we wouldn’t reprint the signed metal prints. As the Sphinx was one of the first images to sell out and I was kind of looking forward to adding it to the studio’s permanent collection.

    8. Scotty, private client commission

      An adorable Scottish terrier

      This adorable black Scottish Terrier was captured shortly after we completed our most recent round of renovations to the studio. Originally shot against a bright Savage white seamless translum background, the image was tinted in post-production to help tone down what was previously a pretty extreme contrast, allowing the subtle shadows along the scotty’s chest fur and bright highlights of the eyes to become more obvious to viewers.

    9. Rainbows, private client comission

      dog photo of shaggy dog profile with rainbow colored fur

      This photo was from an in-home dog portrait session captured in Parkville, Maryland and a great example of why we love shooting on location without backgrounds. Using high powered strobes on location we have access to the same output of light that we do in the studio (in fact we use the same lights in both types of shoots), but we don’t always bring the same modifiers and being on location, we’re simply not in a controlled environment. This tends to lead to a lot of what Bob Ross used to refer to as “Happy Accidents”. This dog photo shoot was no exception. In an effort to diffuse the high powered light coming off of our strobe, we bounced the light off of a nearby wall. In doing so we were able to create a pleasant halo effect and greatly soften, what would have otherwise been a harsh light. This also introduced slight color artifacts on the dog’s white and gray coat, creating a shimmering, almost magical, rainbow light effect. Breathing fresh life into what might otherwise have been a fairly muted dog portrait.

    10. the King, from Paper Hats

      a dog photo of a serious looking black pitbull bulldog from paper hats

This dog photo is another personal favorite from Paper Hats. The concept was partially inspired by the toad that lived underneath the ancient tree in Guillermo del Toro’s film, Pan’s Labyrinth. No matter how long it has been, the visuals in that film keep coming back to me. It was such an absolutely stunning visual accomplishment. What I loved about the Toad was that it was a nonverbal, practically non ambulatory character. But it’s stockiness and wide set eyes, still managed to impress so much emotionally. Usually with dog portraits we aim to stay cut, funny and friendly. But with Paper Hats, we wanted to convey something deeper, create a world through a handful of characters that was a little more complicated.  While the crown in this shot was made out of newspaper, and not a heavier substance like gold, we wanted viewers to really feel the weight of the crown and the imaginary puppy throne. And think that is a bar that we were able to successfully hit with the King.


Well that’s it for this year. Let us know if you think we missed any of your favorite dog photos from 2017 in the comments located below!

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