Sit! Stay! Make love to the camera! Dog photographers, unleashed


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The world of dog portraiture is hitting new highs — four-figure highs, actually, as the notion of specialized canine photography spreads. Looking to capture your dog underwater? Or glamming it up? Or expressing its inner design aesthete? Then it’s time to meet members of L.A.’s rare breed, the niche dog photographer: Seth Casteel, Catherine Ledner and Dale Berman.

We’ve got profiles of all three photographers, who shared their strategies for getting the best shots. Keep reading ...



Casteel says his life changed Feb. 10. That’s the day his underwater dog portraits went viral on the Web and when the media, including CNN and “Good Morning America,” came a-calling. Casteel, who toggles between West L.A. and Chicago, started shooting dogs in pools two years ago when a client’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel refused to stay out of the water. The art of wide-eyed, wet-haired dog portraiture was born. “When dogs are in the water, it presents them with an opportunity to explore their wild instincts, and then the best of their emotions shine through,” says Casteel, who has a book deal with Little Brown to publish “Underwater Dogs” this fall.


Cost: $1,000 per session

Casteel’s DIY tip: Emotion is key. Unpredictable variables create pleasingly unpredictable results. For a surprise, try hide and seek. Tell your dog to sit and stay, then you hide. Call your dog and have your camera ready.


Forget cute. Ledner is all about mining the glamorous side of canines. To achieve this, the Pasadena-based photographer and author of “Glamour Dogs” (Chronicle Books) typically positions her clients in elegant settings worthy of a silver screen star. “I photograph a lot of dogs on really elegant furniture, or in front of dramatic wallpapers,” Ledner says. “I’ll even use wind machines to blow their hair back, jewelry, sometimes even wigs. Wigs can be very funny if they’re done right.”


Cost: $1,250 per session

Ledner’s DIY tip: Put your dog in a simple, elegant setting, and make sure it feels totally comfortable. She suggests soft window lighting. You could even try a fan for hair movement. And, of course, have plenty of treats on hand.


Dale Berman was an experienced architecture and interiors photographer when he noted that more clients were requesting to have their dogs included. So in 2010, he started a dog photography business, Bow Wow Projects. Today, Berman routinely shoots dogs large and small in design environments: at John Lautner homes, on Mies van der Rohe day beds, George Nelson benches, even collectible vintage cars. “There’s so much cutsey dog photography out there, but I really feel that there’s a dignity to both great design and dogs,” Berman says. “Visually they make great companions.”


Cost: $1,200 per session

Berman’s DIY tip: Not every shot should be taken from human eye level, which is what most people do. Keep backgrounds uncluttered, move your pet around and experiment with getting low on the ground or finding a bird’s-eye view.


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-- Alexandria Abramian Mott

Photo credits: Seth Casteel /; Bow Wow Projects; Catherine Ledner Photography